This season has brought about many new ideas and emotions for the Nationals, who for the first time since they arrived in Washington are legitimately in a pennant race. And as a result of that, here's another new concept we're going to have to consider: the August 31 playoff roster deadline.
You've probably been vaguely aware of this deadline in the past but never really had to consider the ins and outs of it. Rest assured, you're not alone. I've had to learn more about all this myself, and even the Nationals front-office folks I talked to the last couple days admitted they had to take something of a crash course on the subject because they've never needed to be experts before.
So consider this an entry-level class in the suddenly pertinent matter of playoff roster construction...
You've probably heard plenty of times before that all postseason rosters must be set by August 31. But that's not entirely true. The only thing that must be set by the end of the month is the pool of players who are eligible to appear in the postseason. And even then, there are exceptions that allow more players to be added at the last minute.
The only real significance of the August 31 deadline is that it marks the final day in which a player can be acquired from another organization and be eligible to participate in the postseason. So the Nationals can't trade for someone on Sept. 1 and use him in October.
That doesn't mean a player must be on the active, big-league roster on August 31 to be eligible for the playoffs. Anyone on the 25-man roster, plus anyone on the disabled list, bereavement list or suspended list is eligible.
So that makes this the Nationals' initial pool of roster candidates (we're going to assume there are no changes in the next seven days)...
Pitchers (12): Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, Ross Detwiler, Gio Gonzalez, Michael Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny, Edwin Jackson, Ryan Mattheus, Craig Stammen, Drew Storen, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann
Catchers (2): Jesus Flores, Kurt Suzuki
Infielders (6): Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Adam LaRoche, Steve Lombardozzi, Chad Tracy, Ryan Zimmerman
Outfielders (5): Roger Bernadina, Bryce Harper, Tyler Moore, Michael Morse, Jayson Werth
Disabled list (6): Mark DeRosa, Cole Kimball (60-day), Wilson Ramos (60-day), Henry Rodriguez, Jhonatan Solano, Chien-Ming Wang
So that's 31 eligible players. But wait, there's more.
If any one of those 31 players is injured at the start of any postseason series, the Nationals can replace them with any other player from the organization (provided they were acquired by August 31).
Ramos will remain on the DL at season's end, so that's a playoff roster spot that can be given to someone else, whether they're on the 40-man roster or not. And it's not a stretch to think any one of those other players currently on the DL could still be there come October, opening more spots.
Which means September call-ups can be used in the postseason. That opens the door for potential additions like Corey Brown, Eury Perez, John Lannan and others we may see over the season's final month.
And truthfully, it opens the door for anyone else in the organization to be a part of October baseball. Not that this would happen in a million years, but even a guy like Carlos Alvarez (who you may remember as the fake Esmailyn Gonzalez, currently a 26-year-old shortstop at short-season Class A Auburn) could appear for the Nationals in the postseason, provided he was added to the 40-man roster.
The whole thing may sound a bit convoluted, but there's really only one key point you have to remember: If a player is in the organization on August 31 (and is still there at the end of the regular season) he's eligible for the playoffs.
Something you probably never thought about before. Certainly something I never did.