With the recent demotion of Phil Coke to triple- A Toledo, the annual questions regarding playoff roster eligibility have begun to surface, as they do every season right about this time. So here is a breakdown of the eligibility rules for playoff rosters.
The first part is easy. Any player who is either
- on the 25 man major league roster, or
- on the disabled list (7, 15, or 60 day DL), or
- on the suspended list, or
- on bereavement leave, or
- on military active duty
as of midnight on August 31st, just before major league rosters expand, is automatically eligible to be on the club’s post season roster.
In addition, a club can replace any player who is injured at the time that playoff rosters are submitted. So, for every injured player, the club can add a player who was not on the major league roster, or any of the above eligibility lists at the end of August.
In order to be eligible to be added in place of an injured player, one need not be on the 25 man roster, nor even the 40 man roster as of August 31. Any player in the organization as of August 31 can be used to replace an injured player, with permission from the commissioner’s office.
So, what does this mean for the 2013 Tigers?
Phil Coke, or any other player currently in the minor leagues, would be automatically eligible if he’s recalled by August 31, but could still replace any injured player if he’s still in the minors until September 1st.
Nick Castellanos is in the same boat. If called up by August 31, he is automatically eligible. If called up in September, or not called up during the season at all, he is still eligible to replace an injured player. Remember that the Tigers called up Avisail Garcia on 8/31/2012 and kept him for the playoffs.
In order to replace an injured player, there is a process that must be followed, but it’s fairly routine. Clubs submit an application to the commissioner’s office along with medical records showing that a player can’t play, and the commissioner or his designee gives his approval to replace the injured player. This is done just prior to submitting post season rosters.
Once given the okay to replace the injured player, any player who is in the organization at the end of August is eligible to join the playoff roster. He doesn't have to be on the 25 man, nor even the 40 man roster.
Currently, the Tigers have three players listed on the major league disabled lists, and one suspended. Alex Avila is on the 7 day disabled list, Luis Marte is on the 15 day DL, and Octavio Dotel is on the 60 day DL.
If any or all of those three players are still on the DL when the club submits their playoff rosters, they are eligible to be on a post season roster. If they are still injured, the club can replace them with any player who is in the organization as of the end of August.
Jhonny Peralta is on the suspended list, which makes him eligible to be on the post season roster, but there is nothing in the major league rules that would allow the club to replace him if he is not.
Avila is expected back before the end of the month, so he will be activated and Bryan Holaday optioned, to be recalled in September.
Dotel has recently begun a rehabilitation, but is way down in the Gulf Coast League, so he looks to be a long way off still. He will be eligible for the post season roster, or else his spot can be given to another player.
Luis Marte was recalled to Detroit and placed on the 15 day DL and will surely be transferred to the 60 day DL soon. Marte receives a major league salary while on the DL. The Tigers, they get another "wild card" spot that can be used to add any player in the system to the playoff roster.
Any further injuries during September could add to the number of "wild card" spots that the Tigers have where they can add players to the roster. For example, Brennan Boesch went on the 15 day DL with a thumb injury last September, and that gave the team another potential roster spot.
Another event quietly passes at the end of August, as one period of special waivers expires and another one begins. Any player who cleared waivers in August would have to clear once again in September before they can be traded. However, a player acquired during September is not eligible for the post season roster.
A player acquired in September can play for the rest of the season, and is eligible to play in the new one game "wild card playoff", or play in game, which is considered a part of the regular season. In fact, a club can use any of the players on their 40 man roster who have been called up in that game.
The Tigers could have a couple of little competitions taking place in September, for the last few roster spots. We could see Phil Coke,
Scott Darin Downs, and Jose Alvarez vying for a spot in the bullpen. Al Alburquerque and Evan Reed could be in the discussion for a bullpen spot. They could have Ramon Santiago, Danny Worth, and Hernan Perez trying to make it as a utility infielder. They could bring back Jhonny Peralta, or not, for either the last three games of the regular season or the playoffs.
There is one caveat regarding Phil Coke that is worth a mention. That is, a player who is optioned can not be recalled to the major leagues for at least ten days, or until the end of the minor league season, unless another player goes on a disabled list. Coke could technically be recalled on August 31st, rather than waiting for September 1st, thereby being automatically eligible for the post season rosters, rather than having to replace an injured player. If things don’t go well for Jose Alvarez in the next ten days, he could be optioned on August 31st and recalled after the Mud Hens last game on Labor Day, September 2nd.
During the playoffs, clubs can change their playoff rosters before each series. They will select 25 players from those eligible in the manner described above. If a player is injured during a playoff series, that player can be replaced on the roster, but he will not be eligible for the remainder of that series or the next series. There is no longer any requirement that a pitcher replace a pitcher, etc. The Tigers did this to add Delmon Young to the roster during the ALDS last year, and it paid off in a big way.