Without baseball in action, fans search for trade rumors and roster maneuvers to keep their minds occupied in the empty space, but not for long.
Major League Baseball and the Players Association have reached an agreement on how to move forward with the complicated logistics associated with a shortened, and potentially canceled, 2020 season. The agreement will be finalized at Noon EST on Friday, at which point all roster moves will be frozen until a later date is agreed upon by both sides.
This explains why the Angels have made a scurry of moves over the past week, adding Ryan Buchter to the 40-man-roster, days before optioning him to the minors, along with three other players. The team was trying to handle as much business as possible before they are stuck with their current iteration of the 40-man roster and minor league assignments for the foreseeable future.
Why does optioning a few players to the minors matter if nobody is playing baseball anyway? My guess is that teams are expecting a different set of rules to apply for minor league players in comparison to big leaguers, as they already have in negotiations leading up to the current agreement between MLB and the Union. It’s possible that players who have been optioned to the minors might have more wiggle room to workout with scouts and developmental coaches.
Of course, there are also pay considerations. For a player, like Buchter, who is already on a Major League contract, he will be paid the same. For others, their salary falls well below the major league minimum, once optioned, although, as players on the 40-man roster, they are set to make more than many minor leaguers.
I wouldn’t expect the roster freeze to be lifted until the league has a better idea of when/if the 2020 season will be scheduled. At that point, as teams require time to ramp things back up, particularly starting pitchers, there will probably be a 3-4 week timeframe before the regular season begins when rosters will be fluid again.