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Jerry Blevins Teaches Us a Lesson in Optional Waivers

July 21, 2011

The other day Jerry Blevins was designated for assignment but all of the reports said, he was DFA’d but still on the 40-man roster. For many in baseball designated for assignment simply meant he was being cut loose, outrighted, traded, but really it meant if anything he was most certainly being removed from the 40-man roster one way or the other. That is why it was so confusing when we saw for the second time this year that Jerry Blevins had been designated for assignment but remained on the 40-man roster. These two things were incongruent. The press release might as well have read, “Jerry Blevins traded to Atlanta but will be in the A’s bullpen for tomorrow night’s game”.

I decided to write all the A’s beat reporters about it, and got answers that continued to mystify me. They answered the questions and for that I was most appreciative, especially Susan Slusser writing me from vacation on her iPhone (so sweet of her for my stupid question!) but there was something missing. The magical words that would clarify this whole thing.

I turned to Bob Rose, Director of Public Relations for the A’s. He had the magic words. He replied to my, what the heck is going on here e-mail, with this:

“Yeah, it’s a bit confusing.  Our baseball people explain it this way:  If it has been more than three years since a player’s ML debut, he has to pass through optional waivers each time in order to be optioned.  Both times we’ve called Blevins up, it has been on a weekend, and you can’t request waivers over the weekend, thus the waiting period.  Never has a player been claimed on optional waivers (which are obviously different from trade waivers and outright waivers).”

This cleared up a lot, but googling “optional waivers” led me to a Baseball Prospectus article that clarified it further. It says,

“Optional major-league waivers are required when optioning a player who is more than three calendar years removed from his first appearance on a major-league roster. This procedure allows a club to send a player to the minor leagues while keeping him on the 40-man roster. Because optional waivers are revocable, players usually clear in this scenario. In the unlikely event a player is claimed, his club may not option him to the minor leagues, and any subsequent waiver request during the same period becomes irrevocable.”

That helps out. Jerry Blevins made his major league debut on September 16th, 2007, I can’t find a resource and it is a moot point, so let’s assume that that was the first time he appeared on the MLB roster (though it likely was just as a September call up in the weeks before that). That was over three years ago which means he would need to be placed on optional waivers – which he was. Clearly, Blevins was not claimed on waivers (I am still trying to think of scenarios when this could be something another team would want to do? Perhaps you want to mess with another team’s ability to change their roster? Seems like a lot of needless effort mind you.) and was able to be optioned. But why the designated for assignment?

That same article explains that it takes 48 hours to clear optional waivers, so with the A’s needing Guillermo Moscoso immediately to play in that game, the designated for assignment (which really is long form for “stall tactic”) allowed the A’s to immediately remove him from the 25-man roster. The interesting twist in the case of Blevins is what Bob Rose wrote me, that you can’t be put on waivers on the weekend (who knew?) which is why twice he was designated for assignment but remained on the 40-man roster, until he cleared waivers and was optioned to Sacramento.

Jerry Blevins, thank you for giving us a lesson in baseball transactions.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. SouthPawRyno permalink
    July 22, 2011 11:37 pm

    great article!

    • July 22, 2011 11:41 pm

      Thanks for reading. It was such a weird transaction that when it happened the first time I chalked it up to just a mistake in reporting, when it happened twice I wanted to see what was what. Couldn’t have got anywhere without the help of the A’s organization who were good enough to answer my inquiry.

  2. August 2, 2011 8:20 pm

    I’m now unsure again whether we have the full story. My understanding of what happened the last two times, based on this, is that the A’s needed to request optional waivers on Blevins, but because it was the weekend, they couldn’t do that yet, so they DFA’d him to clear the roster space, and then come Monday, requested optional waivers.

    But apparently he was DFA’d again today (Tuesday, 8/2), and Susan Slusser just tweeted something about it being “a procedural requirement,” which makes me think that Bob Rose didn’t give a complete picture.

    • August 2, 2011 8:32 pm

      The optional waivers require roughly 48 hours to clear. Remembering that the DFA is a stall tactic basically and knowing that with Pennington out and Rosales needed immeadiately the DFA allows Rosales to join the 25 man today, the DFA buys the A’s the two days for Blevins to pass through the optional waivers while having Rosales’ services available tonight. Still consistent with the explanation Rose gave me that led me to the Baseball Prospectus piece.

      • August 2, 2011 8:36 pm

        Ok, so I see the assumption I was making, which was that the player is removed from the 25-man when waivers is requested. Instead, I guess they’re not removed until after they clear, so you have to DFA in the meantime. Thanks.

      • August 2, 2011 8:40 pm

        Exactly. Which is how the Yankees placed Burnett, Posada and Soriano on waivers today w/o changing their roster status

  3. pdowdy83 permalink
    August 3, 2011 12:44 am

    Stumbled across this article from mlbtraderumors.com. This actually happened with Colin Balester of the Nationals as well. People got all worked up because they thought the Nats cut him last time he was demoted but it was the same scenario as Blevins.

    • August 3, 2011 12:56 am

      It’s happened a few times but it is uncommon. For Blevins it has happened twice now for different reasons too, once just because couldn’t be placed on waivers due to it being a weekend and twice due to needing another guy up immediately to make a spot start. Strange little loophole that was really difficult to get any info on when it first happened.

  4. Victor Hastings permalink
    August 3, 2011 1:45 pm

    You did a great job picking up on the oddity of the Blevins transaction and then researching it. But I’m still scratching my head. The Hot Stove Glossary on MLBTradeRumors.com says flatly that designating a player for assignment “always clears a 40-man roster spot and when a player gets designated off of the active roster, a 25-man roster space opens up as well.” The Blevins scenario shows that you can be DFA’ed and still remain on the 40-man (but not the 25-man) roster, so I guess MLBTradeRumors.com needs to correct its glossary.

    Now I’m curious how teams distinguish between “DFA but still on the 40-man roster” and “DFA and removed from the 40-man roster.” Is there a separate procedural step that clubs must take when removing a player from the 40-man roster?

    Just when I think I’ve got baseball transactions figured out, along comes something like this….

    • August 3, 2011 2:01 pm

      Victor –

      Thank you for your compliments. The DFA does instantly remove one from the 25-man roster but not necessarily the 40-man roster. The DFA gives you time to consider your choices as a team. To remove someone from the 40-man roster you can place the player on waivers and then outright him to the minors. In this scenario the player is being put on waivers, but the subsequent move is just a regular option to AAA once the player clears waivers. In most cases if a player does indeed clear wiavers he is usually going to be outrighted.

      It was that very thought, “just when I think I’ve got baseball transactions figured out…” that made me really try to get to the bottom of this. In all likelihood had it not happened for a second time (now it has since happened three times) I likely wouldn’t have dug deeper into the weird situation.

      • Victor Hastings permalink
        August 3, 2011 3:18 pm

        “The DFA does instantly remove one from the 25-man roster but not necessarily the 40-man roster.”

        So to remove a player from the 40-man roster, he must be waived?

        MLB Rule 8(d) states that when a player is placed on unconditional release waivers, “[t]the player shall be removed from all player limits at the time the waiver request is transmitted to the Commissioner or the Commissioner’s designee.”

        Unconditional release waivers are therefore different from trade assignment waivers, outright assignment waivers and optional assignment waivers — these “assignment waivers” have claiming periods and do not immediately remove a player from the 40-man (or 25-man) roster.

        Back to the Blevins transaction — the A’s needed his roster spot immediately, and he would not clear optional assignment waivers for two days, so he was DFA’ed. At that time, he was immediately removed from the 25-man roster, but not the 40-man roster. Then when he cleared waivers, he could be optioned.

        If the A’s had needed to open a spot on the 40-man roster that day, then they would have had to put him on unconditional release waivers.

        A player can be DFA’ed at any time, but can be waived only on weekdays (before the 2 p.m. EST deadline).

        This makes sense. Teams need to be able to adjust the 25-man roster at any time. There’s less urgency to make a move involving players on the 40-man roster who aren’t on the active roster.

      • August 3, 2011 3:32 pm

        Victor –

        Yeah if the A’s needed a 40-man roster spot on that day, it likely would’ve meant two transactions. They would’ve likely still done what they did with Blevins but had a corresponding move of DFA’ing someone to put them on outright assignment waivers to clear the 40-man spot. The key thing to remember about the DFA that I learned from all this is it just boils down to a stall tactic. It gives you a small window of opportunity to say, what the heck do we do here, while clearing a 25-man roster spot. That said, with a “traditional” case, a guy who does not have the optional waivers as a consideration, this stall tactic will truly require a decision being made whereas in Blevins’ case it is purely a stall maneuver.

        With respect to the unconditional release waivers, those are straightforward, because the team is just scrapping the guy. So the concern about his status, getting him to an affiliate, finding a trade partner, etc aren’t present.

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