With this week showing a variety of waiver options, I decided to try and hopefully make the process a little easier to understand. I have a feeling that some people do not have a true idea of what the waiver system is, or some ways it can be used by MLB clubs. So I decided that today I am going to try and describe the ways that clubs can remove players off their rosters via the current waiver system. I will try and give an example with each one so that it might be a bit easier to see what can happen to some of our favorite players this week during the cut-down time for rosters to be set by 3 pm on Sunday.
As we read the newspapers and the sports pages throughout this week we will see that a certain play has been “waived” because he will not make the team’s roster, or is not in the 2009 plans in the major leagues for that position. Simply put, a waiver is a system where a team grants a player a “release with options”. This waiver process can grant certain assignments concerning the player’s contract and his placement in the team’s system. When a player is placed on waivers, his contract ( and his future employment) is then made available to any of the 29 other MLB organizations, thus he can be claimed by anyone in the MLB for that season.
The first selection available to teams in this waiver process is the Outright Assignment. This is generally when a team wants to remove a player from their 40-man roster. Usually when a player is put on outright designation, the team is not considering him for their current roster, and he is then made available to all 29 MLB teams through a waiver system established by the MLB that will communicate his designation to all 29 clubs in the league. When a Club decides to place a player on waivers, a representative in the organization will enter the information into a MLB created and protected system called “ebis” by 2pm. The ebis system collects all of the entries for that particular day and send a notice to all 30 Clubs informing them of players placed on waivers. This notice typically arrives between 4pm and 5pm Monday-Friday, and only certain people within Baseball Operations receive the document·
If an organization wishes to claim a player on waivers, they have until 2pm on the second business day following the player being placed on waivers. A player placed on Monday will clear or be claimed on Wednesday – an entry on Thursday will clear on Monday. This rule was slightly altered in 2008 – MLB considers all days in Spring Training business days, so Saturday and Sunday are part of the claim period.
The first round of acceptance or denials on the claim goes through from the weakest team ( by previous years record ) to the pennant winner in that league. The process then reverts to the weakest team in the other league until all 29 teams have had a chance to claim the player. If no one claims him, he is then returned back to his original team, who can either place him in their minor league system or release him. In the case of Ryu, who was put on waivers by the Rays on January 13, 2009, the American League teams did not put in any claims for him. And so he passed unto the National League squads, who then got their first chance to either claim or let him go through the system until he would eventually be looked at by all members of the National League, then go through the same process with the American League.
In this case however, the San Diego Padres decided to take a look at Ryu and claimed him off waivers on January 15, 2008. Ryu was then considered a member of the Padres roster at that time. But after a short period of time, the Padres again put Ryu on waivers again on in March. Then on March 26, 2008, the Cleveland Indians put in a waiver claim for Ryu and he was subsequently a member of the Indians. But in a rare twist, MLB voided the waiver claim by the Indians and was returned to the Padres 40-man roster. This is not a usual measure, but maybe MLB decided that this player had now been tossed from two 40-man rosters in less than 3 months, and maybe his elbow surgery in July 2008 was not fully healed and he still had medical issues. This story will probably still be unfolding during the 2009 season.
A second waiver procedure is that a team can place a player on an Optional Assigment . 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, he is considered out of options and may not be assigned to the minors without first clearing waivers. There is a clarification here that the player is considered out of options if he spent 20 or more service days in that calendar season.
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. Players such as the Rays pitchers David Price and Wade Davis fit these descriptions, and can be assigned to their minor league teams without causing them to clear waivers at this time.
A majority of the major league teams will be using this following waiver process this week to eliminate players from their rosters. They also have the option of Unconditional Release . As you might guess, this type of waivers is required before a player is released from his organization. (i.e. not wanted in the Majors or the Minors). the last few days the names of former Tiger Gary Sheffield and Marlin infielder Dallas McPherson have had a few teams salivating at the thought of a quality player being on the market without trade repercussions or requirements. After their release, they are free to contact any of the other 29 MLB teams and try and secure their spot on their roster for the season.
The last option is the option that most teams wish they could remove a player from their rosters. Most people consider the Trade Route a more inviting and prosperous method of relieving your team of a player, and maybe getting some help in the process. It also can have a hint of glamor or even excitement as you might be traded for a budding superstar, or even a current star and be a important trade piece for you new squad. Such is the case right now concerning the Rays fifth rotation spot. Both Jason Hammel and Jeff Niemann will not travel with the Rays to Philadelphia on Friday as the team completes their Spring Training games. They will remain in Port Charlotte, Florida at the Spring Training complex and work out while the team decides their future in 2009.
With rumor flying off the Internet almost hourly about trade developments, both players are without options this year, and for one of them to secure the fifth position would guarantee them a spot on the team’s 25-man roster. Several teams are in negotiations with the Rays for the duo’s services, and the odd decision might even be made that they could trade both pitchers for prospects before the Sunday deadline. Trade waivers also give the teams more of a say in who, who and where their players might end up for the coming season. the best case scenario is to have them in the opposite league so that they do not face your club throughout the season either on the mound, or in the batter’s box.
I hope this makes a little more sense of the confusing and also heavily worded aspects of waivers and how they can be achieved in baseball. I can truly tell you that I get a headache every time I try and read these sections as thing are changed almost yearly as to the requirements and the procedures of this type of action. There can be a negative connotation associated with being “placed on waivers”. But the true essence of the process should be viewed as a protection of the players career. Without the process of being placed on waivers, a player could be shuttled between the minors and majors of an team with no chance for a realistic future or opportunity with the squad. With waivers, at the very least a player’s contract has the opportunity to be claimed by another MLB team and he may receive a fresh start.
Photo credits: 1) www.sulphurdell.com