There is no deal to return to baseball yet – and the reported latest offer from the owners is unlikely to change that in a hurry – but we know that baseball, in one form or another, is coming back. And it’s coming back after a long absence, a short Spring Training Part Two, and during a pandemic.
That means logistical planning has to start now (well, long before now, actually).
To that end, one thing getting underway, per BA, is the process of getting things set up for the “taxi squads” of players that will help support the big league roster:
There is not yet an agreement on a 2020 MLB season, but all 30 MLB teams have been told to find a site for taxi squad workouts within 100 miles of their home stadium in preparation for baseball's return.https://t.co/P7vqCXhXt6
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) June 12, 2020
For those unfamiliar with the concept, a taxi squad is a group of players, not on the active roster, who stay ready and fresh to provide fill-in players as necessary for the big league team. By training together, the group not only keeps guys available to “send up” when there are Injured List stints, but it also provides a place for top prospects to play in this minor-league-less year, while also providing simulated game opportunities for rehabbing big leaguers.
In order to have a taxi squad doing all that this year, though, teams will have to get a place relatively close to their home park where the squad can play. To that end, BA reports that MLB teams have been told to secure a location within 100 miles for a taxi squad to get in their work.
For most clubs, that’s likely going to mean an affiliate. The Cubs do have their low-A affiliate, the South Bend Cubs, about 90 miles east, so they have a spot at the ready if they want. Though if you’ve made the drive, it could prove challenging depending in your timing and urgency to get someone to Chicago ASAP. (Don’t forget to vote for the SB Cubs’ ballpark, Four Winds Field, by the way.)
It’s possible the Cubs will instead look to use a local college facility – there was a report earlier in the month from Bruce Levine that the Cubs were considering availing themselves of facilities at the University of Illinois-Chicago or North Park College for Spring Training Part Two (Wrigley Field may not be able to accommodate everyone ramping up). Could the taxi squad just stay there so that they can be even closer to Chicago?
We’ll see what the particulars are, and possibly soon. It remains the likely case that big league rosters will be expanded from 26, perhaps to as large as 30 players. And then from there, 20 to 25 players are expected to be available on the taxi squad.