What is meant in baseball by the transaction terms options, outright, purchase and waivers?
Baseball’s transactions are probably the most confusing of all the major sports as each organization has not just a major league club, but six levels of affiliated minor league teams with varying contracts.
Where a player is assigned and to what roster determines which transaction is used to move him between clubs.
Every major league team has a 25-man roster, which is most simply, the active players you see on the Royals, Yankees or whatever team. Those are the guys in uniform that travel with the big-league team and could play in any game. That roster limit is imposed between Opening Day and Aug. 31.
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Each team also has a second roster, called the 40-man roster, which includes the 25 big leaguers, as many as 15 players who are either on the disabled list or are somewhere in the team’s minor leagues.
Players have to be on the 40-man roster before they can be called up to the 25-man active roster. Someone on the 40-man roster but not in the majors is considered to be on “optional assignment.” A club can move a player between the majors and the minors as many times as the club wishes if he is on the 40-man roster for three option years.
When a player gets sent down from the majors, he may be optioned if he is within that window. A player is “out of options” after he’s been in the majors during parts of three seasons. It does not mean he has been sent down three or more times. Once someone is out of options, he has to clear waivers to be sent down.
Other teams may claim a player placed on waivers before he gets placed in the minors.
Teams can also “outright” a player, which means sending a player to the minors and removing him from the 40-man roster. A player of at least 5 years of major-league service cannot be sent to the minors without his consent. He must be released if he refuses the assignment.
To “purchase” a player is to call him up from the minors without him previously being on the 40-man roster. He is added to the 40-man roster and his minor-league contract is “purchased” becoming a major-league contract.
A player can also be “designated for assignment” where the club has 10 days to either trade, release or outright the player. He is immediately removed from the 40-man roster.
After Sept. 1 any player on the 40-man roster can be called up as rosters expand to entire roster.
Sometimes a club needs to remove a player from its MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) and/or MLB Active List (25-man roster) immediately, but the club has not yet decided the final disposition of the player. In this case, a player can be Designated for Assignment (DFA).
DESIGNATED FOR ASSIGNMENT BY CUBS (last updated 11-2-2017):
1. When a player is Designated for Assignment, the "Designated Player" is removed from his club's MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) and MLB Active List (25-man roster), and then the club has up to seven days (formerly ten days) to either trade, release, or non-tender the player, or option or outright the player to the minors.
2. A Rule 6 Selected Player cannot be Designated for Assignment while the player has Selected Player status, and a Rule 6 Draft-Excluded Player cannot be Designated for Assignment between the conclusion of the MLB Rule 5 Draft and 20 days prior to MLB Opening Day.
3. A player on Optional Assignment to the minors must be "Recalled - Not to Report" before he can be Designated for Assignment.
4. A player continues to be paid (at the "Major League rate" for players with "split" contracts) while he is Designated for Assignment.
5. A player who is Designated for Assignment (DFA) accrues MLB Service Time for the entire period of time he is Designated for Assignment during the MLB regular season, but if the player is Designated for Assignment prior to the start of the MLB regular season and the DFA period extends into the MLB regular season, the player does not accrue MLB Service Time while he is Designated for Assignment.
6. A player can be Designated for Assignment and then subsequently returned to the club's MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) and optioned to the minors as long as the player is not replaced on the club's MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) by another player after the player is Designated for Assignment.
7. A player acquired off waivers can be optioned to the minors by his new club (as long as the player has a minor league option available, unless the player has the right to refuse an optional assignment and does not give his consent) or can be placed onto Outright Assignment Waivers and be outrighted to the minors if he is not claimed (unless he has the right to refuse an Outright Assignment and does not give his consent), but if a club acquires a player off waivers and the claiming club's MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) is full so that the club needs to remove a player from its MLB Reserve List in order to open a spot on its 40-man roster for the newly-acquired player, or the claiming club's MLB Active List (25-man roster) is full so that the club needs to remove a player from its MLB Active List in order to open a spot on its 25-man roster for the newly-acquired player, the player who was claimed off waivers cannot be Designated for Assignment to alleviate the roster logjam.
8. A player acquired off waivers cannot be Designated for Assignment for at least 48 hours after the club is awarded the waiver claim or until the player has been on the claiming club's MLB Active List for at least one MLB regular season game (whichever comes first).