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Major League Baseball transactions: Wikis

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Major League Baseball transactions are changes made to the roster of a major league team during or after the season. They may include waiving, releasing, and trading players, as well assigning players to minor league teams.

Contents

25-man and 40-man rosters

Each Major League Baseball team maintains both a 25-man roster and a 40-man roster of players. Players on the 25-man roster are eligible to play in official major league games throughout the season. The 40-man roster includes the players on the 25-man roster plus as many as 15 players who are either on the team's 15-day disabled list (see below) or who are in the team's minor league system. From September 1 through the end of the regular season, any player on the 40-man roster (also referred to as the "expanded roster") is eligible to play in an official regular season game. Many young players make their Major League debuts in this way, as "September call-ups". Players must be on a team's 25-man roster as of August 31 to be eligible for post-season play. The only exception is that a player on the 60-day disabled list may be replaced by another player from the team's 40-man roster (as of August 31) who plays the same position.

Trades

Teams may trade only players currently under contract, except those players who have been drafted in the last year. From the end of the previous World Series through July, trades between two or more major league teams may freely occur at any time. In August, trades may only be made after all players in the trade clear waivers or are not on 40-man rosters. Players acquired after August 31 are ineligible for the postseason roster unless they replace an injured player. Unlike in the NFL, NHL and the NBA, teams may not trade draft choices, but may purchase the rights to Rule 5 Draft Picks.[1]

The August 31 rule was waived in 1945 for returning servicemen. Over the years, there have been several notable cases where a player acquired after the August 31 deadline made a significant contribution to a playoff-contending team but was ineligible for the postseason; for example, Pedro Ramos with the 1964 New York Yankees and Sparky Lyle with the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies.

If a player has been on an active major league roster for ten full seasons and on one team for the last five, he may not be traded to another team without his consent (known as the 10 & 5 rule). Additionally, some players negotiate to have no-trade clauses in their contracts that have the same effect.

In some trades, one of the components is a "player to be named later" which usually turns out to be a minor league player. The unnamed player is included as part of a trade when the teams cannot immediately agree on a specific player or when the player is not yet eligible to be traded. In these cases, the player in question must be named within six months. Cash or other considerations may be exchanged in lieu of the player to be named later. For example, during the 1994 Major League Baseball strike, the Minnesota Twins traded Dave Winfield to the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline. Among the conditions of the trade were that if the Indians played no more games in 1994, "Indians general manager John Hart must write a check for $100 made out to the Minnesota Twins and take Twins general manager Andy MacPhail out to dinner."[2]

Waivers

Any player under contract may be placed on waivers at any time. If a player is waived, any team may claim him. If more than one team claims the player from waivers, the team with the weakest record in the player's league gets preference. If no team in the player's league claims him, the claiming team with the weakest record in the other league gets preference. In the first month of the season, preference is determined using the previous year's standings.

If a team claims a player off waivers and has the viable claim as described above, his current team (the "waiving team") may choose one of the following options:

  • arrange a trade with the claiming team for that player within two business days of the claim; or
  • rescind the request and keep the player on its major league roster, effectively canceling the waiver; or
  • do nothing and allow the claiming team to (1) assume the player's existing contract, (2) pay the waiving team a waiver fee, and (3) place the player on its active major league roster.

If a player is claimed and the waiving team exercises its rescission option, the waiving team may not use the option again for that player in that season. If no team claims a player from waivers in three business days, the player has cleared waivers and may be assigned to a minor league team, traded, or released outright.

The waiver "wire" is a secret within the personnel of the Major League Baseball clubs; no announcement of a waiver is made until a transaction actually occurs. Many players are often quietly waived during the August "waiver-required" trading period to gauge trade interest in a particular player. Usually, when the player is claimed, the waiving team will rescind the waiver to avoid losing the player unless a trade can be worked out with the claiming team.

Assignment to a minor league team

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Options

If a player is on the 40-man roster but not on the active major league roster, he is said to be on optional assignment—his organization may freely move him between the major league club and the minor league club. If a player is on the 40-man roster and not the active 25 man roster for any part of more than three seasons (in which he spent 20 or more total days of service in the minors), he is out of options and may not be assigned to the minors without first clearing waivers. However, if a player has less than 5 years of professional experience, he may be optioned to the minors in a fourth season without being subject to waivers. If a major league player is ineligible for free agency and "has options" remaining, his team may option him to a minor league team without consequence. This is usually what is meant when players are "sent down" to the minors. Likewise, when a player on the 40-man roster is added to the active major league roster, he is "called up" to the majors.

Designated for assignment

A player who is designated for assignment is immediately removed from the 40-man roster. This gives the team time to decide what to do with the player while freeing up a roster spot for another transaction, if needed. Once a player is designated for assignment, the team has ten days to do one of the following things: the player can be traded, the player can be released, or the player can be put on waivers and, provided he clears, outrighted to the minors. A player who is outrighted to the minors is removed from the 40-man roster but is still paid according to the terms of his guaranteed contract. A player can only be outrighted once in his career without his consent.

Veterans' consent

If a player has 5 years of major-league service, he may not be assigned to a minor-league team without his consent, regardless of whether he has already been outrighted once, even if he clears waivers. If the player withholds consent, the team must either release him or keep him on the major league roster. In either case, the player must continue to be paid under the terms of his contract. If he is released and signs with a new team, his previous team must pay the difference in salary between the two contracts if the previous contract called for a greater salary.

Disabled list

If a major league player cannot play because of a medical condition, he may be placed on the 15-day disabled list. The team then frees up a spot on its active major league roster of 25 players, and the player may not play for at least 15 consecutive days. An injured player may also be placed on the 60-day disabled list. The team then frees up a spot on both the active major-league roster and the 40-man roster; the player may not play for at least 60 consecutive days. Players on the 15-day disabled list are removed from the 25-man roster, but are still a part of the 40-man roster. Players on the 60-day disabled list do not count against either the 25-man or the 40-man roster.

Players placed on the 15-day disabled list may be moved to the 60-day list at any time, but not vice versa. Players may be placed on either disabled list retroactively for a maximum of 10 inactive days and may remain on either list for as long as required to recover. During this 10 day period, a player status is said to be day-to-day, indicating that the team is in the process of deciding if the player must be placed on the DL or if he is healthy enough to return to active service. Injured players may not be traded without permission of the Commissioner nor may they be optioned to the minors, though they may be assigned to a minor league club for rehabilitation for a limited amount of time (30 days for pitchers, 20 for non-pitchers).

Bereavement list

The bereavement list may be used when a player finds it necessary to leave the team to attend to a serious illness or death in his (or his spouse's) immediate family. A player placed on the bereavement list must miss a minimum of three games and a maximum of seven games. The team can use another player from its 40-man roster to replace a player on the bereavement list.

Rule 5 draft

If a player not on a 40-man roster has spent four years with a minor-league contract originally signed when 19 or older or five years when signed before the age of 19, he is eligible to be chosen by any team in the rule 5 draft during the offseason. No team is required to choose a player in the draft, but many do. If chosen, the player must be kept on the selecting team's 25-man major league roster for the entire season after the draft—he may not be optioned or designated to the minors. The selecting team may, at any time, waive the rule 5 draftee, such as when they no longer wish to keep him on their major league roster. If a rule 5 draftee clears waivers, he must be offered back to the original team, effectively canceling the rule 5 draft choice. Once a rule 5 draftee spends an entire season on his new team's 25-man roster, his status reverts to normal and he may be optioned or designated for assignment. To prevent the abuse of the rule 5 draft, the rule also states that the draftee must be active for at least 90 days. This keeps teams from drafting players, then "hiding" them on the disabled list for the majority of the season. For example, if a rule 5 draftee was only active for 67 days in his first season with his new club, he must be active for an additional 23 days in his second season to satisfy the rule 5 requirements.

Any player chosen in the rule 5 draft may be traded to any team while under the rule 5 restrictions, but the restrictions transfer to the new team—if the new team does not want to keep the player on their 25-man roster for the season, he must be offered back to the team he was on when he was chosen in the draft.

The intent of the rule 5 draft is to prevent teams from holding major league-potential players in the minor leagues when other teams would be willing to have them play in the majors. However, this draft has also become an opportunity for a team to take a top prospect from another team who might not be ready for the major leagues. For example, Cy Young award winner Johan Santana was chosen by the Florida Marlins four years before winning the award, when the Houston Astros declined to put him on their 40-man roster. The Marlins chose Santana in the 1999 rule 5 draft, and traded him to the Minnesota Twins who kept him on their roster for the 2000 season, in which he toiled to a 6.49 earned run average at only 21 years of age. Two years later, he legitimized himself as a Major League pitcher, with an ERA under 3.00, and two years after that, he was recognized as the best pitcher in the league. Had he not been chosen in the rule 5 draft, he likely would not have made his major-league debut until the 2001 or the 2002 season with the Astros.

Free agency and salary arbitration

If a player is drafted and is offered a contract by his drafting team (or any team he is traded to) each year, he may not become a free agent until he has been on a major league 25-man roster or disabled list for at least six years. Otherwise, any player without a contract may become a free agent and sign with any team.

A player is eligible for salary arbitration if he:

  1. is ineligible for free agency
  2. is without a contract
  3. cannot agree with his current team on a new contract
  4. has been on a major league roster or disabled list for at least three years

"Super Two" exception[3] - A player with at least two years of experience may be eligible for salary arbitration if he:

  1. Meets the first three requirements from above
  2. Played in the majors for at least 86 days in the previous season
  3. Is among the top 17 percent for cumulative playing time in the majors among others with at least 2 years, but less than 3 years experience

In this process, the player and the team both submit a salary offer for a new contract; the arbitrator chooses one number or the other, whichever is thought to be most "fair" given comparable wages among players with similar ability and service time. Players thus rely on arbitration and free agency to increase their salaries.

Players eligible for neither free agency nor salary arbitration are very seldom offered contracts for much more than the league minimum salary, as the player has no recourse to try to obtain a better salary elsewhere. For this reason, in the first three major league years of their careers, players accept comparatively low salaries even when their performance is stellar. This is an accepted practice; talented, young players are usually content to "pay their dues" in this way and earn a chance to negotiate for more in their fourth year. Occasionally, a team may wish to sign a player in his second or third year to a long-term contract, for which negotiation can take place for a much higher salary.

References

External links


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