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MLB, MLBPA announce series of rule changes

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Some immediate, some for 2020, all of relative consequence.

T-Mobile Home Run Derby Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

All winter long, we’ve watched as the free agent market fell into an all or nothing pattern, simultaneously observing the increasing spotlight on service time manipulation of some of the game’s top prospects. Well, then it must be good news that the MLB Players Association and MLB Commissioner’s Office got together to announce some sweeping rule changes for the game, right?

Not really.

That said, there are rule changes that have been rolled out, some of which will are effective immediately. The most major of those is the consolidation to a lone trade deadline - July 31st - that effectively wipes out the August waiver-trade period. In addition, the number of mound visits per game has been reduced to five (from six) and they’ve shaved a few seconds off the time that’s allotted in between innings, as MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince relayed in his review of the deal.

Beyond that, though, are a handful of seemingly more impactful changes on the docket for the 2020 season, which MLB.com writer Joe Trezza outlined succinctly in this ol’ tweet.

The three-batter minimum is, in effect, a referendum on LOOGYs, as one-guy only specialization will become bygone. The other highlighted rules obviously will impact how front offices manage their active rosters, since there will be a 26th man for the first five months of the season but only a max of 28 spots come September - a massive reduction from the potential 40 spots that have been available in the current era. Add-in the extension of the Injured list - former the DL, in case you hadn’t heard that got changed as well - and it appears that there is an emphasis on reducing teams’ abilities to churn their roster to play for match-ups an an extreme micro level.

Of course, there’s not a thing in there about the luxury tax’s impact on top-dollar spending, on the complete reduction of the middle-market of free agency, or on whether sending top prospects who have earned roster spots come Opening Day down to AAA for two weeks to, in essence, gain a seventh year of team control is a completely bogus move, but at least they’ve agreed to agree on coming to a future agreement of some agreeability about those seemingly less-important topics at a future date. Right.

Still, I do suppose it’s a good sign that these two sides are at least willing to still negotiate, as it sure seemed for the longest time this winter that there was a polarization that had a future labor stoppage in the pipeline once the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expired. Perhaps, and hopefully, this is a signal that the two sides at least have the ability to find a middle ground on most topics - at least ones that don’t address money, the astronomic spike in strikeouts, or minor leaguers actually earning a living wage.