SoSH Glossary: MLB Waivers

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SoSH Baseball Glossary

Baseball is filled with statistics, rules, and archaic terms that can often form what sounds like a foreign language. Sons of Sam Horn’s glossary provides a better understanding of these terms through straightforward definitions, clear explanations, and examples pulled straight from the baseball world. If there is anything you would like us to add to our glossary, please contact us.

MLB Waivers

Waivers are transactions attempted by a MLB team that would normally be illegal but are allowed after the 29 other clubs have had a chance to claim the waived player. If the player is claimed, the waiving team has the right to revoke the waiver, with some exceptions. Waivers fall under two categories: release waivers and assignment waivers. While there is only one type of release waiver – outright release waivers – there are three types of assignment waivers: trade assignment waivers, optional assignment waivers, and outright assignment waivers.

Waiver Periods

The calendar is broken up into four waiver periods:

  1. February 16 to the 30th day of the regular season
  2. 31st day of the regular season to July 31st
  3. August 1st to November 10th
  4. November 11th to February 15th

How Does The Process Work?

At 2 P.M. each business day (everyday during the season, non-holiday weekdays during the offseason), the MLB office transmits what players have been placed on the waiver list throughout the league. Once a player is on the waiver list, he will remain there for two days. If no one has claimed him then his team can move forward with the transaction. If he was claimed, then the League Office will determine who won the claim depending on how many teams claimed the player, and through the waiver priority process outlined below.

Restrictions on Waiver Claims

  1. Teams cannot place more than seven players on waivers in one day
  2. Teams cannot claim more than 50 players in one week
  3. Players on the disabled list must be eligible to return and healthy enough to play in order to be placed on assignment waivers during the season and cannot be placed on assignment waivers during spring training.
  4. Players on inactive lists (bereavement, paternity, military, suspended, disqualified, and ineligible) may not be placed on waivers.
  5. Outright release waivers may be granted for players on the voluntary retirement list.
  6. Players cannot be traded while on waivers.
  7. A player can only be on one type of waiver at a time.

Awarding Claims

If one team places a claim on a player and the player is still on waivers when the two days are up, then the claiming team is awarded that player on his current contract.

In the event of two or more teams claiming a player: If the waiver is not a trade assignment waiver, then the team with the lowest record wins the claim. In the event of a tie, the team in the same league as the team that put the player on waivers wins the claim. If the teams are still tied, then the records of the previous season are compared. If the waiver is a trade assignment waiver, then teams in the same league as the team waiving the player have a superior priority. The tie-breaker remains the same. During the first and second waiver periods, the previous season’s record is used for tie-breakers.

Trade Assignment Waivers

Trade assignment waivers are most commonly used after the July 31st trading deadline. If a player is claimed via trade assignment waivers, the two teams have 48 and a half hours to make a trade for that player. Once that time is up, the waiving team can either revoke the waiver and return the player to the 40-man roster, or allow the claiming team to take control of the player. If the waiving team revokes the player, then he may not be placed on optional assignment waivers and if placed on trade assignment waivers again, it will be irrevocable. If the waiving team allows the claiming team to take control of the player, then the claiming team must pay the waiving team $20,000 ($25,000 for a player picked in the Rule 5 Draft). Players with a no-trade clause must waive that clause in order to be placed on trade assignment waivers.

Optional Assignment Waivers

Optional assignment waivers are used to move players that are out of options from the 25-man roster to the minor leagues. Optional assignment waivers must be used for players that have reached the third anniversary of being added to a MLB 25-man roster or MLB DL for the first time, or the two-year anniversary if the player spent one full season on optional assignment to the minors prior to being added to a MLB 25-man roster or MLB DL for the first time, or the one-year anniversary if the player spent two full seasons on optional assignment to the minors prior to being added to a MLB 25-man roster or MLB DL for the first time.

Optional assignment waivers are revocable. Once a player is revoked, he cannot be placed on optional assignment or trade assignment waivers for 30 days, and if he is placed on optional waivers again during that period, that waiver is irrevocable. Optional assignment waivers are disallowed between October 1 and February 15, as there are no minor-league affiliates to be optioned to.

Outright Assignment Waivers

Outright assignment waivers are used to remove a player from the 40-man as well as the 25-man roster. This can be used on any player except a Rule 5 player or an injured player.

Once secured, outright assignment waivers last for the following amounts of time:

  1. Seven days or until the end of the waiver period for outright assignment waivers (September 1 to 30th day of the season).
  2. The waiver period for outright assignment waivers starting on the 31st day of the season through August 31st.
  3. 72 hours if the player is on optional assignment to the minors or the disabled list.

Players with five or more years of service time may refuse outright assignments. If they do so they have two options: They can either immediately become free agents and forego any compensation, or they can accept an assignment and become a free agent at the end of the season, but receive their MLB salary while in the minors. At the end of the season, the team must either add the player to their 40-man roster, trade the player, or grant him his release.

A player who has previously been outrighted during his career and is outrighted again has the same choices as above: immediate free agency or play in the minors at his MLB salary. If the player is not added back to the 40-man roster at the end of the season, he may elect to become a free agent.

Pete Hodges has written about the call up of a top prospect, an odd tradition, and Leo the Lip.

Follow Pete on Twitter @PeterWHodges.

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