The world of Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball can be a confusing one when terms like DFA'ed, 40-man, Rule 5, etc. are thrown out like alphabet soup. In an effort to help clear up the clutter, read below for a guide to help you guide the waters of confusing baseball terminology.
The 40-man roster or "40-man"
Each MLB team is allowed to have 40 players on their roster that are protected, signed to major league contracts with that club. The 40-man roster contains all 25 active Major League players as well as 15 other players that are in various spots in the club's minor league system or on the MLB injured list.
Waivers is officially defined as "a permission granted for certain assignments of player contracts for the unconditional release of a Major League player" in the rule book. With that in mind, if a player is placed on waivers and after three business days has not been claimed by another team, he is said to have "cleared waivers". This means that his team now has a choice of what to do with the player.
A. Send him to the minor leagues
B. Release him, which means that he is free to sign with any other team
C. Trade him to another team (even if the July 31st trading deadline has passed). All trades that are conducted after July 31st mean that players involved have cleared waivers.
Designated for Assignment or "DFA'ed"
This refers to the process of someone coming off the aforementioned 40-man roster for one reason or another. It allows a club to open up a roster spot for up to a 10-day period while waiting for a player to clear waivers. A player can be claimed by another MLB team during this time and added to that team's 40-man roster. If a claim for the player is not made, the player then can be released, traded or assigned back to the minor leagues by his original team.
This term refers to the amount of "optional assignments" that a player has once he is on the 40-man roster. Players have three option years and can be sent up and down as many times as the parent club chooses with the three seasons. If a player goes up and down (from MLB to minor leagues) 15 times during one season, it is still only viewed as one option year. When a player is "out of options", meaning his three option years are up, he must clear waivers before he can be optioned back to the minor leagues.
Recalled & Contract Purchased
These terms can be easily mixed up because they mean very similar things but are distinctly different. If a player is already on the 40-man roster and playing for a minor league team, he would be "recalled" to the MLB parent club because he is already a member of the 40-man. However, if a player from the minor leagues is called up to the MLB parent club and is not on the 40-man, the MLB club must "purchase his contract" and place him on the 40-man roster. If there are no spots on the 40-man, then they must DFA (designate for assignment) a current member of the 40-man to make room.
Major League Rehabilitation Assignment
Any MLB player can be assigned to any minor league affiliate for the purpose of rehabbing an injury for a maximum of 20 days (non-pitchers) and 30 days (pitchers). The player will still continue to get his MLB salary while on his rehab assignment. The rehabilitation assignments do not count against the minor league affiliates roster or as an "optional assignment".
Injured List or "IL"
The injured list for players in the Major Leagues and players in the minors are a bit different. Most fans are used to hearing things like the 15-day IL or the 60-day IL, which only exist at the MLB level. If a player at the MLB level is placed on the 60-day IL, they do not count against the team's 40-man roster.
In the minor leagues, however, there is only one IL and that is the seven-day IL. If a minor league player is placed on the seven-day IL, he must remain there for at least seven days before he can once again be activated. Players that are on the seven-day IL, therefore, can be on it for anywhere from seven days to the entire season since that is MiLB's only IL.
The Rule 5 Draft or "Rule 5"
In order to prevent teams from stockpiling top tier talent in the minor leagues, MLB has what is called the Rule 5 draft each year at the Winter Meetings. It is here where if a team's player is not protected by being on their 40-man roster, they can be claimed by another team IF one of these two conditions are met:
A. The player was 18 years old or younger when he signed his first pro contract and this will be the fifth Rule 5 draft since he signed.
B. The player was 19 years or older when he signed his first pro contract and this is the fourth Rule 5 draft since he signed.
If a player is selected off another team's roster in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 draft, that player must remain on the active MLB roster (or injured list) for the entire season or the drafting club must attempt to return him to his original club.