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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

9/9/23 : Roster Management - Just Sayin

Each major league team has twenty six active roster spots (expands to twenty eight on 9/1 till the end of the regular season).  However over the course of a long 162 game schedule spanning from late March thru early October the full forty man roster becomes very important in order to fill in for short term injuries, exhausted pitching staffs or lack of performance.  So too are the extra roster spots in September perhaps to save time for future use - let’s explain 🧐.

Generally each team will carry thirteen pitchers and thirteen position players as their roster composition. With the designated hitter as a lineup component that leaves four players on the bench, a backup catcher will occupy one of those spots, the other three become dependent on team needs but it’s a safe bet that at least one will be an infield reserve and another will be a fella who plays the outfield.  Having the ability to play multiple positions is a huge advantage in earning a bench role.

Pinch hitting is more a rarity than an regular occurrence in lineups with the DH, this season the major league average for pinch hitting AB’s is just 94 to date with only a few weeks left in the season.  Compare that to prior National League full season averages when the DH wasn’t used (2021 - 258, 2019 - 252, 2018 - 241, 2017 - 237, 2016 - 232, 2015 - 235) and you get the picture that the art of pinch hitting is no longer as valued nor warranted in composing a bench.  There are teams that platoon positions more than others but even those teams (A’s - 153 AB’s, Giants - 148 AB’s, Twins - 145 AB’s) are well below the league average AB’s allocated to pinch hitting prior to the DH.  Simply put the starters in the offensive lineup usually finish the game as well.  The position player reserves are generally those who are able to spot play each week to allow starters to rest or are defensive stalwarts used in that regard.

Flexibility in the roster is vital to provision the roles, that’s where minor league options come into play so as to allow for interchangeable parts.  According to Major League rules each player is designated with three minor league options in their career (an option allows a team to move a player back and forth from the minors to the majors without exposing them to risk of being claimed by another organization).  An option is considered used if a team moves a player to the minor leagues and they spend twenty days of service in the minors.  A player can be moved back to the minors five times per season within an option without forcing a claim exposure.  Option counts include spring training so if a forty man roster player is re-assigned to minor league spring training camp an option is enacted.

The Phillies current major league roster has three players who will lose their last option allotment after the season, outfielder Jake Cave and pitchers Christopher Sanchez and  Andrew Bellatti.   Rodolfo Castro will retain his last option allotment as long as he remains on the major league roster the balance of the year (he was optioned to the minors this season by the Pirates but did not spend 20 days there - he accumulated 16 days).  One other note - a player who is optioned to the minors after September 8th gets major league service time for those dates however those days will still count towards the 20 day minimum to consider an option as used.

Phillies players on the forty man roster presently in the minor leagues who will be out of options after the season are catcher Rafael Marchan and infielder Drew Ellis.   

Just some notes on roster management, teams have to consider all factors in deciding who stays and goes on the major league active roster not only for the current needs but also projecting into the coming season.  If a player is seen as a valuable reserve going forward and an option can be protected to allow for flexibility then short term vision may be blind to longer term sights for those who aren’t making the decisions, just sayin 🤷‍♂️.

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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