According to an AP source, Major League Baseball has proposed a move back to a 15-day minimum disabled list stay and an increase to the amount of time an optioned player must spend in the minors. These moves are reportedly motivation by a desire to reduce the use of relief pitchers and promote offensive production.
MLB has seen a spike in DL stints since the minimum was reduced to 10 days in 2016, from 563 DL placements that season to 702 in 2017 and 737 this past season. That’s 31 percent more DL placements in two seasons, with teams often using that open roster spot to cycle through relievers. Aiding that strategy is the 10-day minimum for minor-league options.
So teams are dovetailing the DL with options to maintain a cache of fresh relievers, giving them potential advantages late in games. Of course, that’s assuming the relievers who still have options available are competent enough to pitch well during their respective stints. The other side of the coin is that pushing the DL back to 15 days might mean more reluctance to shelve injured players.
The whole point of the 10-day DL was that the reduced length meant less downtime for players who might have otherwise been healthy but unavailable for several games. Whether the issue is chronic or acute, it may not take two weeks to remedy. Given the choice to play through it for a few games or to miss several games while perfectly healthy, teams and players will often opt for the former.
That would seem to counter the notion that longer DL stints would lead to increased performance, since injured players aren’t going to play as well. What’s more, they could be putting themselves at greater risk for further injury in the process.
According to the report, these proposals are part of a broader plan that also includes the use of pitch clocks. Commissioner Rob Manfred has to power to impose changes unilaterally, but would obviously prefer to have approval from the players union. As such, we could be looking at negotiations that stretch into spring training.
I’m curious to hear what others think: Would changing the DL and option times actually have an impact? What about the pitch clock?