SoSH Glossary: MLB Playoff Roster Eligibility

Baseball is filled with statistics, rules, and archaic terms that can often form what sounds like a foreign language.The Sons of Sam Horn glossary provides a better understanding of these terms through straightforward definitions, clear explanations, and examples pulled straight from the baseball world. If there is anything you would like us to add to our glossary, please contact us.

MLB Playoff Roster Eligibility

MLB playoff eligibility is determined by the players on the 40-man, or reserve roster, at 12 AM on September 1 of each season. That includes all players on disabled lists and inactive lists. However, any players matching the following criteria will not be eligible for a team’s postseason roster:

  1. Players on the disqualified list, ineligible list, voluntary retired list, or restricted list at midnight on September 1.
  2. Players who received a Prohibited Substance Suspension during the league year.
  3. If a player on the DL or a reserve list is outrighted.

Postseason Injuries

If a player is injured in the postseason and needs to be replaced, then he must be replaced by a player of a like position; so that a pitcher replaces a pitcher and a position player replaces a position player. However, this does not mean that a catcher must replace a catcher, only that a pitcher can not replace a position player. Also, a player from within the organization who is not on the 40-man roster may replace an injured player during the postseason, as long as the commissioner approves it. Regardless of who replaces an injured player, he may not return during the series in which he was injured, nor the following series.

The K-Rod Loophole

One method that teams have found to increase their roster flexibility is through a loophole that was first exploited during the 2002 World Series run by the Los Angeles Angels. Reliever Steve Green suffered a shoulder injury during the 2001 season that required surgery and he missed all of the 2002 season. When the 2002 playoffs started, the Angels had a young, stud reliever named Francisco Rodriguez who was ineligible for the postseason roster since he was called up in the middle of September. However, there was a little-known loophole that if a player is on the 60-day DL, then he could be replaced by an otherwise ineligible player on the list of playoff eligible players. From there, history was made and K-Rod became K-Rod.

The way teams can exploit this is to call up a player before September 1 and then place him on the 60-day disabled list, making room on the 40-man roster and active roster. Then when the playoffs come around, if the team has a September call-up that is performing well, they can have that otherwise ineligible player replace the player on the 60-day DL.


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