In American Association Daily, Robert Pannier of the Minor League Sports Report looks at the changing rules for the Texas AirHogs in 2019, as they will no longer have the roster exemptions to accommodate the Chinese born players.
All Teams Playing by the Same Rules
The 2018 Texas AirHogs may have finished with the worst record in the American Association, but there was a buzz around the club all season long. That was because the team added players from the Chinese National Baseball team as part of the club, allowing the league to have an even greater international flavor to it.
At the start of the 2018 season, 35 players came from China, creating an interesting situation. The American Association allows 23 players on the roster, and 10 of the players on the AirHogs were going to be non-Chinese players.
This was an attempt to make the team a bit more competitive. Many of the Chinese players had little baseball experience, and the vast majority were not prepared for this level of play at all. The addition of American and other foreign born players was an attempt to make the roster competitive enough.
However, the purpose of this deal was to give Chinese players an opportunity to play on a regular basis and to play at a much higher level. American Association rules allow only 23 players on the active roster, with up to two on the disabled list. A player who is released must then clear waivers before they can be re-signed, and that player must wait seven days before he can rejoin the team.
This set of rules would stunt the development of the Chinese players, so the roster rules were modified to accommodate the AirHogs. Last season, the team was allowed to rotate the 13 Chinese players each day. This allowed the players to play on a regular basis while still being able to get some rest. Most of the team were used to playing no more than 30 games in a season, so the rigors of a 100 game schedule were challenging.
While sympathetic, it was understandable that many managers did not take kindly to the roster exemptions. Even if the team was not as talented, this did give Texas a competitive edge. They could burn out their bullpen each and every game, yet, come back with a fresh group the next day. That was a huge advantage over other teams.
An Advantage No More
That rule exemption will be no more. At the recent owner’s meeting, it was determined that the Texas AirHogs would have to play by the same rules as the rest of the league. This means that Chinese players will have to clear waivers and then wait a week before becoming eligible to rejoin the team.
What makes this an interesting scenario is that players who are placed on waivers can be claimed by other teams. While that may not be likely, it does not mean that it is impossible.
Last season, a group of players put up solid numbers and played well defensively as well. This included catcher Luan Chenchen, who hit .255 and handled the pitching staff well. Zheng Chaoqun (1.42 ERA) and Qi Kin (2.10) were outstanding out of the bullpen. In fact, several of the pitchers put up solid numbers by the end of the 2018 season.
There could be a situation where a team opts to claim one of the players placed on waivers, if only because the Chinese government would likely be on the hook for their salary. That may not even be a bad idea for these players, as learning from three or four different managers could speed up the progress of the entire team.
That seems unlikely though. It would not be surprising to see the league institute a rule heading into the season that would require a Chinese player to sit out the week, but that he could not be claimed by other teams. That would probably be the fairest thing for all parties involved.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier