The Miami Marlins’ first official transaction since the team resumed practice last week looks like a simple one on paper.
Catcher Will Banfield was placed on the 10-day injured list with an unspecified injury. Fellow catcher Santiago Chavez was added to the Marlins’ 60-player roster pool and assigned to their Jupiter training site where Banfield was practicing.
It actually goes a little deeper than that and provides an example of one of the many challenges Major League Baseball teams face as they try to limit coronavirus-related news about their teams from becoming public.
The Marlins have confirmed that they have had four players test positive for COVID-19, one during the team’s initial intake screening on July 1 and three others before that. They are not, however, officially announcing the names of those players unless players give explicit permission to do so. So far, at least 43 players around MLB — including the Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman and Touki Toussant, the New York Yankees’ DJ LeMehieu, and the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Kole Calhoun — have allowed their names to be released.
But transaction logs might also play a role in the telling, even for those who haven’t expressly given permission.
How is that?
Consider these passages from MLB’s 101-page operations manual for the 2020 season:
1.) “40-man roster players may be removed from the Club Player Pool by an approved trade, waiver claim, return of Rule 5 selection, release, outright assignment, designation for assignment, placement on the 60-day Injured List, placement on the COVID-19 Related Injured List, or placement on the Suspended List (by Club), Military, Voluntarily Retired, Restricted, Disqualified, or Ineligible Lists.”
2.) “Injured non-40-man roster players will continue to count against the Club Player Pool limit unless removed through one of the permitted transactions,” which includes a trade, release or placement on one of those lists above.
How this applies to the Marlins
Banfield, the Marlins’ No 25 overall prospect according to MLBPipeline, is not on the 40-man roster and he wasn’t traded or released, which means he should still count toward the Marlins’ 60-man player pool. That pool was full at the time of his movement to the 10-day IL. So how were the Marlins able to add Chavez to fill Banfield’s spot unless he was placed on one of the other lists above? And of those lists, the COVID-19 IL is the only one teams do not have to formally announce.
The explanation, if one is ever given, will be another balancing act to endure as teams maneuver through an already unusual set of circumstances in the 2020 season.
Now, a reminder: A player does not necessarily need to test positive for COVID-19 to be placed on the COVID-19 injured list.
“A player may be placed on the COVID-19 Related IL based on a positive test for COVID-19, confirmed exposure to COVID-19, or if a player exhibits symptoms requiring self isolation for further assessment,” reads a passage from the operation manual.
‘Something that we can’t talk about’
Even with that said, while the Marlins are not disclosing names of players who tested positive, manager Don Mattingly said earlier this week that “if you come to our workouts, it’s not necessarily hard to figure out who’s not here and who’s not working out.”
“It’s just something that we can’t talk about,” Mattingly said. “If they don’t want to publicly talk about it, you have to respect that.”
While it’s uncertain which players have not been present in Jupiter, two players — outfielders Lewis Brinson and Matt Joyce — have not been seen during any of the practice sessions at Marlins Park that media members have been able to watch. Shortstop prospect Jazz Chisholm, originally supposed to be practicing at Marlins Park, posted a video on his Instagram story Saturday at his locker in the Jupiter clubhouse.
On Friday, Mattingly said that there are players who have to “continue into the protocol” in regards to the players who have yet to take part in camp.
According to the operation manual for the 2020 season, any player who receives a positive test for the coronavirus must go into self-isolation until receiving clearance from the team physician and the joint COVID-19 Health and Safety Committee. Players who test positive are not allowed to travel with the team, use team facilities or have contact with team personnel until they have received consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart, has been symptom-free for at least 72 hours and completes an antibody test, among other requirements.
“They’re at different stages with that,” Mattingly said. “Obviously we can’t talk too much about it other than going through the protocol.”