Report: MLB is 'likely' to increase roster size from 25 to 26 players in 2017

The current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1, which is less than two weeks away now. MLB and the MLBPA are hard at work behind the scenes negotiating the new CBA and both sides have expressed optimism about getting a deal done in recent weeks. Neither side wants a work stoppage.

According to Tyler Kepner of the New York Times, the new CBA will "likely" expand rosters to 26 players starting next season. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports first reported MLB and the MLBPA were discussing expanding the roster. Here are some more details from Rosenthal:

The players and owners are discussing the expansion of rosters from 25 players to 26 in exchange for September roster limits, according to sources familiar with the collective-bargaining negotiations.

Under the current rules, teams on Sept. 1 increase their 25-man active roster to the entire 40-man roster. The new limit likely would be 28, and the rules would permit teams to swap out players, though not on a daily basis, one source said.

The players' union is essentially conceding service time for September call-ups in exchange for the 26th roster spot, which creates 30 new full-time jobs around baseball. Teams will still be able to expand their active rosters in September, but by only two players. At the moment teams can carry up to 40 active players after September 1.

I am pro-September call-ups for the reasons I outlined last August. I am also in the minority. Many folks, including executives within the game, don't like playing under a different set of rules in the final month of the season, when the postseason races are decided. I guess I'd just rather see minor leaguers rewarded with call-ups than pretend playoff races are decided in September and not across 162 games.

Anyway, teams are currently able to carry a 26th player for doubleheaders. The downside of adding the full-time 26th roster spot is that the extra player will be a reliever in almost all instances, which means more pitching changes and slower pace of play, which MLB is working hard to improve. Given how few innings starters are throwing nowadays, the extra reliever is close to becoming a necessity.

Innings per Start
20125.88
20135.90
20145.97
20155.81
20165.65

The 2011 season was quite possible the last time in baseball history starters averaged more than six innings per start. They averaged 6.03 innings per start that year. This past season it was barely more than five and an half innings per start. Fewer innings by starters means more strain on the bullpen, making that extra reliever important.

As far as we know, CBA talks are ongoing and the decision to add a 26th roster spot in exchange for roster limits in September is not final. It sure sounds as though things are heading in that direction, however.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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