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New MLB rule will affect Cubs in 2019 and beyond

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Don’t expect the Cubs to make another Daniel Murphy trade in August this season.

Not only because Murphy’s new team – the Colorado Rockies – are expected to be contenders all year, but also because Major League Baseball now has a rule in place forbidding August deals, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal is reporting.

The waiver trades were among the most confusing transactions in American sports, so things will certainly be simpler for fans (and reporters) to understand. From now on, all trades will be completed only before July 31 and we won’t ever have to hear the words “non-waiver deadline” again. 

The Cubs acquired Murphy on Aug. 21 last year when the veteran hitter passed through waivers, allowing the Washington Nationals to dump a month’s worth of his $17.5 million annual salary and get a minor-league infielder in return (Andruw Monasterio).

Murphy was a big addition to the Cubs lineup last year, halting the merry-go-round at leadoff and filling the role on a daily basis. He hit .297 with an .800 OPS and 23 runs scored in 35 games for the Cubs, but ultimately was unable to help his new team get to the NLDS as the offense managed to scratch across just 2 runs in 22 innings in October.

The Murphy move was far from the only August trade that had an impact on playoff races in recent years. The Houston Astros acquired Justin Verlander Aug. 31, 2017 and watched as he went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 5 regular-season starts in September and then pitched them right to a championship in October. Oh, and he’s still the ace of their staff through this year because he had two more seasons remaining on that contract.

Last August, we saw the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees augment their offense by adding Josh Donaldson and Andrew McCutchen, respectively, with waiver deals.

As Rosenthal pointed out, the league saw 24 August trades a year ago in addition to the 48 July non-waiver deals. Now that we’ll only see those pre-August moves, it could make the trade deadline much crazier. Maybe not NFL free agency wild, but a bump in activity nonetheless.

Now contending teams – including the Cubs – struck with injuries in the final two months of the regular season will be forced to fill the holes from within. 

MLB also may soon have a change in roster size, though that would not take effect until the 2020 baseball season. Rosenthal reports the 25-man roster may increase to 26 for the first five months of the year and then bump up to 28 players in September, down from the 40-man rosters we’re used to seeing over the season’s final month.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan confirmed Rosenthal’s report and added that the rumored All-Star Game Election Day will take place in 2019.

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