Rule changes set for this sea­son and next

One trade dead­line, fewer mound vis­its in ’19

The Buffalo News - - SPORTS - NEW YORK TIMES

PORT CHAR­LOTTE, Fla. – In a tan­gi­ble sign of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the com­mis­sioner’s of­fice and a skep­ti­cal play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion, MLB and the union an­nounced sev­eral rule changes Thurs­day that will af­fect the trad­ing dead­line, the Al­lS­tar Game, ros­ter size and on-field strat­egy.

The rules – some of which will not be im­ple­mented un­til 2020 – demon­strate that, af­ter an­other win­ter in which many vet­eran free agents lin­gered for months on a slug­gish open mar­ket, the league and the play­ers were will­ing to mod­ify their cur­rent col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment even though it does not ex­pire un­til af­ter the 2021 sea­son.

“It’s just good to see both sides are work­ing to­gether,” said in­fielder Matt Duffy, union rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the Tampa Bay Rays. “It’s good when you have co­op­er­a­tion on both sides of an in­dus­try. I think that cre­ates a healthy at­mos­phere for the in­dus­try and the game to thrive.”

For the play­ers, the changes are largely a pre­lude to a more com­pli­cated rene­go­ti­a­tion of the fi­nan­cial as­pects of the CBA, which the sides have agreed to dis­cuss. But they will re­sult in im­me­di­ate dif­fer­ences to the sport this sea­son, in­clud­ing a sin­gle trad­ing dead­line July 31.

This rule elim­i­nates the ar­chaic and some­what con­fus­ing process of trade waivers, which for years had cre­ated a sec­ond sum­mer trad­ing pe­riod. Play­ers can still be placed and claimed on out­right waivers af­ter July 31, ac­cord­ing to the new rule, but can­not be traded af­ter that date.

The league also over­hauled the se­lec­tion process for the All-Star Game starters and added a $2.5 mil­lion pool of bonus money for the home run derby, in­clud­ing $1 mil­lion for the win­ner. That might not be enough to mo­ti­vate highly paid stars to take part, but for many young play­ers, $1 mil­lion would dwarf their an­nual salary.

“I just got en­gaged to be mar­ried,” said Pete Alonso, a slug­ging Mets prospect who would earn the $555,000 min­i­mum if he makes the team. “So that would def­i­nitely pay for the wed­ding costs.”

The All-Star starters (non-pitch­ers) will be se­lected in two phases: a pri­mary round and a des­ig­nated “Elec­tion Day.” In the first round, fans will vote for the starters at each po­si­tion, as they have for many years. Then, on a day in late June or early July, fans will vote again, choos­ing from the top three vote-get­ters at each po­si­tion in the ini­tial round (or top nine for out­field­ers).

Play­ers will re­ceive bonuses for fin­ish­ing among the top vote-get­ters at their po­si­tion, and the bonus pool for play­ers on the win­ning team will in­crease. If the All-Star Game goes to ex­tra in­nings, each in­ning be­yond the ninth will be­gin with a run­ner on sec­ond base, with play­ers al­lowed to re-en­ter the game as pinch-run­ners.

Other changes for this sea­son fur­ther Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred’s goal of speed­ing up the pace of play. The av­er­age nine-in­ning game took three hours last sea­son, down by five min­utes from 2017 but still 14 min­utes longer than the av­er­age game in 2005.

Pace-of-play rules for 2019 will not in­clude a pitch clock, but will in­clude a re­duc­tion in mound vis­its, from six to five, and in the time be­tween in­nings. Those breaks, which still must be re­viewed with broad­cast right­sh­old­ers, will be re­duced to two min­utes for all reg­u­lar-sea­son games, from 2:05 for lo­cal tele­casts and 2:20 for na­tional tele­casts.

The more sig­nif­i­cant changes will be­gin in 2020. Ros­ters will in­crease by one slot, to 26 play­ers, through the end of Au­gust. In Septem­ber, though, the max­i­mum ros­ter size will be re­duced to 28, from 40.

Teams will have a limit, still to be de­ter­mined, on the num­ber of pitch­ers al­lowed on the ac­tive ros­ter – and all pitch­ers will have to pitch to a min­i­mum of three bat­ters, or to the end of a half-in­ning.

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