Posted on February 6, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
Amidst another slow winter for free agents, major shakeups could be coming to Major League Baseball. Both the league and the MLB Players Association have exchanged ideas over the past month, and both sides appear to be somewhat amenable to changes. Whether any of these are instituted by the start of the 2019 season remains to be seen. However, here is a closer look at some of the potential rule changes that could be on the table.
There are many owners in the National League who oppose the use of the DH, there is definitely momentum building toward both leagues using it. The Players Union is backing this change and is hoping to get it in place for the start of the 2019 season. However, National League teams have obviously been constructing their roster this winter to play without a DH. That could force the union to wait until 2020 to put make the designated hitter universal.
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Earlier Trade Deadline (No Waiver Trades)
Another idea the Players Union is pushing is a drastic change to the trade deadline. Rather than the deadline being at the end of July, it would be moved up to before the all-star break. The union would also like to do away with waiver trades made in August after the deadline. The thinking is that teams would be more active in free agency in order to be at their best during the first half of the season rather than relying on trades at the end of July to make them better.
20-Second Pitch Clock
Commissioner Rob Manfred has long pushed for measures to improve pace of play, and this would be a big one. Minor league pitchers already have a 20-second clock, so some of the younger major league pitchers are accustomed to having one. However, the league would like it instituted at the major league level. It’s worth noting that Manfred has the power to install a pitch clock without the union having to agree to it. Considering how outspoken some players have been against it, he may not want to move unilaterally on the issue. But it’s something that will continue to be discussed.
Another rule Manfred and the league want in order to improve pace of play is forcing pitchers to face at least three batters. The rule would not apply when a pitcher finishes an inning or suffers an injury. However, after a mid-inning pitching change, relievers would be required to face at least three batters before being removed. This would have a big impact on relievers who are considered lefty specialists who are often asked to only face one batter at a time. Of course, it would almost certainly limit the number of mid-inning pitching changes that slow down games in the later innings.
26-Player Rosters (12 Pitchers Maximum)
One massive chip the league has to play in negotiations is the promise of increasing roster sizes to 26 players. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the union wouldn’t say no to 30 extra jobs. The caveat is that teams wouldn’t be allowed to carry more than 12 pitchers, which most teams do already. Also, part of the proposal would limit September rosters to 28 players.
As mentioned, these are just ideas that the two sides are tossing around. At the moment, it’s highly unlikely that all of them would be put into place by the start of the 2019 season. However, both sides have issues they would like addressed and both appear willing to talk. Based on that, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a significant rule change made before opening day.