Quick Hits: Roster Sizes, Phillies, Yankees, Burnes
Each offseason, veteran players with experience in the minor leagues and majors look for minor league agreements. However, it has become increasingly difficult to find such opportunities this winter due to the new collective bargaining agreement between MLB and minor league players, which limits the total number of domestic minor league players. This reduced roster flexibility makes it harder for clubs to offer deals to minor league free agents. While minor league deals are often seen as low-risk, they can result in players making a significant impact at the big league level.
Limited Roster Sizes in Minor Leagues
The new collective bargaining agreement between MLB and minor league players has restricted the total number of domestic minor league players to just 165 for the upcoming season. This means that each club has a limit of 175 players during the offseason. With reduced roster sizes, clubs have fewer opportunities to sign minor league free agents, making it challenging for veterans to find opportunities.
This limitation has resulted in 450 fewer roster spots around the league, equivalent to 15 per club. Clubs now have less flexibility when it comes to offering deals to veteran journeyman players. In some cases, younger minor league players may be cut early in their career to make room for experienced veterans.
Minor League Deals Can Lead to Major League Impact
Although minor league deals are typically considered low-risk signings, they can still result in players making a significant impact at the big league level. Last year, players like Jason Heyward and Travis Jankowski signed minor league deals but went on to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster and secure big-league deals with their respective clubs.
These examples show that minor league signings can be valuable for teams, providing them with unexpected contributions from veterans. It highlights the importance of giving opportunities to veteran players who are looking for a chance to prove themselves.
Phillies Unlikely to Pursue Further Bullpen Additions
The Philadelphia Phillies have been in search of relief pitching after losing closer Craig Kimbrel in free agency. However, the recent signing of depth starter Spencer Turnbull on a big league deal is likely to put an end to their pursuit of additional bullpen additions this offseason.
With Turnbull having enough service time to refuse a minor league assignment, the Phillies have limited flexibility in their bullpen. They already have six arms locked into the bullpen, leaving just two spots for a group that includes non-optionable hurlers and optionable pieces. Adding another veteran arm would further reduce their bullpen flexibility.
Yankees Did Not Pursue Corbin Burnes
The New York Yankees reportedly discussed a trade for right-hander Corbin Burnes with the Milwaukee Brewers. However, talks came to a halt when the Brewers requested outfield prospect Spencer Jones in return for Burnes. The Yankees ultimately passed on the trade, as they were unwilling to part with Jones for a rental arm like Burnes.
Jones, a first-round pick in the 2022 draft, has shown promise in his minor league career. While he struggled in a brief stint at the Double-A level last year, the Yankees were still unwilling to include him in a trade package for Burnes or White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease.