The New Pitcher Roster Limit Finally Kicks in Today

It’s actually, finally happening. The pitching roster limit, first agreed upon before the 2020 season but not implemented because of the pandemic and then the lockout, will kick in today. Specifically, teams may carry no more than 13 pitchers on their 26-man rosters. That means, around baseball, we’ll see a lot of maneuvering at the edges of the roster (started to see some of it this weekend), and we’ll thereafter see obvious changes in the way games are managed (see the original post below for all the particulars and the impact).

For the Cubs, a roster move will be required today, because they are still at 14 pitchers and 12 position players. Unless David Bote is ready to return (he played well at Iowa this weekend), it’s not entirely clear which position player would be activated. Normally you’d expect the most recent bulk guy to be the pitcher who goes out, but Adrian Sampson was awfully good yesterday.

*Original post follows.*

They punted it again. The pitching roster limit that was set to kick in next week is once again being pushed back – it’s the third time it’s been pushed back this season, and the third straight season(!) it’s been pushed back.

Specifically, MLB created a rule three years ago that would limit the total number of pitchers on the roster to 13. The idea’s intention was multifold, but the short version is that fewer available pitchers would impact the use of starting pitchers, the volume of pitching changes, the advantages pitchers have, and the overall pace of the game. It is, in theory, a very good change.

But then the pandemic happened, which blew it up for 2020. And then things were still really unsettled on the pandemic front in the spring of 2021, plus there were COVID cases throughout the season, so it made sense to punt the rule change again. And then this year, the lockout shrank Spring Training, so in the interests of player health and safety, the rule was delayed again, multiple times.

The latest delay pushes things back to June 19, per Ken Rosenthal. I don’t know that there’s any reason to believe it’ll actually kick in at that point, either, but I guess we’ll see.

Remember, this is a *MAJOR* rule change for what we’ve come to know as “normal” pitcher usage the last ten years. With only 13 pitchers on staff, you’re talking about only eight relievers, which is one or two or three fewer than we’ve typically seen the last several years. Combine that with the rules that changed the minimum length of an IL stay for pitchers to 15 days, the minimum time in the minors after an option to 15 days, and put a limit on the total number of times a player can be optioned in a season, and man, I’m telling you, the use of starters and bullpens is going to be very different. The constant churn, both within a game and within a season, is going to be much tougher to pull off.

… you know, if the rule ever actually kicks in.

In addition to obvious things – starting pitchers who can go deeper, relievers who can go multiple innings and bounce-back quickly – one of the most important things for organizations in that new era is going to be having a TON of MLB-quality relief arms at Triple-A on the 40-man roster. Because to the extent you want to rotate guys in and out, you have to overcome the 15-day limit and the total options limit – which means you just need a ton of those guys. The Cubs, currently, are looking pretty good on that front, but because of the nature of option years, you’re going to have to be developing these guys constantly.

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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