An Initial Look at the Offseason Domestic Reserve List

The fifth day following the final day of the World Series is kind of the unofficial kickoff to the offseason. The free agency Quiet Period ends, meaning free agents are free to sign with new teams. Players on the 60-day IL—both major and minor league—must be activated, meaning spots often need cleared on the 40-man roster for those who ended the season on the injured list. Also, players who have spent time in any seven separate seasons in the minors become minor league free agents, which is typically unnoticed and unrecognized. This year not as much, however, as fans were concerned about the status of both Diego Castillo and Yerry De Los Santos. Castillo was added to the roster to stave off minor league free agency, while De Los Santos was not.

Far down on this list though, cared about by possibly only me and some stooge on the bottom rung of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ front office ladder is the Domestic Reserve List. During the season, the limit to this list is 180 players; however, this threshold changes to 190 once the offseason starts.

For those of you out there reading who are calendar averse, this past Sunday at 5 p.m. was the fifth day following the final game of the World Series, so that 190 limit is now officially in effect. So, where do the Pirates currently stand? I thought I’d break it down so there was a good offseason starting point.

First, we need a good number for total players in the organization. As I stated above, players eligible for minor league free agency also officially hit the market on Sunday, so there is a large group coming off the Pirates ledger that need accounted for. While this information is not typically heavily publicized, the formulas in my spreadsheets tell me that the following players should have become free agents:

Christian Bethancourt
Wilmer Difo
Andrew Susac
Chase De Jong
Tyler Bashlor
Connor Overton
Alex Aquino
Enyel De Los Santos
Yerry De Los Santos
Raul Hernandez
Kyle Keller
Nathan Kirby
James Marvel
Cristofer Melendez
Oddy Nunez
Shea Spitzbarth

There are sixteen players listed above, and while this is not official, I have no reason to believe I’m wrong at this point, so it’s the number I’m working with. Remove all these players and you come up with a total of 303 players.

Next, players who are not on option get removed from the count, and here is a note that I at least find interesting—at the end of the season, any player on the 40-man roster that isn’t in the majors is recalled, meaning that the entire Reserve List is considered on recall. This will change come Spring Training, when players start to get optioned. So, it stands to reason those forty players are removed from the count as opposed to the twenty-six that are removed in the regular season. I find this interesting because it essentially adds fourteen extra spots to the already ten extra to start.

During the season, players on the 60-day IL do not count against the limit, but since there are no players on the injured list during the offseason, there are no players to remove here. I mostly wanted to mention this because the Pirates ended the season with twenty-nine players on the 60-day minor league injured list. At the time, it felt like they were just kicking the can down the road as far as paring down the roster, but that doesn’t appear to have happened. I’m sure if you really break it down more players lost jobs than otherwise would have, but some of the intricacies of these rules make it seem easier to keep players around than what one would have originally thought.

Since we are looking at the Domestic Reserve List, players not in the states are removed as well. Currently, there are seventy-four players on the Dominican Summer League rosters, so that’s a large chunk that doesn’t need accounted for. Since the Pirates are all but maxed out in terms of their 2020-21 international signing pool, we won’t be seeing any more international players joining the ranks until January. Not that they’ll count anyway, but I just wanted to make that distinction.

Finally, drafted players that were never assigned or assigned but didn’t play now count against the limit, where they didn’t during the season. There were three players that were assigned but never player—Owen Sharts, Anthony Solometo, and Sean Sullivan—while there were an additional three that were never even assigned—Drew Irvine, Owen Kellington, and Carlos Lomeli. They are included in the 303 count above, but I just wanted to make the note that these six specific players were not accounted for during the regular season.

With all of the necessary rules accounted for, let’s do the math: 303 total players minus 40 players on the Reserve List minus 74 DSL players comes to 189, just one under the limit to start the offseason.

This leaves the team with a little wiggle room, but if at any point they go over the limit, they have 48 hours to make a corresponding move to get back in compliance with the rules.

The next date to watch for is November 19th, which is the day that Reserve Lists must be filed with the Commissioner’s Office. This will come with it the selection of contracts, which naturally will also lead to players having to go to make room on the 40-man roster.

If you pay close enough attention, it’s more than likely you’ll see how these rules influence moves that get made at that time, and you can join the likes of me and those front office employees on the low end of the totem pole.

The ones in the know, the coolest of cool that care about the Domestic Reserve List.