The lack of sports and especially baseball has taken a toll on all sports fans, including us here at Diamond Digest. There have been shimmers of hope from the KBO, as well as a few fleeting moments watching the owners and MLBPA delve into a series of disagreements. I, for one, am over-transforming my kitchen into a 3-star Michelin restaurant, and have realized that I’m as handy around the house as a one-armed carpenter. Oh, to be a couch potato watching baseball again.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been taking harsh criticisms for the way he has handled the negotiations between players and owners. Language such as “false hope”, “operating in bad faith”, and “making promises he can’t keep” have been thrown around for months now. But he has since tossed negotiations to the side and has implemented his own 2020 season proposal that stands to be in effect. Here’s the rundown on that, and how the Rays look to fare, given the circumstances. Important to note is that everything is tentatively scheduled (for virus-related reasons).
What we know now:
An abbreviated player camp starting July 1st. A mid-summer spring training, if you will.
A 60 game schedule starting July 23rd and spanning a 9-week period, with limited off-days.
40 games will be played between regular division opponents (10 per team).
The remaining 20 games will feature interleague action of the corresponding division (AL East to NL East, etc). For Tampa, they will have a 3-game home-and-home series with Miami, a 2-game home-and-home series with the Braves and Nationals, 3 games in New York against the Mets, and 3 games at home against the Phillies.
No scheduled doubleheaders. This was originally thought to be implemented to squeeze more games in limited time. However, teams want to be cautious with the amount of time they spend at the ballpark in a day, as a medical precaution. Scheduled doubleheaders would also interfere with any postponed games that would need to be made up.
DH in both leagues(!!). This is about the 472nd craziest thing to be proposed and quietly thrown into this season. Seemingly inevitable a few years down the line, why not get started on it now.
Extra innings will now start with a runner on second base for each team. This will hopefully speed up games that go into extras and limit games from going 13 or more innings. Some strategies could be implemented with this, as the batter who made the last out in the 9th will start at second in the tenth. Teams could revive the sacrifice bunt and get a runner on third with one out, increasing the likelihood of scoring that run.
MLB also halted their rule limiting position players from pitching this year. For 2020, anyone is eligible to take the mound.
No more canceled games. Any game canceled or delayed (and then canceled) before the 5th inning would’ve ended up being erased from the record in previous years. None of that will be happening anymore; games will be picked up where they left off at a later date. For 2020, this means less waiting around at the ballpark for the rain to clear, they can just quickly decide to postpone and continue play at a later date.
Teams will have a 60-player pool not limited to players on the 40-man (duh… math) featuring the normal lot: fringe major/minor leagues (aka quadruple-A players), as well as intriguing prospects that could see some action.
Teams will be allowed to carry 30 players for the first two weeks of the season, 28 for the next two, then down to the new normal 26 man roster.
The Rays 60 player pool is as follows:
Out of this group, the Rays get to start the season at 30 players. Anyone not on the 40-man would have to be added to play for them. On paper, this is one of the deepest, if not the deepest team in the majors. With the big trio of starters in Snell, Morton, and Glasnow having their workload monitored in a normal season, a 60 game season could prove to be at their advantage.
The roster battles are lessened, given the extra four roster spots. But as far as the backup catcher job is concerned, it appears Michael Perez has the upper hand over Kevan Smith or veteran Chris Herrmann. As for the infield, one or two spots are up for grabs between the likes of Daniel Robertson, Nate Lowe, and Mike Brosseau, each of whom could contribute at some point in the season, despite making the team right away. Depending on the rotation setup, the traditional five-man rotation would appear to be Morton, Snell, Glasnow, Yarbrough, and Chirinos. If they opt for a six-man, slide two-way phenom Brendan McKay in there.
And lastly, the bullpen. After the likes of Anderson, Castillo, Alvarado, Roe, Poche, and Drake, there are a handful of spots left. Some guys on the 40-man who have a chance to fill that spot are Jalen Beeks, Andrew Kittredge, and Peter Fairbanks. Those with an outside shot are lefties Aaron Loup and Ryan Sherriff.
Some teams released their player pool with a few open spots, hinting that they could add from outside the organization. The Rays were not only the first team to release their pool, but one of the few with all 60 spots filled. This could change, but I think it shows how confident they are in the entirety of the group. Platoons, spot-starts, and bullpen days have all been in the Rays repertoire during a 162 game season, but the 60 games allow the Rays to really open their bag of tricks and be ultra-competitive.
Featured Photo: Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images