As we approach the end of the month of August, there are a few roster and transactional things you’ll need to know, and we’ll be getting into them all in the coming days.
Today’s installment: playoff roster rules.
Until last year, the Cubs hadn’t been in a position to worry about the playoff roster rules for many years, so you might not be aware of how playoff rosters work – and you’ve probably heard some inaccurate things along the way.
First and foremost: if a player is on the 40-man roster as of August 31, he’s eligible to be selected for the 25-man postseason roster. The rule used to be a little more complicated, but we needn’t worry about it. Two years ago, MLB changed its postseason eligibility rules to flat-out include anyone on the 40-man roster. On the 40-man but not called up until September 3? No worries. You’re still eligible for a postseason roster.
What about players in the Cubs’ organization by the end of August, but not on the 40-man roster? Well, if you weren’t on the 40-man as of August 31, technically you’re not eligible for the postseason roster. But there’s a huge but. A player in the organization may be added to the 40-man roster after August 31 and still be eligible for a postseason roster if he was replacing an injured player. The rule guards against teams being screwed by a rash of injuries in September – imagine if a team lost a few catchers and had to try and win with a third baseman behind the plate in the postseason. (Note: Under the new rule system where every player on the 40-man is eligible, this injury replacement stuff is less likely to come up, though, since most of the guys you’d even consider putting on a 25-man playoff roster are probably going to be on your 40-man anyway.)
Beyond that, if a player is not in your organization by August 31, he is not eligible for a postseason roster. (That’s why August 31 is considered a second trade deadline – the Waiver Trade Deadline – but we’ll get to that on Wednesday.)
Playoff rosters are set for each postseason series, which means the Cubs would have a 25-man roster for the NLDS, and then, if they win it, can re-set the roster for NLCS (and then again for the World Series).
The actual decision on the roster isn’t required until the playoffs are about to start, of course. The Cubs haven’t technically clinched the NL Central yet, so I guess don’t count your chickens (but those babies are totally hatching).
We’ll undoubtedly have many fun playoff roster discussions over the course of September, but a lot can happen in the next five weeks to change the dynamics. For that reason, I’m just laying out the rules for you today. As the end of September approaches, we can then discuss how to formulate that initial 25-man NLDS roster.
As for the roster considerations as the end of the month approaches, the plausible postseason roster formulations for the Cubs are limited, in my view, to the guys already on the 40-man roster, plus the small possibility of a speed guy like John Andreoli being added. Absent a rash of injuries in September, then, I don’t anticipate much if any of the Cubs’ postseason roster(s) coming from anywhere except the current 40-man roster.
That’s not to say there might not be an addition or two to the 40-man roster when September call-ups roll around. But that’s a slightly distinct topic, and we’ll discuss that next.
The 2016 postseason schedule is here, by the way, if you missed it.