By J.J. Cooper
on June 12, 2020
While Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association continue to trade proposals on how to bring baseball back in 2020, teams have already had to work on fixing the myriad logistical issues that will come with baseball returning in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
As part of the negotiations, the sides have discussed expanding major league rosters and clubs having a “taxi squad” of approximately 20-25 players in reserve. With the minor league season in doubt, the taxi squad would provide an outlet for top prospects to continue playing while giving MLB teams a source to call players up from during the season.
In an indication that the taxi squad setup is the likely outcome, multiple officials told Baseball America this week that MLB teams have been instructed to find a site for their taxi squads to play within 100 miles of their MLB stadium.
It is expected that those workouts will not be full games. Without an opposing team to play, there likely will not be enough players for taxi squads to play full split-squad games.
Instead, the taxi squad will likely play simulated games where pitchers and hitters get much-needed live innings and at-bats to stay in game shape and be ready to be added to the MLB roster. Normally in sim games, pitchers sit down and get back up between “innings” to simulate the up-and-down of a normal game. Taxi squads are not expected to travel with the MLB team.
The 100-mile radius is designed to limit reliance on commercial travel and have any player called up only a short drive away.
Most teams have at least one minor league affiliate within a short drive where their taxi squad can be based, but it is likely some teams will end up using minor league stadiums that house another team’s affiliate. It is possible some independent league stadiums will also be used.
It is expected that no fans or non-team personnel will be allowed at these workouts in order to limit the risk of potential coronavirus exposure. For the minor league teams, it will likely provide a modest revenue source for facility rentals at a time when the minor league season has been postponed indefinitely by the pandemic.