Like we discussed yesterday, there was a really significant change to roster limits coming next Monday: not only were active rosters shrinking from 28 to 26, but teams were also going to be limited to a maximum of 13 pitchers. That rule change, which was coming for years but was kinda blown up by the pandemic, was going to dramatically impact teams (like the Cubs) that had long relied on nine relievers and five starting pitchers.
I say teams “were” going to be limited next week because MLB just punted that deadline by a month:
By agreement between @MLB and the @MLBPA as the parties monitor player health, the maximum of 13-pitchers on Active Rosters set to begin on May 2nd will instead go into effect on May 30th; a 14-pitcher maximum will be in place from May 2nd-29th.
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) April 26, 2022
So, rosters will still shrink to 26 next Monday, but teams will be permitted to go with 14 pitchers and 12 position players (instead of 13/13) if they want.
For the Cubs, this really isn’t much of an assist on their roster crunch. Recall, their looming crunch is primarily on the position player side. For the pitchers, where they currently have 15, there are some younger guys with minor league options remaining who could’ve simply been sent down to Iowa next Monday, and then the roster is 13/13.
We’ll see if the Cubs use this change to bring Alec Mills back without necessarily optioning out an additional pitcher next Monday (i.e., maybe Mark Leiter Jr. sticks around in the bullpen as an opener (which could work!), and only Ethan Roberts and Michael Rucker are optioned? Or maybe one of those two sticks around until Wade Miley is ready to return?).
Of course, if the Cubs do that, then they’ll have to drop from 13 position players to 12, and if they aren’t yet ready to move on from Jason Heyward, that’s gonna mean someone like Michael Hermosillo or Rafael Ortega could be lost forever. And that says nothing of when Clint Frazier is ready to return or when Andrelton Simmons is finally ready to debut (or, longer-term, when David Bote is ready to come back in late May or early June).
Again, the Cubs’ more meaningful roster crunch is coming on the positional side, and the league punting this rule change a month doesn’t necessarily help them all that much. But it will at least allow them some very short-term flexibility on the returns of Mills and Miley.