Thanks to the lockout and the intention to start the season so close to the regular Opening Day, Spring Training is going to be extraordinarily abbreviated this year – only about three and a half weeks. In the pandemic season, the league and the players negotiated the ability for teams to carry extra players, beyond the 26-man roster, because of the then three-week summer training lead-up. The idea was to help protect pitchers from injury as they ramp up.
So, the question a lot of folks have had, which was not answered in the new CBA: will rosters be temporarily expanded again this year?
Reportedly, the expectation is yes:
As we wait for the flurry of transactions, interesting to note that while expectations are that rosters will be bigger than 26 players to start season, roster size has not been determined yet.
— Kevin Acee (@sdutKevinAcee) March 11, 2022
I would tentatively expect that we’ll see a 27 or 28-man roster to open the season, and then dropping back to the normal 26-man by sometime in May. Teams will use that extra spot or spots for a reliever, which should be easy enough in the Cubs’ case: they figure not only to sign another sure-fire big-league type before Opening Day, but they also have a bevy of young arms on the 40-man roster who could fall into that up-down bullpen mix this year.
Though note that, starting this year, a player can be sent to the minor leagues only a total of five times in a given season, so that’ll be something the Cubs will have to manage with these young relievers. If there is a need in August, they might be cautious about calling a guy up that fifth time unless they know they’ll want him to stick around the rest of the way, OR they know they’re OK with having to subject him to waivers thereafter. (The rule is specifically designed to prevent excessive shuttling of relievers, who were basically getting screwed out of service time.)
In other words, having an expanded roster out of the gate will help player health, but combined with the new optioning limit, teams will have to figure out how to manage a little more carefully.