Boost Competitiveness With Bigger Rosters

Note: Today’s article is inspired by many conversations I’ve been having offline with other baseball fans, including my friend and fellow writer Gaurav Garg, as well as conversations I’ve heard on the radio about current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Player Union. 

As a passionate baseball fan, I have experienced the highs and lows of every season, celebrated countless victories, and mourned heartbreaking losses. Yet, one persistent issue has been the limitations imposed by the current roster structure. With an ever-evolving game and increasing demands on players, it is time for MLB to expand rosters to have 45 players total and 30 active players for every game. This change would not only enhance the quality of the game but also ensure the well-being of the players, improve team strategy, and offer fans a more engaging and dynamic experience.

Baseball, like all professional sports, has seen significant changes over the years. Advances in sports science, training, and analytics have transformed how the game is played and managed. Players are now expected to perform at peak levels, often playing 162 games in a regular season, not counting the postseason. The physical and mental toll on players is immense, and injuries are a common occurrence.

Expanding the rosters would alleviate some of this strain. Currently, teams are limited to 26 active players during the regular season, which means managers often have to make tough decisions about who to rest and who to play, sometimes at the cost of player health. With 30 active players, teams could better manage workloads, ensuring that players remain fresh and perform at their best throughout the long season. It would also reduce the frequency of injuries caused by overuse and fatigue, as there would be more opportunities to rotate players and give them necessary rest.

A larger roster would provide managers with more flexibility in terms of strategy. Baseball is a game of matchups, and having a deeper bench would allow for more specialized roles. For instance, managers could carry additional pinch hitters, defensive specialists, or situational pitchers. This would lead to more strategic decisions and potentially more exciting games as managers could better exploit matchups against opposing teams.

Moreover, expanding the rosters would level the playing field across the league. Smaller market teams often struggle to compete with larger market teams due to financial constraints. With a larger roster, these teams could invest in developing young talent and have more opportunities to give these players meaningful playing time. This would not only benefit the teams but also the overall competitiveness of the league, making the games more exciting for fans.

One of the most significant benefits of expanding the rosters would be the impact on player development. MLB teams invest heavily in their farm systems, but many talented players never get the chance to prove themselves at the major league level due to roster limitations. By increasing the overall roster size to 45 players, teams could promote more players from their minor league affiliates, providing them with invaluable experience and exposure.

This change would also encourage teams to be more patient with their prospects. Currently, there is immense pressure to succeed quickly, often leading to rushed promotions or the discarding of players who need more time to develop. With more spots available, teams could afford to take a longer-term view, allowing players to develop at their own pace without the constant threat of being cut or demoted.

Moreover, expanding the active roster to 30 players paired with a rule change would allow teams to have up to four players with the Major League team at all times who can come in when a player gets injured during the game. These four players would likely be prospects therefore avoiding the need for teams to constantly burn through player options.

The Fan Experience

As fans, we thrive on the excitement of seeing new talent emerge and watching our favorite teams compete at their highest level. Expanding the rosters would enhance this experience in several ways.

Firstly, fans would get to see a greater variety of players and talents. Imagine the excitement of seeing a top prospect make his debut or a fan favorite getting more opportunities to shine. More players on the roster would mean more stories, more heroes, and more reasons to watch every game.

Secondly, larger rosters would lead to more dynamic and unpredictable games. With more players available, managers could make more strategic substitutions and adjustments, leading to a wider array of game scenarios. This unpredictability would keep fans on the edge of their seats and make each game a unique experience.

Finally, over the last few years the increased focus on player health would mean that fans get to see their favorite players perform at their best for longer periods because prospects would be able to play off the bench following their debut and be under less pressure to perform. Also, no one likes to see a star player go down with an injury, and larger rosters would help mitigate this risk by ensuring that players are not overworked.

Concerns Owners & General Managers May Have

While the benefits of expanding the rosters are clear, it is important to address potential concerns that may arise from this proposal.

One concern Owners and General Managers around the league might have with expanded rosters is the financial impact on teams, particularly smaller market teams. However, this expansion could be managed in a way that minimizes financial strain. For instance, MLB could implement an approach that would teams to name four players who are on the 45 man roster every Monday or Tuesday morning depending on when their next series is starting.  Additionally, increased television revenue and fan engagement from a more competitive and exciting league could offset the additional costs associated with larger rosters.

Some league executives might also argue that increasing the number of players could dilute the quality of play. However, this concern is mitigated by the fact that MLB teams already have extensive farm systems filled with talented players. By providing more opportunities for these players to develop and compete at the major league level, the overall quality of play would likely improve rather than diminish. Furthermore, expanded rosters would allow teams to better manage player options, injuries, and fatigue. Therefore leading to a higher level of performance from all players.

Another concern could be the logistical challenges of managing larger rosters. However, MLB teams already have sophisticated systems in place for managing their players. Expanding the rosters would simply require some adjustments to these systems. Teams could also use the expanded rosters to experiment with new strategies and approaches, leading to innovation and evolution in how the game is managed.

Looking at other professional sports leagues around the world, it is clear that larger rosters can be successfully managed and can lead to a more exciting and competitive league. For example, the NFL has a 53-player roster, and the NBA has 15 active players with additional two-way contracts. These leagues have demonstrated that larger rosters can enhance the fan experience, improve player health, and increase the overall competitiveness of the league.

Here’s the thing folks: As a devoted baseball fan, I believe that expanding the rosters to 30 active players and 45 overall is a necessary step to ensure the continued growth and significantly increase competitiveness on the field. This change would address the physical and mental demands on players, enhance team strategy, improve player development, and offer fans a more engaging and dynamic experience. While there are potential concerns, they can be managed through careful planning and implementation.

By expanding the rosters, MLB can continue to evolve and thrive, ensuring that future generations of fans can enjoy the same excitement and passion that we have experienced. It is time for MLB to take a bold step forward, for the good of the players, the teams, and most importantly, the fans. Let’s expand the rosters and make our beloved game even better.

With that… it will be interesting to see what changes occur when the current CBA ends on November 30, 2026.

If you cannot play with them, then root for them!

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