MLB seeks new rules on DL, options
Commissioner Rob Manfred
According to sources speaking with the Associated Press this week, Major League Baseball has proposed changing the minimum length of a stint on the disabled list back to 15 days and adding to the length of time a player must stay in the minor leagues after being optioned down.
Currently, the minimum stay on a DL is ten days, a change implemented in 2017 as part of the most recent collective bargaining agreement between ownership and the players' union. It had been 15 days from 1984 through 2016. Players optioned to the minor leagues are now obligated to spend at least ten days in the minors, and the new proposal would change that to 15 days.
The intent of these changes is to curtail the practice of team's shuttling relievers up and down from the minors in order to keep fresh arms in the bullpen, a strategy that effectively gets around the 25-man roster limit for a series of games. In 2018, the average Major League team used 3.4 relief pitchers per game, up from 3.2 in 2016 and 3.0 in 2012. There were nearly 1,000 more relief appearances overall in 2018 than 2017. Last year also saw 737 uses of the DL, up from 563 in 2016.
The proposal must be agreed to by the players' union to be enacted for this season, or can be implemented unilaterally by the commissioner with a year's advance notice.