morning afternoon, Athletics Nation!
Spring training is just a week away, and some details of the upcoming season are now more clear. MLB released its health and safety protocols for the 2021 season on Tuesday, in an effort to keep everybody as safe as possible from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Much of the document covers things like testing and masks and bubbles and distancing, but there are also some rule changes that directly affect the game on the field. In particular, two of the temporary measures from last summer are being reinstated for this season.
One of them is the extra-inning runner rule, in which teams get a free baserunner on second to begin every inning from the 10th on. This is designed to avoid marathon stalemates, and to add even more drama to the extra frames. Fans got a taste of it last year, to mixed reviews.
The other returning new rule sets doubleheader games at seven innings each like they were last season, instead of full nine-inning regulation games. With the looming possibility of needing to play lots of doubleheaders, this makes it possible to finish a twin-bill much faster, which especially eases the single-day workloads of pitching staffs. The A’s played five doubleheaders last year due to various setbacks, accounting for one-sixth of their entire schedule.
Hot take: Personally, I’m not a fan of either rule. The extra-inning runner is too big of a fundamental change for me and feels like a gimmicky sell-out attention grab, and shorter doubleheader games too greatly impact pitching strategies by removing middle relief from the equation. However, I understand why these changes are beneficial in this moment in time, and if the league thinks it’ll help then I’m not going to argue. I just hope they don’t become permanent forever-ever.
Active roster sizes will revert to 26. For a long time they were 25, but last year they were going to be bumped up to 26 before the pandemic arrived and caused them to expand even further. Now they’ll settle back to where they were supposed to be in 2020, and the planned restriction on quantity of pitchers will be temporarily waived for the season. Taxi squads that travel on road trips can include up to five players (the fifth one must be a catcher), and if a team has an outbreak then there will be special consideration for roster transactions so that replacements don’t have to burn options or later get DFA’d.
Two other topics are notably not part of the plan for 2021. At this moment there is still not a universal designated hitter, and the postseason is still limited to the normal 10 teams rather than being expanded like it was last fall.
Oakland A’s pitchers and catchers have their first workout next Wednesday, on Feb. 17. The regular season begins with Opening Day on April 1. One more note on the topic of spring training, regarding the Giants but still relevant to the A’s and anyone who plays in the Cactus League:
Statement from the Giants about spring training attendance: pic.twitter.com/2l2FnprHWk— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) February 10, 2021
- AN: Return of the Jedi: A’s sign Jed Lowrie to minor league contract
- Woo: Why A’s ‘No. 1’ option for Puk is the starting rotation
- Kleinschmidt: Ex-A’s DH Davis opens up about playing 2020 with ‘heavy heart’
- AN: Khris Davis leaves powerful mark on A’s history
- Bleav podcast: Host Ben Ross joined by guest Alex Coffey of The Athletic
- AN: A’s payroll nets out even after Andrus and Fiers moves, but now with money to spend
- AN: A’s first spring workout begins Feb. 17
MLB News & Interest
- Adler: The 2021 standings could look like this (PECOTA projections)
- Weaver: Goodbye to Elvis Andrus, whose joy defined the best era of Rangers baseball ($$$)
- Rosenthal: Inside the updated health and safety protocols for the 2021 MLB season ($$$)
- McCalvy: Braun ‘not currently interested in playing’
- Today in Baseball History
Yadi stays for an 18th season in St. Louis, with the only team he’s ever played for
Yadier Molina agreement with Cards is for $9M— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 9, 2021
Giants grab one of the top remaining relievers
Interesting deal structure to effectively defer some salary to next year
Per sources a very creative deal for Duvall. The contract is worth a guaranteed $5 million dollars. He will earn $2 million in 2021. His 2022 deal has a $7 million dollar mutual option OR $3 Million dollar buyout. So guaranteed $5 million dollars.— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) February 9, 2021
Villar was a 4 WAR infielder in 2019, has a 20-homer season and a 60-steal season on his resume, and will be age 30 this year, and he’s a switch-hitter who plays multiple positions
Villar gets $3.55M on Mets deal, plus incentives— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 9, 2021
Keeping an eye on the reliever market
Steve Cishek has a minor-league deal with the Astros, per source. He’ll earn $2.25 million plus incentives if he makes the team. @Chandler_Rome was first with the signing.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) February 9, 2021
... Another reliever
The #Rays transaction page says they've signed RHP Hunter Strickland, presumably to a minor league deal.— Danny Russell (@d_russ) February 8, 2021
Entering his age-32 season, Strickland only picked up 3.1 innings for the Mets in 2020 but was still throwing 98 mph. pic.twitter.com/6L0ND2H3Do
Former star looking for a bounce-back at age 35
Auburndale, Wisconsin resident RHP Jordan Zimmermann has been signed to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League camp. pic.twitter.com/RwQtRbVCsX— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) February 9, 2021
This could have been an alternate version of the Lowrie move (for DH considerations at least), after the former Athletic was excellent for the Braves in 2019 and still got on base for the Marlins in 2020
Dombrowski: Phillies have agreed to terms with Matt Joyce on a minor-league deal. Lefty bat who could win a job in spring.— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) February 10, 2021
Schrock joins Doo in Cincy
The #Reds have claimed off waivers from the Cubs IF Max Schrock. Cincinnati's 40-man roster is now at 40.— C. Trent Rosecrans (@ctrent) February 10, 2021
... And another former A’s prospect finds a new home
The Tigers have agreed to terms with INF’s Greg Garcia and Renato Núñez on Minor League contracts. Both players will receive invites to Major League Spring Training. pic.twitter.com/ZbCeoSk7pl— Tigers PR (@DetroitTigersPR) February 10, 2021
Folty signing isn’t news, but Garcia now DFA’d to make room
The Rangers have announced the signing of free agent RHP Mike Foltynewicz to a one-year contract for 2021. OF Adolis Garcia has been designated for assignment to make room for Foltynewicz on the 40-man roster. Foltynewicz is 44-42 lifetime with HOU and ATL. Was 2019 NL All-Star.— John Blake (@RangerBlake) February 10, 2021
Another minor AL West note
Angels have signed Phil Gosselin to a minor league deal with a big league camp invite. Had a .726 OPS with the Phillies in 2020.— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) February 9, 2021
Hard to believe Ohtani is already eligible for arbitration, but this buys out the first two years of it
Ohtani will make $3M in 2021 and $5.5M in 2022.— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) February 8, 2021
Best of Twitter
Lowrie speaks on returning for his third stint in Oakland
Lowrie said A's org "has always been a good fit for me" and he sees opps at 2B and at DH after Khris Davis trade. "It’s a place that feels like home to me and to have an opportunity to go back and help win, I mean that’s all you can ask for."— Matt Kawahara (@matthewkawahara) February 10, 2021
... and optimism regarding his health
Lowrie said he had surgery in October - a fat pad debridement - on the left knee that hampered him with NY and: "I'm well down the road for rehab there ... I’m feeling pretty good physically so I just need to get back out there and get some innings underneath me."— Matt Kawahara (@matthewkawahara) February 10, 2021
The possibility of Jed Lowrie staying healthy this season is approximately 3,720-to-1.— Alex Hall (@AlexHallAN) February 10, 2021
Never tell me the odds.
/immediately writes Lowrie into A's Opening Day lineup in sharpie
It is our destiny
Already looking forward to Marcus Semien’s minor league deal with the A’s in 2030— Ben Ross (@BenRossTweets) February 10, 2021
Another wonderful story about the late Pedro Gomez
The stories members of the baseball community are sharing about Pedro Gomez since the stunning news of his death at 58 sculpt a three-dimensional guy who was one of the best men, let alone reporters, that any of us have ever known.— John Hickey (@JHickey3) February 8, 2021
Cool memory of Gomez, including a shoutout for Dave Stewart
The beloved @pedrogomezESPN returned a questionnaire @baseballhall sent him two decades ago. I tracked it down thinking his friends and fans might enjoy his responses. @TJQuinnESPN @hbryant42 @TimKeownESPN @jaysonst @Ken_Rosenthal @MzCSmith @JeffPassan pic.twitter.com/F3b4aAi04C— Bill Francis (@billfrancis607) February 9, 2021