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MLB announces rule changes including a new trade deadline and fewer mound visits

The changes are subtle, but you will notice

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday, I wrote about MLB and the MLBPA agreeing to a single trade deadline.

That’s just one of several changes the Commissioner’s office and the Players Association announced for 2019 and 2020.

Here are the new rules and regulations as announced in MLB’s press release, and brief comments on each.

These changes will be in effect for the 2019 season, which begins two weeks from today:

Inning breaks

Subject to discussions with broadcast partners, inning breaks will be reduced from 2:05 to 2:00 in local games, and from 2:25 to 2:00 in national games. (The Office of the Commissioner retains the right to reduce the inning breaks to 1:55 in local and national games for the 2020 season.)

COMMENT: Sounds good to me, though the time saved will amount to about a minute and a half per game.

Mound visits

The maximum number of mound visits per team will be reduced from six to five.

COMMENT: No team, as far as I know, used up all six visits last year, and only a couple of teams had only one remaining. This likely won’t have a major impact.

Trade deadline

The trade deadline will remain July 31st; however, trade waivers will be eliminated. Players may be placed and claimed on outright waivers after July 31st, but players may not be traded after that date.

COMMENT: See the link above for my thoughts on this.

All-Star Game

All-Star Game fan voting will be conducted in two rounds. During the “Primary Round,” each Club will nominate one player per eligible position (three outfielders), who will be voted on by fans. In late June or early July, an “Election Day” will be held in which the top three vote-getters at each position in each League during the Primary Round (including the top nine outfielders) will be voted on by fans during a prescribed time period to determine the All-Star Game starters. Further details on the new fan voting format will be announced in April.

COMMENT: I hope they come up with a better name for it than “Election Day.”

All-Star bonus payments will be given to the top three vote-getters at each position in each League during the Primary Round (top six for outfielders). Additionally, the prize money awarded to players on the winning All-Star team will be increased beginning with the 2019 All-Star Game.

COMMENT: This appears designed to give incentives to players to not beg off of going to the game.

Both Clubs will start the 10th inning of the All-Star Game, and each subsequent inning, with a runner on second base (re-entry substitutions allowed for runners).

COMMENT: I hate this concept in general, but in a meaningless game, I suppose it’s all right. I’ll be rooting for no extra innings in the ASG.

Home Run Derby

Total player prize money for the Home Run Derby will be increased to $2.5 million. The winner of the Home Run Derby will receive $1 million.

COMMENT: Will be nice for the winner of the Derby.

That’s the summary of changes for this year. The changes below will be effective for the 2020 season.

Active roster provisions

The active roster limit from Opening Day through August 31st and in Postseason games will increase from 25 to 26, and the minimum number of active players will increase from 24 to 25. The current Major League Rules allowing for a 26th player for doubleheaders will be amended to allow for a 27th player.

Elimination of 40-man active roster limit in September. From September 1st through the end of the championship season, all Clubs must carry 28 players on the active roster.

The number of pitchers a Club may carry on the active roster will be capped at a number determined by the joint committee. Clubs must designate each of its players as either a pitcher or a position player prior to each player’s first day on the active roster for a given season. That designation will remain in effect for the player, and cannot change, for the remainder of the championship season and Postseason. No player on the active roster other than those designated as pitchers by the Club may appear in a championship season or Postseason game as a pitcher except in the following scenarios:

Players designated as a “Two-Way Player.” A player qualifies as a “Two-Way Player” only if he accrues at least 20 Major League innings pitched and at least 20 Major League games started as a position player or designated hitter (with at least three plate appearances in each of those games) in either the current championship season or the prior championship season;

Following the ninth inning of an extra-inning game; or

In any game in which his team is losing or winning by more than six runs when the player enters as a pitcher.

COMMENT: These are all good things and will help reduce the parades of relief pitchers. The extra roster spot could help give managers flexibility for additional bench roles. These rules do reduce the possibility of position players pitching, but still allows for them in certain situations, and accounts for the “two-way player” such as Shohei Ohtani, or what Michael Lorenzen is apparently going to try for the Reds this eyar.

Minimum number of batters for pitchers

The Office of the Commissioner will implement an amended Official Baseball Rule 5.10(g) requiring that starting pitchers and relief pitchers must pitch to either a minimum of three batters or the end of a half-inning (with exceptions for incapacitating injury or illness). The Players Association has agreed that it will not grieve or otherwise challenge the Office of the Commissioner’s implementation of the amended Rule 5.10(g).

COMMENT: Good. This will also help reduce the reliever parades. MLB will, however, have to watch for phantom “injuries” that would allow managers to change pitchers before the three-batter minimum.

Injured List and option period for pitchers

Subject to input from the joint committee, the minimum placement period for pitchers on the Injured List shall increase from 10 days to 15 days, and the minimum assignment period of pitchers who are optionally assigned to the minors will increase from 10 days to 15 days.

COMMENT: Teams have been gaming the 10-day injured list for the last two years to help provide extra starting pitchers or relievers. The Cubs have used this in the form of the “Iowa Shuttle.” It won’t be as easy to do that starting in 2020. Note that this appears to apply only to pitchers, not position players.