Yesterday afternoon, Cubs play-by-play man Len Kasper was discussing an interesting idea on 670 the Score. Namely, the possibility of expanding major league baseball rosters to 28 players for the entire regular season. It would work in a similar fashion to how NFL teams designate inactive players for each week’s game, whether it be a backup QB or spare linebacker.
For example, the White Sox would have a full roster of 28 players, of which three are designated inactive for every day’s game. Kasper posited that three of the five starting pitchers would be the inactives, allowing the team to carry pinch hitting specialists, extra relievers, or a third catcher without damaging their roster flexibility. This idea immediately struck a chord, as I’ve been considering how the White Sox will handle the return of 2B Gordon Beckham from his injury in the not-too-distant future.
Beckham will presumably return to his starting role at the keystone, moving the intriguing and promising Marcus Semien into a bench role. As everyone moves down the ladder to accommodate Beckham’s return, someone will lose a roster spot in the shuffle. Leury Garcia and Jordan Danks are the most obvious candidates to lose their spots, and each of them would be a useful person to have at the end of the bench.
In the world where 28 man rosters are a reality, the Sox could keep Danks for his left-handed power and outfield defense, Garcia for his versatility and speed, and let both of them develop at the highest level.
Additionally, the team could add an extra pitcher, ideally a long reliever that would help Robin Ventura avoid having to push Daniel Webb to 60 pitches and then forfeit the game by having Leury Garcia pitch, as you’ll recall from the 14-inning affair against the Red Sox last Wednesday.
There is a certain type of player that would benefit from the existence of these “extra” roster spots. The one that comes to mind as a perfect example is Juan Francisco of the Blue Jays. At 26, Francisco can still put things together and become a solid regular, but he has bounced around a bit due to the difficulty of keeping him on the roster when other needs are more pressing. He has power from the left side of the plate, but he doesn’t play solid defense at either first or third base, so teams have viewed having him around as a powerful pinch hitter and spot starter as a luxury that they cannot afford.
Whether this becomes a reality or not hinges on whether MLB owners would acquiesce to providing the 90 additional major league roster spots, and in turn, salaries, that this plan would necessitate. For what it’s worth, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s history suggests he would have no problem with the added roster spots.