Ask Sports

Ask Sports: What is meant in baseball by the terms options, outright, purchase and waivers?

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.

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.

Joshua Wood