Now that the Cardinals have officially clinched a postseason spot, it is a good time to go over the Cardinals’ postseason eligibility list and give you a primer on the MLB postseason eligibility rules. Since the rule change in 2014, postseason eligibility is more wide open now than ever before. In this article, I will give you the Cardinals’ postseason eligibility list and explain how I arrived at it by citing the rules. In additional articles later on, I will outline how the rules have changed from their former strictness and explain how teams exploited what were believed to be loopholes in the rules and used various gambits to expand their potential playoff pool. I will also demonstrate how Major League Baseball opened the floodgates in 2014 to allow teams to use almost whomever they please in the postseason.
The default rule is found in Major League Rule 40(a)(1). In order to be automatically eligible for the playoffs, a player must:
(A) have been on a Major League Active, Injured, Bereavement/Family Medical Emergency, Paternity, Suspended or Military List of such Major League Club as of Midnight Eastern Time on August 31, or on such date be under control, but on optional assignment, or on assignment from another Major League organization and not yet reported; and
(B) have remained reserved to such Major League Club (at the Major or Minor League levels) through the beginning of the applicable postseason series, unless the player is replacing an injured player pursuant to Rule 40(a)(3).
For all practical purposes, when you boil this rule down to its lowest common denominator, all players on a Club’s 40-man roster or 60-day injured list are automatically eligible for the playoffs. The only other players that would be automatically eligible that were not on the Club’s 40-man roster at the required time are players that were on the Military List or the Suspended List of a Club and not the Suspended List of Major League Baseball. Placement on those lists is very rare these days. The Cardinals did not have a player on either of those two lists at the required time.
Cardinals’ Postseason Eligibility List
Based on the above rule, here is the Cardinals’ postseason eligibility list of 41 players, broken down by position. The Cardinals will have to choose 25 players for every series, including the Wild Card Game, if they are forced to play in it.
John Brebbia, Genesis Cabrera, Brett Cecil, Tony Cingrani, Junior Fernandez, Jack Flaherty, Giovanny Gallegos, John Gant, Austin Gomber, Ryan Helsley, Jordan Hicks, Dakota Hudson, Dominic Leone, Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas, Andrew Miller, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Alex Reyes, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Tyler Webb
Andrew Knizner, Yadier Molina, Matt Wieters
Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong, Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, Yairo Munoz, Rangel Ravelo, Edmundo Sosa, Ramon Urias, Kolten Wong
Randy Arozarena, Harrison Bader, Dexter Fowler, Adolis Garcia, Jose Martinez, Tyler O’Neill, Marcell Ozuna, Justin Williams.
In order to remain eligible for the postseason, all of the above players must remain under club control through the rest of the regular season and postseason to remain eligible. What this basically means is that if a player on the above list is outrighted to the minor leagues after August 31st, he is no longer automatically eligible.
Note that although OF Lane Thomas was on the 40-man roster as of midnight on August 31st, he is not eligible because of Rule 40(a)(2). Thomas was placed on the 10-day IL on August 30, and then transferred from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL on September 1st. Rule 40(a)(2) states that no player who is on an Injured List and whose minimum period of inactivity has not yet expired before the scheduled start of the postseason series may be named to the roster for such series. Because the required 60 days for Thomas will not expire until after the World Series is scheduled to start on October 22nd, he will not be eligible for any playoff series. In addition, although he is injured, because his minimum period of activity will not have expired, he may not be replaced under the next rule I will discuss.
Of the players on the Cards’ current 40-man roster, RHP Mike Mayers and C Joe Hudson are not automatically eligible because they were not added to the 40-man roster until September 1st.
Replacements for Injured Players Before a Series
If the list above isn’t enough for the Cards, they can actually expand their playoff pool even further. With permission from the Commissioner’s office, Rule 40(a)(3) allows the Cards to name “a player in its organization” to a roster for a playoff series in order to replace an injured Major League player. Here are the ground rules for that:
- The injured player that a Club wants to replace must be automatically eligible under Rule 40(a)(1). For this reason, the Cards could not name someone to replace Lane Thomas. He’s not automatically eligible because he has not spent the allotted time on the 60-day IL, and because he’s not automatically eligible, an injury replacement may not be named to replace him.
- At the time the postseason roster is submitted one of the automatically eligible players must be unable to play and the Club must provide written documentation of a specific injury or ailment.
- The player the Club wants to name as a replacement must have been on a Minor League Active, Injured, Temporarily Inactive, Suspended or Military List in the Major League Club’s organization, or on such date be designated for assignment or under control, but not yet reported, on assignment from another Major League organization.
- The player must have remained under club control in the minor leagues throughout the rest of the regular season after August 31st and through the time of any replacement.
- And finally, the replacement player must be added to the Club’s 40-man roster before being eligible to play in the playoffs.
Application of the Injured Player Rule to the Cardinals
The Cardinals have 3 pitchers—Brett Cecil, Tony Cingrani and Jordan Hicks on the 60-day IL who have spent the requisite 60 days on the IL and will be unable to pitch. In addition, Alex Reyes was on the Memphis 7-day IL at the end of the minor league season, is on the Cards’ 40-man roster and is unable to pitch. If the Cardinals were so inclined, they could replace any of those players or anyone else on the automatic eligibility list that suffers an injury and is unable to play in the playoffs with anyone in the entire organization that is on a Minor League Reserve List.
That means that a Club’s postseason eligibility list is essentially endless if they have enough players that are injured. According to Brian Walton’s Roster Matrix, the Club has 327 players under control. Any one of those players that was not on the 40-man roster by midnight on August 31st but that was in the organization at that time could be used to replace Cecil, Cingrani, Hicks, Reyes, all of them, or anyone else that might come down with an injury before the playoffs. If the Cards really wanted to add Dylan Carlson, Nolan Gorman or both to the postseason roster, they could do it. The only caveat to that is, the Cards would have to clear a 40-man roster spot to add them. And because it is against the rules to place a player on the 60-day IL after the regular season is over, another 40-man roster player would have to be designated for assignment and then traded, released or outrighted to the minor leagues to make room. The Cards could also add Mike Mayers or Joe Hudson to the postseason roster as an injury replacement if they were so inclined, because they were in the organization on midnight August 31st.
Although this was not always the case, under the current rules, the Club does not have to use a pitcher as an injury replacement to replace an otherwise eligible pitcher or a position player to replace a position player. Joe Hudson, for example, could be named as an injury replacement for Brett Cecil. The rule was changed in 2007 to allow this.
Finally, I wanted to make it clear that oftentimes you will see the postseason eligibility rule misrepresented. I have seen articles that state that anyone in the Club’s organization as of August 31st is eligible for the playoffs. That turns out to be true in a lot of cases, but that is not the rule. Suppose you have a Club with no injuries at all, and no one on the 60-day IL. If that’s true, that Club’s postseason eligibility list would be limited to the 40-man roster, Military List and Club Suspended List as of midnight on August 31st, and a Dylan Carlson type player would not be eligible. If the Cards had no injuries other than Lane Thomas, the Cardinals’ post-season eligibility list would have been limited to the 40-man roster as of midnight August 31st and they would not be able to use an injury replacement at all.
In actuality, the Cardinals’ postseason roster construction will almost certainly not be this complicated. By my count, the only decisions that will have to be made will be for one relief job and perhaps three bench jobs. And I predict that the Cards will not go outside the automatic eligibility list I have outlined above to use an injury replacement. Nevertheless, I wanted to outline the possibilities and the current rules, just in case you were curious.
We will have more coverage of the Cardinals’ postseason roster construction, including predictions and preferred choices from the staff in the upcoming days, so stay tuned!