By and large, you’d expect the 30-man taxi squad to be a sufficient pool from which MLB teams could draw fill-in players during the course of the short regular season. But, then, how could I have possibly just typed that sentence during a pandemic? It’s not at all hard to imagine – God forbid – that a team sees an outbreak of the virus throughout their big league team AND their taxi squad team. Maybe they’re all asymptomatic and feel OK and the families are OK (such huge maybes … ), and the team wants to keep on playing with the guys they have left. But they need some more players in a pinch – what then?
Or what about a much less dire situation where a team needs a guy or two, but for developmental reasons, doesn’t necessarily want to call upon the guys at that position/role on the taxi squad? What if they’d just prefer a veteran free agent?
Turns out, there is an idea to create something like a free agent team so that MLB teams could quickly sign a fill-in player if necessary. There are no minor leagues, so this is kind of the only way to go:
Here's a wrinkle I hadn't heard before:
MLB has been talking with Nashville about having 2 teams there of unsigned players, sources say.
They would serve as an emergency pool and would make $400/week.
MLB teams would have to pay a fee to Nashville to sign one of those players.
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) June 23, 2020
The pay is obviously terrible, though I suppose the goal would be more about the opportunity than the immediate pay. Still. That’s so low.
As Ken Rosenthal later filled out in a write-up about the state of things, Nashville might not be the only location for fill-in players:
So, with the minor leagues dormant, MLB plans to obtain scouting video and data from independent leagues that plan to operate around the country. The Triple A Nashville Sounds are talking about organizing a “league” for their ballpark. The league would sign players, stage games, sell tickets, the works. Plenty of minor-league free agents, some with major-league experience, are looking for work.
MLB expects other minor-league teams to do something similar to Nashville and allow major-league teams to sign their players for a fee, operating the same way independent leagues normally do.
Sounds like there is still a lot to be filled out on this front, but if there are areas where there is lower viral spread, you could see this working, not only for MLB, but for the local teams, facilities, and pro players who just want an opportunity to play.
You might see some veterans who don’t make big league rosters or taxi squads go this route so they can stay sharp in case an opportunity presents itself.