Finer Points: DFA and Waivers
Image courtesy of CJ CRON was acquired this off season by waivers. © David Berding-USA TODAY SportsYou’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.
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.
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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