MLB Roster Rules are One of the Most Complex
The construction of a Major League Baseball roster is one of the most complex across professional sports. A MLB team operates as part of an organization, branching to component pieces known as the minor leagues, summer leagues, and other such developmental programs. The vast majority of minor leagues are utilized to develop the talents of tomorrow, presenting opportunities for draft selections to work their way to the big-league team. The many different levels of minor league play also call for deep rosters and vast player collections. Therefore, the total cap space an MLB team has to work with is loosely defined. Mainly due to the fact that there are different contract types for each level and different payout structures for higher drafted prospects who begin their journey in Low Class-A leagues.
Most major league teams use Spring training as the start to roster trimming. A MLB team can have up to 40 men on the major league roster. This makeup gives the team their active roster. While not all 40 players will be found on the bench or in the bullpen, it represents an opportunity for teams to make quick call-ups from their farm teams. There is about a half-and-half split between pitchers and fielders/hitters mixed into the construction of a roster. Most teams will keep 6-7 starting pitchers on their active roster, 5 starters and some back-up in case of injury. The fielders are usually classified as infield or outfield players, allowing some flexibility in the number of short stops a team wishes to have over first baseman and vice versa.
The MLB holds the softest cap amongst professional organizations, allowing ownership to throw gaudy contracts in the path of free agents. The only discourse a major league team is the high luxury tax amounts that come with cap exceeding. Most of the successful franchises in the history of sport (i.e. Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers) don't have to worry about revenue streams, while smaller market teams do. This is where some of the bigger cities and larger fan bases thrive. Since the folks paying for the experience factors into the total amount of money a team has to spend the next season, the fan base becomes an instrumental piece at getting smaller market teams on the map. This also makes the development of talent much more important for smaller market teams. While the organizational giants can buy their talents, smaller budgeted teams have to grow it. This makes farm team management a crucial role for any organization.
The farm system and cap rules also play into roster construction and late season acquisitions. A team vying for the post-season may choose to unload one of their younger players in favor of a practiced player who can provide some positional or pitching relief. This is known as "cashing in the chips" for lower cap teams and a simple check for larger organizations. This is where it becomes hard for smaller market teams to construct their roster. Their mindset has to be different than the larger organizations because they don't have the bailout needed to dig them out of a bad or unsuccessful situation.