Major League Baseball is back in business after all sides reached an agreement on Friday for resuming a 60-game schedule beginning July 23-24. The 2020 format includes a universal designated hitter for both leagues and will include a 60-man roster, featuring the old 40-man roster plus a “taxi squad” of an additional 20 players.
Among the group of 60 players in the Tampa Bay player pool are infielders Vidal Brujan, Taylor Walls and Lucius Fox, along with outfielder Josh Lowe and pitchers Shane McClanahan and Joe Ryan. All played the majority of their 2019 season in Montgomery.
The most intriguing player on the 60-man roster is the Rays’ top minor league prospect, shortstop Wander Franco. Franco played Single A last year and was projected to start his 2020 season with the Biscuits before the coronavirus pandemic. Depending on his performance this summer, he may never set foot in the Capital City.
All players on the 40-man roster will be part of a “player pool,” while any members of the 40-man roster who are not part of the player pool will still be paid. Thirty players will make up the initial opening day roster while the other 30 will remain at an alternate training site.
For the Tampa Bay Rays, the top 30 players will train at Tropicana Field, while the alternate training site will be at Port Charlotte, Fla., home of the Rays’ spring training facility and the Single A Stone Crabs. Teams may add to the 60-man player pool during the course of the season, but the number of players in the pool cannot exceed 60.
Players on a 40-man roster can be removed via trade, waiver claims, return of Rule 5 Draft selection, release, outright assignment, designation for assignment, placement on the 45-day injured list, placement on the COVID-19 related injured list, or placement on the suspended list (by the club), voluntarily retired, restricted, disqualified or ineligible lists.
Non-40-man-roster players may be removed by trade, release, placement on the COVID-19 related injured list, or placement on the suspended list (by the club), military, voluntarily retired, restricted, disqualified or ineligible lists. Any injured non-40-man-roster players will continue to count against the team’s Player Pool unless they are removed through one of the aforementioned transactions.
In addition to the six players named above, a number of other former Biscuits are part of the 60-man pool and likely will begin July spring training at Tropicana Field.
Among the infielders are Rays’ starters Willy Adames (2016) and Brandon Lowe (2017-18). With an expanded opening day roster, the versatility of Mike Brosseau (2018), the ability of Nate Lowe (2018) to play both corner spots and the defensive ability of Daniel Robertson (2015) helps their case.
Veteran Rays’ outfielder Kevin Kiermaier is a 2013 alumnus of the Biscuits, along with left-handed pitcher Blake Snell (2015), right-handed Yonny Chirinos (2016-17) and Brendan McKay, who started the 2019 season in Montgomery before moving up to Tampa. Josh Fleming and Sam McWilliams also started the 2019 season with the Biscuits before getting promoted to Triple A Durham. Fleming was selected as the Biscuits’ most valuable player in 2019 by the Rays.
Among the 17 relief pitchers included in the 60-man pool is Biscuits’ closer Tyler Zombro, who was promoted to Durham in the final weeks of the 2019 season. Other Biscuit alumni in the group are Diego Castillo (2017), Colin Poche (2018) and José Alvarado (2017).
Two weeks into the season, the 30-man Major League roster will be trimmed to 28, then to 26 two weeks after that. Teams can add a 27th player for doubleheaders. The trade deadline will be moved from July 31 to Aug. 31 and only the 60 players in the player pool are eligible for trades.
In addition, each team is permitted a three-player taxi squad for road trips, giving them immediate options to replace a COVID-19 infected player. Each taxi squad must include at least one catcher. Taxi squad players will not accrue service time or be paid an MLB salary but will receive the MLB allowance of $108.50 per day in addition to their minor-league salary.