MLB, MLBPA Announce Rules Changes For 2019, 2020 Seasons

Image credit: Rob Manfred (Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Big changes are coming to Major League Baseball in 2019. Even bigger ones are coming in 2020.

In addition to changes governing the All-Star Game, TV timeouts and mound visits, MLB and the Major League Baseball Player’s Association announced new rules Thursday that will fundamentally alter the way teams construct their rosters, as well as change the roles players may be groomed for in player development.

The first change to roster construction will enter into effect this season with a single trade deadline on July 31. Trade waivers have been eliminated, meaning the end of post-July 31 waiver trades. Last year, Josh DonaldsonDaniel MurphyAndrew McCutchenDavid FreeseGio GonzalezFernando RodneyMike FiersJustin Bour and Ryan Madson were among the notable players traded after July 31 after passing through waivers.

The more significant changes will come in 2020. Most notably, all pitchers will be required to pitch to a three-batter minimum or though the end of a half-inning, with exceptions for injuries or “incapacitating illness.” The rule was implemented unilaterally by the Office of the Commissioner.

The rule effectively signals the end of the lefthanded specialist, whose job often was to face a single lefthanded hitter before being pulled regardless of the outcome. Marc Rzepczynski and Boone Logan are some of the relievers who fill that role today, while former starters such as Oliver Perez have been able to extend their careers by becoming lefty specialists. 

Additionally starting in 2020, active roster limits will expand from 25 to 26 players for Opening Day through August 31. (Teams will be allowed a 27th player for doubleheaders.) Beginning in September, rosters will expand only to 28 players, compared to the previous mark of 40 players.

The number of pitchers allowed on a roster will also be capped at a number still to be determined by joint committee formed by MLB and the MLBPA. Clubs will have to designate each player as either a position player, a pitcher or a “two-way player”—with the qualification that a player may be designated a “two-way” player only if he pitched at least 20 innings and started at least 20 games as a position player or designated hitter, with at least three plate appearances in each of those games.

Position players will no longer be allowed to pitch except following the ninth inning of an extra-inning game or if their team is winning or losing by more than six runs at the time they enter.

The rule is meant to curb the rise of position players pitching—often to horrendous results—that spiked last year.

The other change for 2020 that will significantly alter the way teams construct their rosters are adjustments to rules governing the injured list and minor league options.

For pitchers, the minimum placement period on the injured list will increase from 10 to 15 days. Similarly, the minimum period that optioned pitchers must remain in the minors will increase from 10 to 15 days.

While the majority of the rules governing roster management won’t take effect until the 2020 season, a number of changes governing other aspects of the game take effect in 2019.

They are:

Inning Breaks: Subject to discussions with broadcast partners, inning breaks will be reduced from 2:05 to 2:00 in local games, and from 2:25 to 2:00 in national games.  (The Office of the Commissioner retains the right to reduce the inning breaks to 1:55 in local and national games for the 2020 season.)

Mound Visits: The maximum number of mound visits per team will be reduced from six to five.

All-Star Game:

All-Star Game fan voting will be conducted in two rounds.  During the “Primary Round,” each Club will nominate one player per eligible position (three outfielders), who will be voted on by fans.  In late June or early July, an “Election Day” will be held in which the top three vote-getters at each position in each League during the Primary Round (including the top nine outfielders) will be voted on by fans during a prescribed time period to determine the All-Star Game starters.  Further details on the new fan voting format will be announced in April.

All-Star bonus payments will be given to the top three vote-getters at each position in each League during the Primary Round (top six for outfielders).  Additionally, the prize money awarded to players on the winning All-Star team will be increased beginning with the 2019 All-Star Game.

Both Clubs will start the 10th inning of the All-Star Game, and each subsequent inning, with a runner on second base (re-entry substitutions allowed for runners).

Home Run Derby: Total player prize money for the Home Run Derby will be increased to $2.5 million. The winner of the Home Run Derby will receive $1 million.

For context, $1 million is greater than the salary of six of the eight Home Run Derby contestants last year. 

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