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MLB, MLBPA reach agreement on winter ball participation

Oct 13, 2013, 10:15 AM EDT

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From our friend Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports:

Major league players will be allowed to compete in winter leagues this season after Major League Baseball and the players’ association reached an agreement on restrictions that will limit pitchers’ participation but loosen limitations on position players, sources with knowledge of the deal told Yahoo Sports.

That’s not such big news here in the United States, but it’s cause for great celebration in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Mexico — where the four biggest winter baseball leagues operate. There was some concern that players on Major League Baseball’s 40-man rosters would be barred from participating in those winter leagues this year because of tense back-and-forth negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA that just concluded this past Friday.

Major League Baseball was aiming to limit the use of young and injury-prone starting pitchers and the union was pushing for as much freedom as possible for its players. Those winter league teams do pay salaries.

Passan has the breakdown of the new winter league rules that were officially ratified on Saturday:

Starting this year, Double-A starting pitchers – those on the 40-man roster with a majority of their time spent at Double-A – cannot participate in winter ball if they threw 140 or more innings. The previous threshold was 155. Similarly, Double-A relievers cannot have appeared in more than 45 games, while in years past it was 55.

Pitchers also are ineligible if their workload in games or innings grew 25 percent over the prior season. The caveats: They must’ve reached 60 percent of the games-or-innings threshold the previous season, and players switching from the rotation to the bullpen or vice versa don’t count.

Instead of a 502-plate appearance threshold for major league position players, those with up to 552 now can play winter ball. Moreover, the past procedure of declaring a “physical incapacity” – teams simply had to provide documentation – now has strict rules. Unless a player finishes the season on the disabled list or spent 60 days on the DL (including 15 over the final 60 days of the season), a team cannot declare him physically incapable. The exception is pitchers who have undergone major surgery in the previous 18 months.

Off-field improvements for players include the requirement of MLB-certified trainers, higher-quality equipment and increased standards for fields, clubhouses and bathrooms, with a compliance program to address issues.

The Venezuelan Winter League and the Mexican Pacific League began play late last week and the most popular of the four — the Dominican Winter League — is scheduled to get underway this coming Friday.

  1. Francisco (FC) - Oct 13, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    Most Popular? On what do you base that assertion? Most Popular to whom?

    • thisdamnbox - Oct 13, 2013 at 12:08 PM

      Based upon the players and/or teams who choose to participate.

    • anxovies - Oct 14, 2013 at 12:29 PM

      Most popular outside of your narrow little ethnocentric world.

      • Francisco (FC) - Oct 14, 2013 at 4:05 PM

        You have no idea what I’m referring to.

  2. deepstblu - Oct 13, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    I forget whether it was here or elsewhere, but there were some posters wondering why players were being placed on the 15-day DL in September. The new “physical incapacity” standard might explain that.

  3. mikhelb - Oct 14, 2013 at 3:25 AM

    The most popular leagues in terms of attendance are: Venezuela and México.

    The most popular in monetary terms: México (basically it is the only country where Caribbean Series are held with stadiums at full capacity every day, two games per day for the week long tournament, Puello has said that without Mexico’s participation, the Caribbean Series wouldn’t exist), then it is Venezuela and at the bottom Dominicana and Puerto Rico.

    The leagues with most premiere major leaguers and minor leaguers: far and away Venezuela.

    Lots of teams choose Dominicana because the laws and rules are different, teams have academies there because of cheaper labour compared to Puerto Rico (their players to be signed have to enter the june draft). And there’s stuff there that can be obtained legally easier than in México, Venezuela and PR where it is harder to buy steroids compared to DR (its what players caught doping have said).

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