MLB Transactions Primer

by on March 30, 2009 @ 00:00:00 PDT


[Editor's Note: When originally published on, this work was excerpted from an essay by Rob Neyer at]


  • After three years as a pro, a player must be protected on a team's 40-man roster, or he is eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
  • Once he's served those three years, and assuming he is added to the 40-man roster, his club then has what are called "options" on him.
  • When a player is on the 40-man roster but not on the 25-man Major League roster, he can be "optioned out" - sent up and down - as many times as the club chooses within those three seasons.
  • "Out of options" means a player has been in the minors in three different seasons. Beginning with his fourth as a pro, to be sent down again he has to clear waivers.


If a player placed on Major League waivers is not claimed by another team during the three business days after waivers have been requested, then the player is said to have "cleared waivers." At that point, the team can a) send him to the minors, b) release him, making the player a free agent and available to sign with any team, or c) trade him to another team. Any trades made after the July 31 trading deadline may only involve players who have cleared waivers.

If a player is claimed by another team, the club requesting waivers may withdraw the waiver request.

If the club doesn't withdraw the waiver request, the player's contract is assigned in the claiming team. If more than one club in the same league makes claims, the club currently lower in the standings gets the player. If clubs in both leagues claim the player, preference goes to the club in the same league.

Designated for Assignment

This allows a club to open up a roster spot while it figures out what it's going to do with a player. Often, a player is designated for assignment so the club can open up his roster spot while they're waiting for him to clear waivers, which can take four or five days. Occasionally, a club will designate a player for assignment while they're trying to trade him.

Player To Be Named Later

  • This transaction must be completed within six months
  • The player named later cannot have played in the same league as the team he's being traded to. That's why the player named later is almost always a minor leaguer.
  • Sometimes, the team receiving the player will provide the other club a list of minor leaguers, and the club will have their pick of the players from that list. This list is negotiated at the time of the trade.

Veteran Players

Any player who has been in the major leagues for five full seasons may not be assigned to a minor-league team without his written consent. The club's alternatives then become to either release him and keep paying him, or keep him on the major league roster and keep paying.

A player with five years of service time who is traded in the middle of a multi-year contract may demand another trade prior to the start of the following season.

The 5 and 10 rule... A player with at least 10 years of Major League service, the last five of which have been with one club, may not be traded without his written consent.

Called Up

A player from the club's 40-man roster is summoned to the majors from the minors.

Contract Purchased

A player NOT from the club's 40-man roster is summoned to the majors from the minors. His contract is purchased (for a nominal fee) from the minor-league team. However, this player must be added to the 40-man roster, which often necessitates dropping another player from the 40-man roster, by release or trade.

Disabled Lists

  • There are two lists, 15-day and 60-day.
  • Players on the 60-day DL don't count against a team's 40-man roster.
  • Players on the 15-day DL may be shifted to the 60-day DL at any time.
  • Players can be disabled retroactively, up to a maximum of 10 days, beginning with the day after the last day on which they played.
  • Players on a DL may be assigned to the minors for injury rehabilitation for a maximum of 20 days (non-pitchers) or 30 days (pitchers).
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