Chicago Cubs: Understanding how rosters expand
Every Sept.1 Major League Baseball allows teams to expand their active rosters from 25 to as many as 40 players. Teams don’t necessarily activate a full 40 players. But in September, nearly every team’s roster is bigger than the 25 players from the rest of the season. There have been a few cases of cheap teams not calling up any extra players to save money, but that is rare.
Teams also can’t just add anyone to their big league roster. The player must be on a team’s 40-man roster to be called up to the Major Leagues. Before I understood all of the intricacies of the expanded roster rules, I didn’t understand why teams didn’t at least call up some fast guys to be extra pinch runners and good fielders to be defensive replacements. Teams are unlikely to call up a speedy Class-A center fielder due to other roster considerations.
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If Dascenzo is in Triple-A and he already was up in the Major Leagues earlier in the year, then you call him up again in September when rosters expand. If he was just drafted and is in Rookie-level ball, then he won’t be one of the up to 40 players looking for space in a crowded dugout. Even if you have a need, an obvious role for such a player, you wouldn’t want to prematurely add a player in Rookie ball to your 40-man roster.
The rest of the year, the 40-man roster consists of all of the players on the 25-man roster plus some other players who have been added to the 40-man roster for a variety of reasons.
If a player goes on the 10-day disabled list, he stays on the 40-man roster even as he is removed from the 25-man active roster. A player that gets called up from the minors either must already be on the 40-man or be added to the 40-man roster before he can be called up to the majors.
If a player is placed on the 60-day disabled list, he is removed from the 40-man roster. This effectively saves the team a spot on the 40-man. When the player comes back, he must then be added to both the 40-man roster as well as the active 25-man. This year Eddie Butler went through this entire transnational process. Since Yu Darvish is out for the year and is on the 60-day disabled list, he isn’t taking up a spot on the 40-man roster. Drew Smyly is also currently on the 60-day disabled list and hopes to be added to both the 40-man and active rosters soon.
The 10-day disabled list effectively becomes a little silly in September, since the it doesn’t save a spot on the 40-man roster. The only functional reason to put someone on the 10-day DL in September would be to send them down to the minors for a rehab assignment. However, since most minor league seasons end around the beginning of September, it can be difficult to find minor league opportunities for rehab assignments. In 2016, Kyle Schwarber famously had to play his rehab assignment in the Arizona Fall League to get ready for the World Series.
In order to be eligible for the playoffs a player must be on a team’s 40 man roster before Sept. 1. This is rarely an issue, but last year the St. Louis Cardinals added Juan Nicasio after Sept. 1.