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Finer Points: DFA and Waivers

In the first installment of this series, we looked at one of the ways a team has roster flexibility: the existence of the “optional assignment.” Simply (though it’s much more confusing than this), teams have three seasons where they can move players on the 40-man roster from their active (25-man) roster to the minor leagues and vice versa. We also learned that there is a rare exception which allows a team to do this during a fourth season.
Image courtesy of CJ CRON was acquired this off season by waivers. © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
You’ll hear a player was “recalled” when put on the active roster and “optioned” when sent off the active roster. Both moves require a player stays on the 40-man roster.

We’ve also learned that when a team wants to add a player to its 40-man and, likely, 25-man roster during the season, it “purchases” or “selects” a player's contract. This is also the correct time to use the term “called up.”

So that leaves this question to answer: How do you take a player OFF the 40-man roster?

Today, you’ll get to learn all about waivers and the ever-popular, designating a player for assignment.

Almost exclusively during the season, when removing a player from the 25- and 40-man roster (unless traded), he is “designated for assignment (DFA).”

That means the following things: The “designated” player is no longer on the 40-man roster (or the 25-man roster, if he was active), the team is immediately using that roster spot (either 25- or 40-man) for someone else, and that “designated” player goes into a place called “DFA limbo” (that’s not an official term) for up to seven days.

So why DFA?

It gives teams flexibility to make decisions.

In early April, Jake Odorizzi threw a two-out clunker before Rocco and Wes turned to the bullpen to get 22 outs on 156 pitches. The bullpen was unexpectedly gassed and they needed reinforcements now. Because it happened within the first 10 days of the season and no one was injured, a player could not be recalled. So whoever was added could not be on the 40-man, which was full.

Designating a player for assignment is the mechanism that allows a team to make that move immediately.

Tyler Austin was DFA’d and Chase De Jong was selected from Rochester. Austin was removed from both the 25- and 40- man roster and De Jong was added to both.

Ta-da.

It also works out perfectly that we can just follow the paths of these two players to explain everything else.

Tyler Austin was designated for assignment on Saturday, April 6. That starts the 7-day clock. While in DFA limbo, Austin will still be paid his major league salary and will still be credited with major league service time. (Sidebar: If a player was DFA’d in late December, Christmas Day through New Year’s Day are not counted… that is if a player was DFA’d on December 23rd, the seven day window would go from December 23 (24, January 2, 3, 4, 5) through January 6.)

Once designated, the Twins worked to trade Austin, which they did to the Giants two days later. But what could they have done if they weren’t able to trade him? Well, the "for assignment" part of the transaction could be trade, outright waivers or release.

Players don’t have to be DFA’d to be played on waivers. And we’ve already seen that players don’t have to subjected to waivers when DFA’d. It’s just very common to see these two things work in conjunction with each other.

Our other player path was Chase De Jong.

After being selected on April 6, De Jong was optioned only four days later. But while in Rochester, he was part of another transaction: he was placed on and cleared outright waivers. It was announced on the morning of April 26 that he was “outrighted” off the roster and assigned to Triple-A.

There are a lot of things to clear up in this very simple paper move.

After being selected on April 6, De Jong was optioned only four days later.

De Jong stops collecting service time and a major league paycheck upon being optioned. As he wasn’t on the 40-man roster prior to joining the Twins, this is his first optional assignment of the season and 2019 would be his third and final option year.

But while in Rochester, he was part of another transaction: he was placed on and cleared outright waivers.

First off, being removed from the 40-man roster takes him off of optional assignment. If you count the days he was on optional assignment, it’s less than 20… so the option doesn’t count (yet) and 2019 isn’t his final option.

Secondly, players spend two days on waivers. And the waiver period expires at 3pm (locally) each day. So working backwards, the Twins announced on April 26 that he cleared waivers and was outrighted. He actually cleared the afternoon before (25th), which means he was placed on waivers sometime between 3pm on the 22nd and 23rd. That left him available to be claimed for two business days.

He was “outrighted” off the roster and assigned to Triple-A.

Largely procedural, he was already in Rochester. The unique part of this move was that De Jong would have been informed by the Twins that he was being removed from the 40-man roster and had cleared waivers on the 25th. Because he had been outrighted (taken off the 40-man roster by clearing waivers) before, he had the option to refuse the assignment and become an immediate free agent. He turned that option down and will remain in the organization. Unless re-added to the 40-man roster, he will be a free-agent at the end of the season.

GLOSSARY:

Designate for Assignment (DFA): Being removed from the 40-man and 25-man roster to provide the team with an immediate roster spot. Players can be traded, placed on waivers or released.

Outright waivers: The transaction that can occur either inside or outside of a DFA. Players must be offered to all other clubs before they can be sent to the minor leagues. Claiming teams must add immediately to 40-man roster (and 25-man roster if out of options). Often times this leads to another player being DFA’d.

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21 Comments

Jeremy, nice work. I think the recent transactions by the 
Twins really help to clarify the process. Couple of things to clear up:

 

Waiver request deadline is 1:00 CST (2:00 EST). If you request prior to the deadline that day, the waiver request is processed that day. If you request after 1:00 pm that day, the waiver request will processed the following business day.

 

You may make a claim up until 12:00 CST (1:00 EST). 

 

A couple of additional points. A club may only request waivers on 7 players per day (either Outright or Unconditional Release).

 

You may not place a player on the Injured List on Outright Waivers unless their time limit has expired or they are on a rehab assignment (healthy enough to play) and then you must reinstate them from the IL within 72 hours after the waivers have expired.

 

You cannot request waivers on a player who is on any of the Paternity, Family Medical Emergency List, etc.

 

A club does NOT have to outright a player to the minor leagues after Outright Waivers have been secured.

 

The are a number of further rules, limitations, etc with regards to Outright & Release Waivers if anyone is interested.

 

    • Seth Stohs, diehardtwinsfan, h2oface and 4 others like this

Thanks Jeremy and Jack.Have a question about a part of this rule that may no longer exist.I recall that in years past teams would place many players on waivers during August, then pull them off if someone puts in a claim.Do they still have the right to pull a player back after waived?Is that something that is/was only used in August?

Thanks Jeremy and Jack. Have a question about a part of this rule that may no longer exist. I recall that in years past teams would place many players on waivers during August, then pull them off if someone puts in a claim. Do they still have the right to pull a player back after waived? Is that something that is/was only used in August?

That was a special kind of waivers called trade assignment waivers, and you're right, it doesn't exist anymore. July 31st is the only trade deadline day now. Those waivers never had anything to do with DFA or outrighting, though, just trades.

Edit: and as Jeremy noted below, those August trade waivers were the only waivers that were "revocable". So there is no longer such a thing -- all remaining waivers are now irrevocable.
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Jeremy Nygaard
May 09 2019 07:21 AM

 

Thanks Jeremy and Jack.Have a question about a part of this rule that may no longer exist.I recall that in years past teams would place many players on waivers during August, then pull them off if someone puts in a claim.Do they still have the right to pull a player back after waived?Is that something that is/was only used in August?

 

With the August trade period eliminated, I'm under the impression that "revocable waivers" are also a thing of the past. I'm also guessing revocable waivers is the reason that only seven players can be placed on waivers per day.

 

All other times of the year, waivers are irrevocable.

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Jeremy Nygaard
May 09 2019 07:24 AM

 

A club does NOT have to outright a player to the minor leagues after Outright Waivers have been secured.

Jack - glad to have you pitching in...

 

Can you think of any situations when you were with the Twins when this happened? If so, please tell...

 

Also, with the timing of the waivers... were there ever times that the Twins made or didn't make moves at specific times to try to enhance the possibility of clearing waivers? I'm guessing there was some sort of analysis on that.

 

Lastly, how does it all work from the team's perspective? I'm assuming back in the day it was all done by fax... but with technology being what it is, what's the actual process?

That was a special kind of waivers called trade assignment waivers, and you're right, it doesn't exist anymore. July 31st is the only trade deadline day now. Those waivers never had anything to do with DFA or outrighting, though, just trades.

Not totally true. Many times in August you would designate a player & ask Trade Waivers on them immediately. You had to so you could actually trade that player after the Trade Deadline. Most times nobody claimed them, you let the Trade Waivers expire, and then you moved on to Outright Waivers or Release Waivers.


Or, you needed Optional Waivers on a player (when they existed) to option a player to the Minor Leagues. But you didn't have them for one reason or another. You would DFA that player, ask the Optional Waivers, and then option that player after the Optional Waivers had cleared. This used to happen frequently after a pitching staff got blown up but a starter only going an inning or something.

 

Jack - glad to have you pitching in...

 

Can you think of any situations when you were with the Twins when this happened? If so, please tell...

 

I guess the most famous case of this is when Boston put Manny Ramirez on Outright Waivers to see if anyone would claim him & his salary. Nobody did, the waivers expired, & everyone moved on like nothing happened.

 

Also, with the timing of the waivers... were there ever times that the Twins made or didn't make moves at specific times to try to enhance the possibility of clearing waivers? I'm guessing there was some sort of analysis on that.

 

In regards to Outright Waivers, there is more strategy during Spring Training or around the time rosters are set in November. You want to keep a guy in the organization for various reasons but you don't have room on the 40-man. But anytime you ask waivers you have to OK with the worst case scenario which is losing the player to another club. 

 

Also, you may not add a guy to the roster that everyone is clamoring for because you aren't prepared to take someone off the 40. 

 

Lastly, how does it all work from the team's perspective? I'm assuming back in the day it was all done by fax... but with technology being what it is, what's the actual process?

 

All transactions, waiver requests, waiver claims, etc. are run through a central website run by MLB.

 

I should also mention, if a club puts in a claim on a player and is awarded the claim, that club owes the player's former team $50,000.

 

    • nokomismod and Vanimal46 like this
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diehardtwinsfan
May 09 2019 09:58 AM

This whole series needs a link on the top bar of the site. This info is very useful and will continue to be useful long after this series ends. 

    • Seth Stohs likes this

Good review. Now which does Adrianza get by the end of today?

    • Nine of twelve likes this
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Jeremy Nygaard
May 09 2019 10:24 AM

 

Good review. Now which does Adrianza get by the end of today?

None of the above. Cave gets optioned when they need a spot. And as long as the starting pitchers go seven, the need for an eight-man pen is low. (Bye Romero.) If they run into a jam, they'll run a shuttle with Romero/Moya/Duffey and Cave/Astudillo (probably).

Tortuga deserves to be with the club, Adrianza does not. He better at least be gone when Sano comes back this month. 

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diehardtwinsfan
May 09 2019 11:41 AM

 

Good review. Now which does Adrianza get by the end of today?

I've got to think that he's gone once Sano returns. There really is no need to have him and Marwin on the roster. 

So is there a pecking order for a team to claim a player on waivers? Does a "trade" override that claim no matter the team, since you are just transferring a player, so to speak, at that point.

 

What is the salary difference between being a 40-man player in the minors and a straight minor league contract?

 

Interesting that the waiver of "getting rid of salary" happens 30 days earlier than in the past. It will be interesting to see how the trading deadline works this year, especially in regards to salary dumps. I could easily see the Twins making any of their free-agent-to-be pitchers available (Gibson, Pineda, Odorizzi) but the flipside being that they could actually add an arm (first line) in the process, too, to remain competitive...someone they may want to have on the roster come 2020/2021.

 

 

 

 

So is there a pecking order for a team to claim a player on waivers? Does a "trade" override that claim no matter the team, since you are just transferring a player, so to speak, at that point.

 

If a player is claimed by only one club, then that club is obviously awarded the claim. If more than one club puts a claim in, then there is a procedure for awarding the claim. The club with the lowest winning percentage is awarded the player. League does not matter. It goes by reverse order of the previous season record the day after the regular season through the 30th day of next regular season. Beginning on the 31st day of the regular season until the last day of the season it goes by reverse order of record of that season. Right now we are going by the current season record. 

 

You cannot trade a player on Outright Assignment Waivers. In the Tyler Austin situation, the Twins probably didn't ask waivers on him considering they traded him rather quickly.

 

What is the salary difference between being a 40-man player in the minors and a straight minor league contract?

 

When you are a 40-man roster player in the Minor Leagues you are on Optional Assignment. You have two salaries. A Major League salary and a Minor League salary depending on what active roster you are on. Straight Minor League contract you are not on Optional Assignment.

 

Interesting that the waiver of "getting rid of salary" happens 30 days earlier than in the past. It will be interesting to see how the trading deadline works this year, especially in regards to salary dumps. I could easily see the Twins making any of their free-agent-to-be pitchers available (Gibson, Pineda, Odorizzi) but the flipside being that they could actually add an arm (first line) in the process, too, to remain competitive...someone they may want to have on the roster come 2020/2021.

 

I'm not sure what you mean by "getting rid of a salary". Are you talking about "salary dumps" that used to happen in August after the July 31st Trade Deadline?

 

Jack, I'm curious how teams work with players that are in DFA purgatory?

For example, Oliver Drake last year was DFA'd and claimed 6-7 different times over the season. It's got to be exhausting for him to not know if he should unpack his suitcase.

Another example I think of is the game teams play over the winter by claiming players and DFA them right away to stash them on their AAA team. Kennys Vargas a couple of winters ago went through the ordeal of being DFA'd by the Twins, claimed by the Reds, DFA'd immediately, reclaimed by the Twins, and DFA'd again.

Is there a mutual understanding between the players, agents, and executives that they're being DFA'd again after they are claimed?

 

Jack, I'm curious how teams work with players that are in DFA purgatory?

For example, Oliver Drake last year was DFA'd and claimed 6-7 different times over the season. It's got to be exhausting for him to not know if he should unpack his suitcase.

 

MLB has put some rules in place to help limit some of this activity. During the season, a player cannot be placed back on Outright Waivers for at least 48 hours or until they have spent a day with the club that claimed them. 

 

During the off-season, a player cannot be placed back on Outright Waivers for at least seven days after being claimed.

 

So, in-season you could claim the player & immediately DFA him & wait 48 hours to put him back on waivers. But you can only DFA off the 40-man if you would go to 41 with another roster move. You can DFA off the 25-man at any time. If your plan is to just DFA him, the gentlemen thing to do would have someone in the office let him know you have claimed him off waivers. Tell them they are going to be designated again and have them either stay put or go home until further notice.

Another example I think of is the game teams play over the winter by claiming players and DFA them right away to stash them on their AAA team. Kennys Vargas a couple of winters ago went through the ordeal of being DFA'd by the Twins, claimed by the Reds, DFA'd immediately, reclaimed by the Twins, and DFA'd again.

 

Here, see above. You could not ask the waivers again on him for seven days. Because the period to assign a player who has been designated has been cut from 10 days to 7 days (and the waivers would to clear by the 7th day) you have to hang onto them for a few days before designating for assignment.

Is there a mutual understanding between the players, agents, and executives that they're being DFA'd again after they are claimed?

 

Again, you usually explain this to the player and often times the agent so they can help explain this to the player as well.

 

    • Vanimal46 likes this
Thanks for taking the time to respond, Jack! I've been curious for a while how it works with the subset of players who seem to be caught in DFA purgatory because they're out of options and on the bubble talent wise. Your response helps explain it!

 

Thanks for taking the time to respond, Jack! I've been curious for a while how it works with the subset of players who seem to be caught in DFA purgatory because they're out of options and on the bubble talent wise. Your response helps explain it!

It's unfortunate, and not fair to the player. Can you imagine not knowing where you are going to work for 7 days, not by your decision? Not an easy thing to go through. The human side of the game that gets forgotten about.

It's unfortunate, and not fair to the player. Can you imagine not knowing where you are going to work for 7 days, not by your decision? Not an easy thing to go through. The human side of the game that gets forgotten about.


It's definitely unfortunate and no, I couldn't imagine the stress not knowing where you're going to work. On top of that, they don't know if they're getting an MLB paycheck or a reduced minor league wage. Life is tough on the bubble.

 

It's definitely unfortunate and no, I couldn't imagine the stress not knowing where you're going to work. On top of that, they don't know if they're getting an MLB paycheck or a reduced minor league wage. Life is tough on the bubble.

I'm sympathetic to players in that situation, but they do get a MLB paycheck and service time while they are in DFA limbo. Even two days on waivers is worth ~$6k for a league minimum player; a full 7 day DFA could be worth ~$21k. And they get a few days warning about their possible move (as opposed to all of the players who are traded/demoted suddenly without warning), and of course a chance at another MLB roster spot. Oliver Drake wound up making a lot of money because his teams couldn't freely send him to the minors.

    • Vanimal46 and gagu like this

Love your articles on this. Looking forward to the others!


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