Spring training begins for pitchers and catchers next week and Opening Day is 50 days away, but MLB and the players association are considering jamming in significant rules changes for the regular season.
Among them, according to an ESPN report, is a universal designated hitter; a three-batter minimum for pitchers; one trade deadline before the All-Star break; a 20-second pitch clock; and expanding rosters to 26 with a 12-pitchers maximum.
The revelations come in the middle of the current collective bargaining agreement and at a time when players and MLB appear to be greatly divided. A significant number of free agents are still without jobs, including Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, as owners play to the leverage they negotiated in the current CBA.
The addition of the DH to the National League would put both leagues under the same rule but also create more jobs for hitters. Adding a player to the active roster would create 30 new big-league jobs for players.
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The ideas come against the backdrop of the union’s concerns about teams trying to manipulate players’ service time, often by keeping them in the minor leagues. However, the three-batter minimum and 12-pitcher maximum would make left-handed specialists in the bullpen harder to keep on the roster.
The batter minimum and the 20-second pitch clock would help to speed up the game, and commissioner Rob Manfred and implement the pitch-clock rule without the union’s approval.
The union hopes that an earlier trade deadline, and only one deadline as opposed to the July 31 non-waiver deadline and the Aug. 31 deadline in which players must first clear waivers, would motivate teams to be more aggressive in free agency and emphasize the first half of the season.
As the report points out, many ideas are often thrown out when sides are bargaining, and chances are that only a few of the proposed changes will be implemented for this season.
Texas Rangers pitchers and catchers report to spring training Wednesday, and the Rangers open their season March 28 against the Chicago Cubs. Those three games will feature the DH with the series being played at an American League ballpark.