Yesterday afternoon, like two hours after I mused on Twitter about a Justin Wilson call-up to be used as a LOOGY down the stretch, the Pirates announced that Wilson would be moved to the bullpen. Given that Wilson throws hard as a reliever and that a lot of his control problems stem from his breaking stuff and that Tony Watson is occasionally homer-happy, having Wilson as an option down the stretch and maybe even on the (gulp) playoff roster would be pretty nice for the Pirates. This lead me to the next question; how, exactly, do playoff rosters work? This is not something that I’ve ever had a lot of time to worry about, as a Pirate fan.
I’ve done some reading on it and there are a few things that need to be kept in mind when considering playoff rosters. The first is playoff roster eligibility. That’s defined by the 25-man roster at midnight on August 31st, plus anyone else that’s suspended, on the disabled list, the bereavement list, etc. For example, this would mean that if, say, Chad Qualls were to go on the 15-day disabled list in the next two weeks and Bryan Morris were to be called up to replace him through that magical date of August 31, both Qualls (on the 15-day DL) and Morris (on the active roster) would be eligible for the playoff roster. The Pirates would be able to choose which player went on the playoff roster when the playoffs begin.
This is all fairly straight forward; as it stands right now the Pirates only have Juan Cruz on the 15-day DL and he’s almost certain to be reinstated to the active roster before the end of the month. If that happens without another player going on the disabled list, the players eligible for the playoff roster would be the 25-man roster, plus the two players on the 60-day disabled list: Charlie Morton and Gustavo Nunez. In the past, those 60-day DL trips have been a free pass for teams to exploit the playoff roster rule quite a bit. It’s how David Price and Francisco Rodriguez were added to their respective playoff rosters despite not being on the active roster on August 31st. As the rules stood before the new CBA (and I don’t think they were changed this winter, though I’m not positive), a team can “replace” any player on the 60-day DL with a player of the same position on the active roster. That is, the Pirates could not call Bryan Morris up until September 1, but be super-impressed with his bullpen work in September and put him on the playoff roster for Charlie Morton, even though Morton hasn’t pitched in months. They could similarly call Yamaico Navarro up for a September call-up and put him on the playoff roster as the backup shortstop instead of Jordy Mercer, because Gustavo Nunez is an infielder on the 60-day disabled list. If Juan Cruz were to have a “setback” and end up on the 60-day DL, this would give them another bit of flexibility.
What this all means, in the simplest terms, is that if Chris Leroux or Bryan Morris or Justin Wilson or some combination of the three are called up in the next couple of weeks, it’ll be in the context of an injury (real or … otherwise) and not a straight call-up, so that both the called up player and whoever they replace will be elible for the playoff roster. The Pirates are good at creating roster flexibility, so I’m kind of interested to see how this all plays out.