Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association announced a series of rule changes that will be coming to MLB over the next two seasons, including everything from a new trade deadline to roster sizes and a new prize for the Home Run Derby.
The changes, which come with an agreement from both sides to begin talking about renegotiating and extending the current Basic Agreement that is set to expire after the 2021 season, are contingent on ratification from the 30 MLB franchises.
Trade Deadline, All-Star Changes Coming Immediately
Many of the changes have been reported on over the past two months, as both sides floated potential adjustments to both game rules and the structure of the league. Now, fans will begin to see those rule changes come into effect over the next two seasons.
The biggest change coming this season will see a single trade deadline put into place on July 31. While players can still be placed on waivers and claimed after that date, no trades will be processed.
The limit on mound visits per game will also be reduced from six to five, though that may not impact games very much, as teams rarely came close to the limit in 2018. Breaks between innings will be shortened to two minutes, potentially speeding up games by several minutes for nationally televised contests, which currently allow two minutes and 25 seconds for changeovers.
The All-Star Game is also being changed significantly. Fan voting will now take place in two rounds, the first of which will be virtually identical to the current system. However, the top three vote-getters at each position will then participate in an “Election Day” on which fans will then vote over a limited period of time for the final winner.
In addition, the prize money for the Home Run Derby has been increased substantially. While the 2018 contest offered $525,000 in prize money and $125,000 for the winner, there will now be $2.5 million on the line, with the winner taking home $1 million. The hope is that the added money will entice star players to participate in the popular event.
Roster Sizes, Pitching Rules to Change in 2020
More dramatic changes are in store for 2020. Roster sizes will increase by one to 26 players, and will only increase to 28 players for September. A cap will be placed on the number of pitchers that can be on a team, though that exact number has yet to be determined. The minimum length of time for a player to spend on the injured list will also increase back up to 15 days from 10.
Pitchers will also be forced to pitch to a minimum of three batters or until the end of a half-inning, barring injury or illness. Position players will only be allowed to pitch in extra innings, or if either team is winning by more than six runs when they enter the game. In a rule seemingly designed specifically with Shohei Ohtani in mind, the rule also doesn’t apply to “two-way players,” who have pitched at least 20 innings along with starting at least 20 games as a position player in either the current or prior season.