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A primer on postseason roster eligibility

Aug 26, 2014, 10:36 AM EST

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PHILADELPHIA — Matt Williams is loathe to look ahead, certainly as far ahead as October when the calendar still reads August. We here at the Insider, on the other hand, don’t worry about such things. Especially with a very important date fast approaching.

We’re five days away from baseball’s August 31 deadline to set postseason rosters, so it seems an appropriate time to remind everyone how that process works. And to remind everyone that the August 31 “deadline” really is something of a misnomer.

In reality, postseason rosters don’t have to be set by August 31. The only thing that must be set is the pool of players who are eligible to participate in the postseason. And even then, there are simple exceptions that allow more players to be added later on.

The only real significance of August 31 is that it marks the final day in which a player can be acquired from another organization and still be eligible for the postseason roster. So, you can’t trade for or sign a player in September and then have him on your roster in October.

But short of that, pretty much everybody else in your organization as of August 31 is eligible for the postseason. The initial pool of players includes everyone on the 25-man roster at the end of the regular season, plus anybody on the major-league DL, bereavement list or suspended list.

So that means this is the Nationals’ initial pool of playoff-eligible players…

PITCHERS (12): Jerry Blevins, Tyler Clippard, Ross Detwiler, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark, Rafael Soriano, Craig Stammen, Drew Storen, Stephen Strasburg, Matt Thornton, Jordan Zimmermann

CATCHERS (2): Jose Lobaton, Wilson Ramos

INFIELDERS (6): Asdrubal Cabrera, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Kevin Frandsen, Adam LaRoche, Anthony Rendon

OUTFIELDERS (5): Scott Hairston, Bryce Harper, Nate Schierholtz, Denard Span, Jayson Werth

MAJOR-LEAGUE DL (7): Erik Davis (60-day), Taylor Jordan (60-day), Nate McLouth (60-day), Ross Ohlendorf (60-day), Matt Purke (60-day), Steven Souza Jr., Ryan Zimmerman

So that’s 32 eligible players right there. But they aren’t the only eligible players. Anyone who is injured at the start of a postseason series can be replaced by anybody else in the Nationals’ organization (provided they were acquired by August 31).

Which means the Nats will have at least five more openings if they want to replace any of those five players currently on the 60-day DL, none of whom will be ready to return this season. Those five players could come from anywhere within the organization. They could be September call-ups (such as, potentially, Michael Taylor, Aaron Barrett, Blake Treinen, Xavier Cedeno and Jeff Kobernus). But they don’t have to be September call-ups.

They could even be players who aren’t on the 40-man roster and haven’t come close to sniffing the big leagues. (It’ll never happen, but the Nationals would be allowed to put top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito on their postseason roster, provided they were willing to put him on the 40-man roster and start up his service time clock.)

This is for farther down the road, but also keep in mind that a team resubmits its postseason roster before each round, making whatever changes it likes. So if somebody isn’t on the Division Series roster, he’s still eligible to be on the League Championship Series or World Series roster.

If you’re confused by all this, don’t worry. It can sound quite confusing. Really, there’s only one thing you need to remember: As long as a player is in the Nationals’ organization by August 31, he’s almost certainly eligible to be on the postseason roster if the club wants him.

  1. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Perfect timing. Thanks!!! Now can we make this interactive with you Mark?

    • Mark Zuckerman - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:47 AM

      Sure. If you guys have specific questions for me, I’d happy to try to answer them here.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:03 AM

        Thanks Mark. We have been racking our brains over making Treinen and Barrett eligible but it appears they can just substitute the 5 spots vacated by Erik Davis (60-day), Taylor Jordan (60-day), Nate McLouth (60-day), Ross Ohlendorf (60-day), Matt Purke (60-day).

        Can’t wait to start predicting the 25 man roster for the 1st series.

        Gio vs Roark, Blevins vs Cedeño, and does Espi make the cut if RZim comes back. Who takes the coveted 8th man in the pen spot. Who is the 4th man in the rotation is still the biggest storyline I think.

      • masterfishkeeper - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:09 AM

        wouldn’t you want Barrett over Cedeno? Do you really need three lefties in the pen?

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 26, 2014 at 12:40 PM

        “3 lefties?”
        Depends who they’re playing.

    • NIWatcher - Aug 26, 2014 at 1:24 PM

      Need to be an ESPN Insider to read the whole thing.

  2. veejh - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    I see Cedeno being one of the key call ups since Blevins has been just awful.

    Barrett hasn’t given up a run in AAA since being sent down in 6 outings.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:56 AM

      If Blevins is just a LOOGY going forward I’m fine. Concentrate on just that.

      • thomaswell - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:58 AM

        Sept will be competition between Cedeno & Blevins for Oct roster spot

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:04 AM

        Yes and I can’t wait!

    • thomaswell - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:59 AM

      issue is who does Barrett replace in pen? Stammen?

    • Hiram Hover - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:03 AM

      Sept is Sept, and calling up another lefty is ok.

      For the post-season, I don’t think they want 3 lefties in the BP. I would expect them to keep the best of the two lefties they have (Thorton, Det, Blevins, maybe Cedeno if he gets the call up and does well) and and add another righty – Treinen, or maybe Barrett.

      • thomaswell - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:43 AM

        i disagree, multiple match ups of LHP in the post season is done much more than regular season. With 3 LHPs, MW can do the match up game almost every game if necessary. So i see Cedeno replacing Blevins in post season given stats so far. but i think MW will be evaluating them in Sept to really make the decision.

      • Hiram Hover - Aug 26, 2014 at 12:13 PM

        That’s a fair pt, that three lefties is more common in the post-season, esp. since you’re going with a 4 man rotation. We shall see.

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    2′s, that answers the question on MiLB DL where you have to have been on the 40 man but doesn’t cover Treinen and Barrett who weren’t 60 day’d and were put on the MiLB DL vs Souza who is on the MLB DL along with RZim.

    The pivotal spots are all the Nats will need right here in 5 spots:
    Erik Davis (60-day), Taylor Jordan (60-day), Nate McLouth (60-day), Ross Ohlendorf (60-day), Matt Purke (60-day)

    • Section 222 - Aug 26, 2014 at 12:44 PM

      Right. Sounds like Mark saw our discussion and clarified that you have to be on the MLB DL in order to provide a slot for eligibility — Ohlie and Purke vs. Treinen and Barrett. Thanks Mark! Nice to know our noodling in here can improve the information provided in the posts.

      But Treinen or Barrett can still easily play in the postseason, if they are healthy and MW wants them on the roster, by sliding into one of the slots provided by the 60-day ‘ers — Davis, Ohlie, Purke etc.

      It really is a pretty loose system. I wonder how the Pirates got crossed up by it.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 26, 2014 at 12:50 PM

        Very good timing. 5 spots are plenty for all the machinations you can conjure up.

  4. thomaswell - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    I see Blake Treinen given call up for Sept but long shot at playoff roster spot

  5. veejh - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    What about this guy Matt Grace? 1.4 ERA, and also a lefty. Haven’t heard much about him.

  6. Theophilus T.S. - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    Very useful, Mark. Working from Kilgore’s list (“definite,” “likely,” etc.) I don’t see anyone — short of a REAL injury — filling a post-season spot not currently occupied by one of the current 25+Zimmerman. This is because none on that list — not limited to the definites and likelys — is a LH pitcher. It’s easy to say that Zimmerman replaces Hairston but, apart from that, there’s nobody on the current 25 I don’t want during the post-season. And I’m even feeling kindly about Hairston given some recent PHing success. (Blevins is a mop-up guy by default; Treinen and Barrett don’t really add anything to what’s already on the roster. In the post-season you have to be even more efficient in using RPs, so Stammen and Detwiler have to be reserved for “we’re still in the game” situations and can’t be wasted in mop-up. As the recent streak shows it’s completely possible they will require a 2-3-4 inning guy in consecutive games.)

    • masterfishkeeper - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:23 AM

      If Blevins is mop-up at this point, I’d put Barrett or Cedeno ahead of him on the roster. And my guess is that Roark ends up in the pen, due to (1) concerns about his innings and (2) his experience as a reliever.

      • DaveB - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:33 AM

        Good point … they might want 3 lefties if Roark is not needed as a starter. (Would change the calculus somewhat if instead Gio doesn’t start, but hopefully he will be solid over Sept. so MW can decide he wants a lefty starter in the mix). If one of the current starters becomes available as a long reliever, that will allow MW to feel more comfortable using Stammen, Ross & Blevins for shorter outings.

    • RPrecupjr - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:35 AM

      “In the post-season you have to be even more efficient in using RPs”

      I’m not sure I agree with this. The postseason has many more off days worked into it. In the Division Series, you never play more than two days in a row. In the LCS, you play two, day off, then three, if necessary. We all know we don’t like our back end guys working more than three days in a row, but with the way the schedule is set up, they wouldn’t have to. And if you take care of business by sweeping in the LCS, you still wouldn’t have to work three days in a row.

      Also realize there’s every possibility that one of our starters goes to the pen for the postseason, possibly increasing the pen to eight without adding a new name.

      • thomaswell - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:39 AM

        in post season, you only need 4 man starting rotation. now depending on the opposing team and makeup of lineup, you will want to have at least 1 LH SP (Gio). In terms of having 3 LHP from pen, it gives MW more flexibility in match ups that happen much more in Oct then the dog days of August where we can really tax our pen.

      • Hiram Hover - Aug 26, 2014 at 12:07 PM

        You will want to have at least 1 LH SP (Gio)

        Not sure I agree about Gio making the post-season rotation (knock wood) over Roark.

        Gio is having a worse year than Roark, and is not a lefty killer. Over Gio’s career, lefties have actually hit him slightly better than righties, and this year, Roark has been as or more effective vs lefties.

        That decision depends on their performance over the next 6 weeks, and will affect the BP composition too.

        A lot remains to be seen.

      • nats128 - Aug 26, 2014 at 12:13 PM

        I agree with you RPrecupjr. If anything you can err to caution and hook your starters quicker. To steal someones thoughts from before Matty has to get better at going double barrel in his bullpen to work the matchups better in critical ROOGY and LOOGY stopper situations.

        With the expanded roster in Sept I hope to see the groundwork set in motion and Blevins used exclusively as a LOOGY.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 26, 2014 at 12:43 PM

        In a five-game series, they don’t even need four starters, tho they might go that way with this bunch.

  7. DaveB - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    Thanks Mark … Very Clear!

    I assume there will be a post coming soon with your predictions for those Sept call-ups (or did you just answer that question with the 5 you listed). Any chance that TyMo or Eury get another cup-a-coffee, or are they just soon to be minor league free agents (not sure if Eury used his last option year this year or not)? Are there any trade-offs on temporarily leaving some of these guys in Syracuse for their playoffs (assuming there aren’t other ML injuries), or do the Nats usually just ignore that completely and focus just on the ML team? Any chance that Rafael Martin or Matt Grace get rewarded for breakout years, or does the fact that they’re not on the 40-man make that unlikely?

    • nats128 - Aug 26, 2014 at 12:06 PM

      Dont forget AJ Cole!

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 26, 2014 at 12:18 PM

        Agreed. AJ Cole could be a September callup in that way David Price was in 2008 and had the great ALCS.

      • rayvil01 - Aug 26, 2014 at 12:27 PM

        I’d like to see Cole or Treinnen come in and spell Roark. Getting concerned about the innings on his arm. He’s a location guy. But the location is getting more erratic. In a perfect world he could use a skipped start right now.

      • Section 222 - Aug 26, 2014 at 1:00 PM

        AJ Cole is not on the 40-man, so his MLB service clock hasn’t started, right? If not, I doubt they give him a cup of coffee in September.

        More importantly I seriously doubt he’s going to be on the postsason roster. David Price was the overall No. 1 draft pick in 2007 and a super stud in the minors in 2008. (2.30 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 19 starts). Everyone knew he’d be in the rotation the next year for the Rays. Cole has a lot of promise, and has had a good year in AA and AAA this year, but he’s no David Price (he’s also 5 months younger than Price was in 2008), and he’s unlikely to be better for us in the playoffs than Barrett, Treinen or any of the guys currently in the pen.

      • nats128 - Aug 26, 2014 at 2:30 PM

        I checked. Cole is not on the 40-man. Im not saying hes a lock for postseason just throwing in his name as someone with a outside chance along with Rafael Martin and Grace who also arent on the 40-man.

  8. thomaswell - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    question, what is the deadline for 25 man active roster for post season?

    • Mark Zuckerman - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:55 AM

      The morning of Game 1 of each series.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 26, 2014 at 12:09 PM

        That’s a lot of writing for Matt Williams submitting 3 rosters over the postseason. ;)

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 26, 2014 at 12:41 PM

        Mark, is Roark on an innings limit? Some here have said he is.

      • masterfishkeeper - Aug 26, 2014 at 1:11 PM

        Has anyone said there’s a limit? I doubt there’s a hard limit, but I agree with what Boswell wrote in his chat yesterday about how it would be best to limit Roark’s innings the rest of the way.

      • thomaswell - Aug 26, 2014 at 1:44 PM

        IF there is a limit on Roark, they should start skipping some of his starts in Sept with Blake. Benefits of having a sizable lead in division.

      • masterfishkeeper - Aug 26, 2014 at 1:57 PM

        Good point, Thomaswell. Boswell suggested that yesterday, too.

      • Mark Zuckerman - Aug 26, 2014 at 2:00 PM

        I’ve heard nothing to suggest there’s an innings limit on Roark. He threw 159 total innings last season between Syracuse and D.C., so based on the club’s usual protocol, he’d be clear up to roughly 200 this year.

      • thomaswell - Aug 26, 2014 at 2:15 PM

        i agree Mark on the 200 IP (which is the benchmark for SP workhorse) but that means he could just go over that mark, (he has 6 starts left), if he maintains his avg innings per game (6.1?). 205 IP by calculation. I have a feeling MW will skip his turn a couple of times in Sept especially if we continue to hold 6 or more game lead on ATL. The only caveat I give is that home field advantage has been really good for us and currently we hold 2.5 lead over Brewers. This last home stand REALLY hammered home for me the advantage our fans give to our club.

  9. thomaswell - Aug 26, 2014 at 2:02 PM

    I believe there’s the “soft” cap of 160-170 IP limit (e.g. shutdown of Stras as precedent). But he had TJ surgery. Roark has pitched approx 150 before, so I’m sure there is concern on his productivity going forward since he’s been the 2nd workhorse at 166 IP. I HIGHLY doubt they will shut him down but don’t be surprised by MW moving him to pen & skipped starts in Sept. Also, he will most likely not get starting nod in Oct, so limited IPs

  10. knoxvillenat - Aug 26, 2014 at 2:17 PM

    “Any chance that Rafael Martin or Matt Grace get rewarded for breakout years, or does the fact that they’re not on the 40-man make that unlikely?”

    If I’m not mistaken neither Martin nor Grace is on the 40 man roster so if they were to get a September call up wouldn’t they first have to be placed on the 40 man and wouldn’t that then start their major league service time?

    And, I may be wrong here, didn’t Jim Bowden do just such a move with Ross Detwiler back in the day for something like a 1 inning cameo performance? A cameo that took away an option I think.

    • Section 222 - Aug 26, 2014 at 2:47 PM

      You’re right. One of Bowden’s stupidest stunts. He wanted to show off his shiny new #1 pick and wasted an option by doing it. Rizzo will never make that mistake.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 26, 2014 at 2:54 PM

        Yes, September 2007. Brilliant.

      • adcwonk - Aug 26, 2014 at 3:00 PM

        An I remembering it right that Detwiler insisted on that ad part of his contract? Or perhaps Bowden offered it? Or am I thinking of somebody else?

    • nats128 - Aug 26, 2014 at 2:52 PM

      Someone would have to come off the 40 man. I dont think September callups effect your options however they do count as MLB service time to figure out arb eligibility. With all that written, I could be completely wrong on everything. Can anyone confirm or deny

    • DaveB - Aug 26, 2014 at 3:07 PM

      I think the difference here is that I think Grace is Rule 5 eligible, and I’d guess Martin was a minor league free agent, so perhaps they need to be added to the 40 man this winter anyway if the Nats want to keep them? (Ross obviously was still fully under team control even without adding him to the 40 man)

  11. janebeard - Aug 26, 2014 at 2:30 PM

    I love thinking about the post-season roster. A great luxury! Even in 2012 we were so nervous about it all. I’m wondering who or 4th pitcher is, between Gio and Tanner. Gio has been there before so his tenure would be useful and Tanner has not be awesome the last few outings. I know that Matt will pick well for us.

    • NatsLady - Aug 26, 2014 at 3:11 PM

      On Tuesday, August 28, 2012 the Nats played their 128th game. They lost it to the Fish, and that made five straight losses because they’d just been swept by the Fillies. They were at were at 77-51 (.601) but only had a 4.0 game lead over Atlanta. I well remember that nervousness.

      They won the next game to split with the Fish, took 3/4 from St. Louis, and swept a four-game set with the Cubs.

  12. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 26, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    “Mark Zuckerman on August 26, 2014 at 2:00 pm
    I’ve heard nothing to suggest there’s an innings limit on Roark. He threw 159 total innings last season between Syracuse and D.C., so based on the club’s usual protocol, he’d be clear up to roughly 200 this year.”

    Thanks for confirming Mark. Plus he’s 28 years old and not a 23 year old kid. I didn’t think Rizzo or MW have even commented on a limit but the calls for a Roark shutdown has been referred to in the blog world.

    • rayvil01 - Aug 26, 2014 at 3:27 PM

      I don’t want him shutdown. But he seems to be having higher pitch counts early as the season moves on. I’d like to see a skipped start to re – charge.

      Having said all that he still only allowed 2 runs last night. He gave the team plenty of chance to win.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 26, 2014 at 3:30 PM

        My eye test agrees with you but I think the brain trust will figure out rest regimens.

  13. bisonaudit - Aug 26, 2014 at 4:08 PM

    Lets just keep winning so we can avoid the “how many starting pitchers should you put on your wild card playoff round roster” conversation.

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