Could four-man rotations be the answer in a shortened 2020 MLB season?
In my mind, a shortened season full of live arms who’ve been pensively firing bullpens on sparsely populated fields lends itself to a group of pitchers who will want to come out of the gate guns blazing. Suddenly, in a short season, there is less of a need for an innings-eating workhorse.
This is especially true due to the expanded rosters managers will have access to. According to ESPN reporting on the new season, “active rosters will be 30 players during the first two weeks of the season, 28 during the second two weeks and 26 after that.”
With five extra players early on in the year and a taxi squad that can mix-and-match 60 players across all levels of the minor leagues, GMs and managers will have the ability to get creative when it comes to building their rotations. And this is especially true for teams that will be looking to make this season into a sprint rather than the usual marathon that characterizes the baseball season.
The trade deadline comes on August 28. By this point, teams may decide fighting to compete in a fanless, short season is not worth any prospect cost, however minimal, and throw in the towel. This might lead to a firesale, especially amongst teams that want to get whatever they can, however, small the return, out of their rentals.
With such a short season and with the trade deadline looming so large so early on in the year, could teams decide to put it all on the line right off the bat and see where they land come the end of August?
Take the Reds for example. Out in Cincinnati, Luis Castillo, Bauer, and Sonny Gray make a compelling case that the Reds could mean business in a 60-game season. Sure, the rest of their rotation is weak, and their offense is full of unknowns, but in a short season, who knows what could happen. Couldn’t that attitude lead to a four-man rotation anchored by a combination of offseason acquisition Wade Miley? The southpaw Miley could be supported by righties Tyler Mahle and Michael Lorenzen and then, the next day, they could help Raisel Iglesias and Amir Garett in an all-out bullpen game.
Ultimately, having a four-man rotation is what will give teams the best chance to win, as we’ve seen in the playoffs since playoffs began. And in a season that puts so much stock into a single game, managers will be hard-pressed to come up with a more efficient use for starting pitchers besides locking them into an abridged rotation.