MLB and MLBPA Reportedly Discussing 2019 MLB Rule Change Proposals

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28: A baseball with MLB logo is seen at Citizens Bank Park before a game between the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies on June 28, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have reportedly been in talks about some rule change proposals to the in-game experience and financial aspects of the sport.

These changes include:

  • Three-batter minimum for pitchers
  • Universal designated hitter
  • Single trade deadline before the All-Star Break
  • 20-second pitch clock
  • Expand roster to 26, including a maximum of 12 pitchers
  • Draft advantages for winning teams and penalties for losing teams
  • Study to lower the mound
  • A rule that allowed two-sport amateurs to sign major league contracts

2019 MLB Rule Change Proposals – What these changes could mean?

Three-batter Minimum

Let’s start at the top. A three-batter minimum for pitchers is an extreme change and could eliminate a bullpen job entirely, the one-out lefty-specialist. There are various reasons why the league has proposed this idea. Commissioner Rob Manfred is known for being concerned about the pace of play for Major League games, with the average game time longer than three hours.

By requiring a pitcher to face a minimum of three batters, fans will not have to watch the carousel of pitchers coming in during the late innings, warming up, going to TV break, and then facing one batter before the following pitcher comes in. Additionally, baseball is a sport that shows the least amount of late game score changes, because of the dominance of bullpens. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the union did not strongly oppose the idea but asked for it to be tabled until the 2020 season, especially with spring training a week away.

Universal DH

A universal designated hitter is always discussed, especially when a nine-hole pitcher comes to the plate with two outs and runners in scoring positions. Consider for a moment the former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, Ivan Nova. In the past two years, Nova has gone 2-for-154. That is a batting average of .013. From a fan perspective, there’s nothing exciting about watching that.

This will also limit injuries to pitchers. They will not have to swing the bat, potentially foul the ball off their foot, run the bases, or get hit by a pitch. It will allow all pitchers to focus in on their craft while increasing entertainment from an offensive perspective with the DH. Starters could also go deeper into games because managers will no longer pull them early for strategic purposes when they are up to bat at a crucial time.

Expanded Rosters and Pitcher Changes

Additionally, with the idea that the rosters will be expanded to 26 players with a maximum of 12 pitchers, 30 jobs will be created. With nine starters and five guys on the bench, that provides for some very exciting pinch hitters and will add entertainment aspects to what is considered a boring sport by many casual fans.

The idea of a pitch clock is proposed every year. Despite negative feedback by the players, Manfred has the option to make this decision without the union’s approval, so it could be an inevitable change. He also is looking to potentially lower the mound.

Financial Proposals

Trade Deadline

Financially, there are three proposals; a single trade deadline, draft advantages for winning teams and penalties for losing teams, and a rule to allow two-sport amateurs to sign major league, rather than minor league, contracts. A single trade deadline, proposed by the Player’s Association, comes in a counter to how poor the free-agent market is. By forcing teams to look to improve before the half-way point, off-season acquisitions become that much more important.

This change forces MLB to be like the NFL which does not have big moves late in the season. Typically this helps a team that is close to 100 wins add players to push them over the edge. Rather, a player goes to a team that is getting hot before the second half of the season.

Draft Changes

Draft advantages for winning teams and penalties for losing teams is to prevent teams from tanking to get better players. This idea will help good players get to free agency and be picked up sooner by teams looking to improve. Also, the union suggested that teams that go below .500 for consecutive years could be negatively affected for the draft.

Kyler Murray Rule

The third proposal may as well be named the Kyler Murray rule. After being selected ninth overall in the 2018 MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics, Murray returned to Oklahoma for his red-shirt junior season. What happened next was a Heisman-winning season for him, which brought up many questions about what sport he would choose. After constant negotiation with the Athletics, Murray declared for the NFL Draft. Ultimately, his professional destination remains undecided and likely hinges on the NFL Draft.

In situations like these, the MLB does not want to miss out on a potential game changing star. The union proposed that two-sport amateurs be offered major league contracts to entice these players to stick with baseball.

With spring training a week away, the likelihood of these rules coming into effect are not very high. However, they do raise the question: what will happen to this league going forward?

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