Image credit: (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)
USA Baseball confirmed Monday night that 40-man roster players who are not in the major leagues will be allowed to participate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the two remaining Olympic qualifiers.
The deal to allow 40-man players, struck between MLB, the MLB Players Association and the World Baseball Softball Confederation, was first reported by MLB.com’s Jon Morosi.
The move is a departure from the previous qualifiers, where only non-40 man roster players were allowed to participate. Using only non 40-man roster players, Team USA lost to Mexico in extra innings in the bronze medal game of the WBSC Premier12 tournament in November to lose out on an Olympic bid.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said at the Winter Meetings that MLB was open to the possibility of roster eligibility changes for the next qualifier, which will be held in Arizona later this month.
Any player who is not in the major leagues, regardless of 40-man roster status, is now eligible to play in the Americas qualifier in Arizona, the global qualifier in Taiwan in June and the 2020 Olympic Games.
USA Baseball executive director and CEO Paul Seiler told Baseball America in February that he expected only non 40-man roster players to once again be eligible to participate in the upcoming qualifier. The change significantly opens up the pool of eligible players Team USA can pick from.
Players who stood out for Team USA at Premier12 but who were since added to 40-man rosters, such as Red Sox third baseman Bobby Dalbec, will now be eligible to play. USA Baseball still has to seek permission from MLB clubs for players to join Team USA’s roster for the qualifier, which clubs can deny.
Still, the available player pool greatly expands for the United States and other countries with the agreement. While Japan and South Korea, who have already qualified for the Olympics, will largely use players from the top leagues in their countries, other countries still trying to qualify, such as the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Canada as well as the United States, can now tap into the vast talent pools of players who are on 40-man rosters but may not begin the year in the major leagues
The eight-team Americas qualifier runs from March 22-26 at Surprise Stadium and Tempe Diablo Stadium in Arizona. The field consists of Team USA, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The winner receives an automatic bid to the Tokyo Games.
The second- and third-place teams from the qualifier will advance to a final global qualifier in Taiwan. The qualifier was originally scheduled for April but was postponed until June 17-21 due to the coronavirus outbreak. The winner of that qualifier will receive the final Olympic berth.
Japan, South Korea, Israel and Mexico have already clinched Olympic bids. Baseball will be played at the Tokyo Olympics from July 29-Aug. 8 at Fukushima Azuma Stadium and Yokohama Stadium.