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Various MLB Rules

Greg Pappas

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After many conversations revolving around such things as waiver claims, the arbitration clock, arbitration itself, and the 'Rule 5 Draft', I felt that a place to sticky these things would be useful in bettering our collective understanding of these various MLB rules.

Thanks to McLovin for the sticky. :)

First item...

The Arbitration Clock

This is from Thomas Gorman of Baseball Prospectus...

Well, as soon as you're on a Major League Active Roster the clock is started (Active Roster is the 25-man from April through Sept 1, when being in the majors on the expanded roster starts to count, too).

When the clock starts, you accrue Major League Service (MLS) for every day that you're in the majors. That means that arbitration is on its way down the road. So if you're trying to plan your budget in 2009 you want to think a little bit about how expensive your guys will be when you get there. Will they be making the minimum, or will they be in arbitration? And if they're in arbitration, which year of arb are they in? The further you get in arbitration, the more expensive it gets.

Ideally a team would look even further out into the future, to figure out when guys become free agents and such, but that's pretty rare. There is too much uncertainty in baseball to forecast more than a corner of your Major League roster more than 2-3 years down the road.

One thing that teams ought to be more careful of is starting a service clock early enough in the year to make someone a Super-Two Arbitration Eligible player. Most players enter their first arbitration year, and their first big pay raise, after 3 years of MLS. By virtue of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, some players get into arb early if they have 2+ years of service, 86 days of service in the previous year, and a total MLS figure that is in the top 17% of 2+ players.

A Super-Two player is not only expensive for you a year early (see Dontrelle Willis), they also get a 4th arbitration hearing.

From 1990-2003 the cutoff for Super-Two players has been somewhere between two years, 128 days and two years, 153 days. In eight of those 14 years the cutoff was somewhere between 2.130 and 2.140. Upton already has 64 days of MLS, though, so bringing him up now would be too early if you're trying to avoid a Super-Two Arbitration. To be safe you'd probably want to wait till something like the second week of August.

--Thomas Gorman

Transactions Primer

By Rob Neyer-ESPN

General managers don't know them, agents don't know them, players don't know them, writers don't know them . and fans don't know them.

What are "them"? Them are the rules governing baseball transactions, some of which are so convoluted that even when you think you know them, you don't.

All the ins and outs of transactions are covered, sometimes in excruciating detail, in a large loose-leaf binder titled, "The Official Professional Baseball Rules Book," something completely separate from the "Official Baseball Rules" (which cover only the game on the field).

Unfortunately, Major League Baseball doesn't make that loose-leaf binder available to the public. There's not really anything controversial or confidential in there, so maybe they just think we don't care and/or wouldn't understand the arcana contained within. And of course, MLB isn't famous for its public-relations acumen.

So we've consulted a variety of sources, including that elusive "Rules Book," and come up with a "Transactions Primer" which should answer at least some of your questions

Disabled Lists

There are two Disabled Lists, the 15-day and 60-day. The only real difference between them is that players on the 60-day DL -- sometimes called the Emergency DL -- don't count against a team's 40-man roster.

To be placed on either Disabled List, a player must be certified disabled by a doctor. That said, such certifications generally aren't particularly difficult to acquire.

Players can be disabled retroactively, up to a maximum of 10 days, beginning with the day after the last day on which they played.

A player on the 15-day Disabled List may be shifted to the 60-day DL at any time.

According to the Rules, players on a Disabled List "may be assigned to a Minor League Club for the purpose of injury rehabilitation for a maximum of 20 days in the case of non-pitchers and 30 days in the case of pitchers."


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 (more on that later). 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 is on "optional assignment." One common misconception about the rules is that a player may only be "optioned out" three times. Actually, each player has three option years, and he can be sent up and down as many times as the club chooses within those three seasons.

When you hear that a player is "out of options," that means he's been on the 40-man roster during three different seasons, beginning with his fourth as a pro, and to be sent down again he'll have to clear waivers (more on those below).


Waivers just might be the most complicated single aspect of the rules. In the rule book, a waiver is defined as "... a permission granted for certain assignments of player contracts or for the unconditional release of a Major League player ..."

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 players is said to have "cleared waivers," and the team has secured waivers for the remainder of the waiver period.

And what does that mean? Essentially, the team can do with the player's contract as it pleases. This generally means one of three things:

(1) They can send him to the minors (subject to his consent, if he's a "Veteran Player," more on that below).

(2) They can release him, which makes the player a free agent and thus available to sign with any team.

(3) They can trade him to another team, even if the so-called "trading deadline" has passed. Any trades made after July 31 may only involve players who have cleared waivers.

If a player doesn't clear waivers -- in other words, if he's claimed by another team or teams -- 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 following manner:

(A) If only one claim is entered, the player's contract is assigned to that claiming club.

(B) 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 shall always go to the club in the same league as the club requesting waivers.

There are other, more esoteric rules involved here. For example, during the first 30 days of the season, the previous season's final standings are used to determine claim order, rather than the current standings.

Designated for Assignment

You'll sometimes read that a player has been "designated for assignment."

What does this mean? Essentially, it allows a club to open up a roster spot while it figures out what it's going to do with a player. As we'll see below, there are certain situations in which a team needs a player's permission to either trade him or send him to the minors. So rather than force the player to make a quick decision, the team can simply designate him for assignment while he decides.

More commonly, 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. That's what happened to Hideo Nomo this past June.

'Called Up' vs. 'Contract Purchased'

When a player is summoned from the minors to the majors, you'll see that he was either "called up" or his "contract was purchased." For most practical purposes, this really doesn't make much difference. If he's already on the 40-man roster, he's called up. If he's not on the 40-man roster, then his contract is purchased (for a nominal fee) from the minor-league team.

However, the player must be added to the 40-man roster when his contract is purchased, which often necessitates dropping another player from the 40-man roster, whether by release or 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. This sometimes puts the team in a bad position, because a player with five years has every right to say, "I don't want to go to New Orleans. You can either release me and keep paying me, or keep me on the major league roster and keep paying. Your choice."

Also, 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 season following the one in which he was traded.

Any player with at least 10 years of Major League service, the last five of which have been with one Major League Club, may not be traded to another Major League Club without his written consent. This is commonly known as "the five-and-ten rule."

Player To Be Named Later

Quite often, you'll read that a player has been traded to another team for "a player to be named later."

There are two restrictions at work here. First, the transaction must be completed within six months. And second, the player named later can't 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.

And what if the teams can't agree on who that player will be? This happens rarely, but if no names are agreed upon initially, the clubs will agree on a price to paid in lieu of a player.

Sometimes, at the time of the deal the team receiving the player will provide the other club a list of minor leaguers, and later the club will have their pick of the players on that list. This list is negotiated at the time of the trade. In recent years, the Minnesota Twins lost Enrique Wilson this way. When it came time for Cleveland to make their choice, the Twins did what they could to "hide" Wilson, but the Indians found him anyway.

Finally, sometimes "Player to be named later" is used to trade players on the Disabled List, since it can be embarrassing for a club to trade for a guy who's on the DL.

The Rule 5 draft

First off, note that it's not the "Rule V Draft," but the Rule 5 draft. It's called the Rule 5 draft because the section of the Official Rules that covers the draft just happens to be Rule 5 in the book.

Eligibility: A player not on a team's Major League 40-man roster is eligible for the Rule 5 draft if: the player was 18 or younger when he first signed a pro contract and this is the fourth Rule 5 draft since he signed, OR if he was 19 or older when he first signed a pro contract and this is the third Rule 5 draft since he signed.

A player drafted onto a Major League roster in the Rule 5 draft must remain in the majors (on the 25-man active roster or the DL) for all of the subsequent season, or the drafting club must attempt to return him to his original club. However, since a returned Rule 5 player must first be placed on outright waivers, a third club could claim the player off waivers. But of course, that club would then also have to keep him in the majors all season, or offer him back to his original club.

Occasionally, the drafting club will work out a trade with the player's original team, allowing the drafting club to retain the player but send him to the minors.

I hope this has been helpful. Please feel free to add new information relevant to this thread, such as rule changes, or other interesting rules that you'd like to see posted here.

Thank you.


Edited by Greg Pappas
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  • 1 month later...

2/2/2012 NOTE: This post is no longer accurate as of the new CBA.

As we're debating whether the O's should or shouldn't sign available free agents, it'd be nice to have an explanation of compensatory draft picks at our fingertips.

Here's a link to a page that offers a pretty clear explanation. We're entering the second year after some rule changes.

Compensatory Picks and Type A and Type B Free Agents Explained


Please note that these rules only apply if: (1) the free agent's former team offers the player salary arbitration and the free agent signs with another club; or (2) the player signs with another club before December 1, the deadline for the former team to offer arbitration to the player (in this event, the former team is considered to have offered arbitration by default, unless prohibitted by contract).
The top 20% of players at each positional grouping are labeled as Type A players, and if those players are free agents they are tabbed as Type A free agents. The next tier of players - the top 21-40% of players at each position - are labeled as Type B players, and if those players are free agents they are tabbed as Type B free agents.

These rankings and thus the classifications as Type A or Type B (or neither) are determined by the Elias Sports Bureau. There used to be a 'Type C', so if you hear someone talking about 'Type C', it doesn't exist anymore.

If a Type A free agent is offered salary arbitration by his former team, but declines arbitration and signs with another team, the signing club must compensate the former club a first round draft pick in the upcoming season’s amateur draft. However, picks 1-15 may not be awarded as compensation - in the event the signing club owns a pick from 1-15, that team forfeits its second round pick rather than its first round pick.
In addition to this compensation, a "sandwich pick" is created between the first and second round (the "sandwich round") to further compensate the former club for the loss of a Type A player.
If a Type B free agent is offered salary arbitration by his former team' date=' but instead declines arbitration and signs with another team, the former team is compensated with a sandwich pick. The signing team does not lose any draft picks for signing the Type B free agent.[/quote']
Edited by TakebackOPACY
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  • 3 weeks later...
Can someone explain the difference between the 25 man and 40 man roster?

The 25 man roster is the "active roster." The players on the 25 man roster are the ones on the daily roster. On September 1st the daily roster expands to 40, that's why the dugouts look so crowded towards the end of the season.

The 40 man roster includes the 25 on the 25 man roster, as well as 15 other players either on the 15 day DL or in the minors waiting to be called up. (Note that above Greg said that players on the 60 day don't count against the 40 man.)

This is the list of players on the O's 40 man roster. The 25 man roster will most likely not be made until the day before Opening day.

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(Note that above Greg said that players on the 60 day don't count against the 40 man.)
Just adding one small caveat to a very good response.

In the offseason, the 60-day DL guys do count against the 40-man, so before the Rule V we have to add back guys like Loewen (if we were keeping him on the 40-man, which we're not, but thats another topic), Baez and others who were on the 60-day DL when the season ended. I'm not sure when you can start not counting the 60-day DL guys against the 40-man, whether its the start of ST or not until the regular season begins.

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Rule changes for 2009


PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Two significant rule changes affecting the postseason and one-game tiebreakers were approved by the 30 Major League Baseball owners at their first joint meeting of the year on Thursday.

The first involved one-game tiebreakers, where coin flips will no longer determine host teams. Instead, now that host will be decided by a series of on-field tiebreakers, beginning with head-to-head records. If that's tied, the next is highest winning percentage within a team's division, followed by the highest winning percentage for each team in intraleague play during the second half of the season.

Baseball's general managers had been down on coin flips, and at the GM Meetings in November they asked Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, to propose an alternative. Solomon did, and presented the change at the Winter Meetings to the GMs, who approved it.

"That was a general managers' recommendation as you guys know," Commissioner Bud Selig said after the four-hour meeting on Thursday, "and it was a good one."

The custom had always been to flip a coin several weeks before the possible game to determine which team might host. The rule now becomes the same as the one that determines postseason seedings if two teams finish tied for the division title and both are going to the playoffs, one as the division winner and the other as the Wild Card winner.

There have been only eight one-game tiebreakers for a postseason spot in Major League history and seven of them since 1969 when the multitiered playoff format went into existence. Home teams are 4-4 in those games.

Two of them have been the past two seasons. In 2007, the Padres lost the flip and had to travel to Colorado where they lost the National League's Wild Card berth to the Rockies, 9-8, in 13 innings. In 2008, the Twins lost the flip and went to Chicago where the White Sox defeated them, 1-0, to win the American League Central title.

The White Sox had to play a game rained out earlier in September at home against the Tigers on the Monday after the last day of the regular season to force the tiebreaker against the Twins. Chicago won, and then defeated the Twins at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday night.

The White Sox had a 9-10 record against the Twins this past season and would've had to go to Minneapolis to play that game had head-to-head records been the first criteria.

The Twins voiced their displeasure that they had to travel after winning the season series.

The other rule change approved by owners is that all postseason games suspended by bad weather will be played to their conclusions.

Under regular-season baseball rules, which remain the same, games are supposed to be official as soon the team trailing records 15 outs. If the game is canceled by weather after a prescribed waiting period, the team in the lead at or after that juncture is declared the winner.

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  • 3 years later...

Expanding the options section from the OP, I'm stealing this cot's quote from one of Crazysilver's threads. If you like this post, don't rep me. Go rep Crazysilver. I didn't provide the link to Cot's because it appears to be broken. Maybe it's there, but I can't find this material on the Cot's site.


An option (optional assignment) allows a club to move a player on its 40-man roster to and from the minor-leagues without exposing him to the other 29 teams.

After 4 or 5 years as a professional, a player must be added to his club's 40-man roster or exposed to the 29 other clubs in the Rule 5 draft. (A club has 5 years to evaluate a player who signs his first pro contract at 18 years old or younger, but only 4 years to decide on a player who signs at age 19.) For purposes of calculating years as a pro, the counting begins the day a player signs his first pro contract, not the season he begins to play.

When a player is added to the 40-man roster, his club has three options, or three separate seasons during which the club may to move him to and from the minor leagues without exposing him to other clubs. A player on the 40-man roster playing in the minors is on optional assignment, and within an option season, there is no limit on the number of times a club may demote and recall a player. However, a player optioned to the minor leagues may not be recalled for at least 10 days, unless the club places a Major League player on the disabled list during the 10-day window.

After three options are exhausted, the player is out of options. Beginning with the next season, he must clear waivers before he may be sent to the minors again. See Waivers. Additionally, a player with 5 years of Major League service may not be sent to the minor leagues on an optional assignment without his consent.

Counting option years

  • If a player is not sent to the minors during a year, an option is not used.
  • If a player is on the 40-man roster in spring training but optioned to the minors before the season begins, an option is used.
  • If a player's optional assignment(s) to the minors total less than 20 days in one season, an option is not used.
  • A player may be eligible for a fourth option year if he has been optioned in three seasons but does not yet have five full seasons of professional experience. A full season is defined as being on an active pro roster for at least 90 days in a season. (If a player is put on the disabled list after earning 60 or more days of service in a single season, his time on the DL is counted.) The 90-day requirement means short-season leagues (New-York Penn, Northwest, Pioneer, Appalachian, Gulf Coast, Arizona Rookie, Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues) do not count as full seasons for the purposes of determining eligibility for a fourth option.
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  • 5 years later...
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OK, here's a random one for you - what's the ruling here from my son's 12U game the other night?

We are hitting with a runner at 1st, 1 out.  Batter hits a flyball to center.  Our guy at first takes off like a dummy, gets around 2nd base, then realizes that the ball was caught by the CF.   He runs back to 1B, but of course goes directly from around the SS position to 1st (cuts across the diamond and doesn't touch 2nd).  This is of course illegal, so any appeal and he would be out.  

What actually happened was that the throw back to first went out of play, and the umpire ruled that because the ball was out of play the baserunner was automatically out.  I'm not sure that's correct but I really don't care.   My bigger question is...

What would happen in this situation (or a similar situation) if the exact same thing happened, but the opposing team didn't realize it and simply continued with play?  Is the runner automatically out, or does the fielding team need to make some sort of appeal?

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39 minutes ago, glenn__davis said:

OK, here's a random one for you - what's the ruling here from my son's 12U game the other night?

We are hitting with a runner at 1st, 1 out.  Batter hits a flyball to center.  Our guy at first takes off like a dummy, gets around 2nd base, then realizes that the ball was caught by the CF.   He runs back to 1B, but of course goes directly from around the SS position to 1st (cuts across the diamond and doesn't touch 2nd).  This is of course illegal, so any appeal and he would be out.  

What actually happened was that the throw back to first went out of play, and the umpire ruled that because the ball was out of play the baserunner was automatically out.  I'm not sure that's correct but I really don't care.   My bigger question is...

What would happen in this situation (or a similar situation) if the exact same thing happened, but the opposing team didn't realize it and simply continued with play?  Is the runner automatically out, or does the fielding team need to make some sort of appeal?

Here’s a link to the MLB Rule Book: http://mlb.mlb.com/documents/0/8/0/268272080/2018_Official_Baseball_Rules.pdf

Most of the relevant discussion on baserunning is at pp. 25-30 and 43 - 48.    My reading of Rule 5.09(c)(2), on page 48, is that failing to touch each base while returning to the original base is an appeal play.

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