Major League Baseball has instructed teams to find sites within 100 miles of their city to host their “taxi squad” of players according to a report on Friday evening by JJ Cooper of Baseball America.
There’s a lot going on with the report, but let’s start with the “find a site” situation. The first thing that sticks out here is that the taxi squad will NOT be with the big league team – they will be at a different site. That’s rather surprising to me. They would like the site to be close so that a player can reasonably drive to the host city of the big league team if and when they are needed.
What’s interesting about the plan is that teams may be able to use facilities of minor league teams within the vicinity whether or not it’s one of their affiliates or not. Also on the table could be independent league facility that isn’t in use. Among the Reds affiliates, that could include both Dayton or Louisville as facilities within a 100-mile radius of Cincinnati. Louisville Slugger Field is literally 99.1 miles from Great American Ballpark – just making the cut. In non-affiliated facilities you could also be looking at perhaps the Florence Yalls, who are just a 20-minute drive to Great American Ballpark. The Frontier League currently is in a “delayed season”, so the ballpark could be available. Those three seem to be the most likely scenarios.
Beyond just the finding a stadium to play in, we learned from multiple sources (including Baseball America and Jeff Passan) that the taxi squad rosters would be anywhere from 20-34 players. The low-end of 20 comes from the Baseball America report, where they are reporting 20-25 players. But Jeff Passan of ESPN tweeted out this on Friday afternoon:
Under MLB’s proposal, rosters would expand to 30 for the first two weeks, 28 for the two weeks thereafter and 26 for the remainder of the season. Each team would keep a group of 60 players to use throughout the season — the majority forming the so-called taxi squad.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 12, 2020
A 60 player “group” to use throughout the season, with at some point in the year a 26-man active roster, would lead to a 34-man taxi squad. If we use the top end numbers from Passan, that’s a lot more minor leaguers than we’ve heard in any of the past plans. There were reports that the rosters could be anywhere from 40-50 in past leaks. Pushing that number to 60 players is a big jump. But that could also put a few more prospects onto the field, somewhere, getting reps and continuing to develop in a year in which many guys aren’t getting the same opportunity and are having to figure out how to get work in on their own.
Another interesting thing here is that these taxi squads aren’t exactly large enough to play intrasquad games. At least not in a true format. Since they aren’t traveling with the big league club, scrimmages or whatever you’d like to call them against another team isn’t an option. Teams will likely figure something out to get “game” type action for players, but it’s not going to be actual games in a traditional sense. We may see plenty of live batting practice situations – but with the defense out there on the field. Simulated games, but ones that only last 5-6 innings – enough to get a starting pitcher some innings and then a reliever or two some action each day.
Some teams are going to be doing things a bit differently than others. Assuming we get some baseball this year, it will be interesting to follow how the teams around the league approach this taxi squad thing with regards of development and keeping guys ready to be called upon when needed.