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MLB Taxi Squads: How Do They Work?

Magnets, man.
Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Pirates

From the files of the BD Commentariat comes this question from mazalleydp1966:

Would you maybe write a column about the 5man taxi squad?...

I’m not totally clear how this will be used by MLB in 2021? Can up to 5 players not on the 26-man roster still travel with the MLB club? Is a call-up from the taxi squad to the MLB roster considered to be a different move than a call-up of a AAA non-taxi guy to the 26 man? How do taxi squad players stay in “game shape” if not playing regularly in AA or AAA?

When COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 minor league season, MLB adopted the taxi squad setup out of necessity. Although the 2021 minor league season appears to be all systems go at this point, MLB is keeping the taxi squad.

As far as my research goes, the rules haven’t changed from last season. Each team can carry up to five players from the alternate training site on the taxi squad for road games. One of them must be a catcher; he’ll serve as the bullpen catcher if he doesn’t play. When the rule was three players last year, the trio was usually a catcher, a utility player and a pitcher. If a taxi squad player does play in a game, it doesn’t count against his MLB service time, nor does he get paid anything other than the MLB per diem amount, which right now is $108.50. When I talked with Nick Mears in December, he said that the players at Altoona regularly played simulated games last season, so everyone stayed sharp enough to answer the call if necessary. Since the minor leagues are on and I haven’t seen otherwise, I would imagine that the Bucs will draw from either Indianapolis or Altoona as they see fit.

Of course, everything is subject to change these days, depending on the COVID trickster. Also, I really wanted to fully paraphrase that immortal line from Insane Clown Posse’s “Miracles” for this article’s title, but I’m a grownup and managed to restrain myself. Barely, as you can see.