The Confusing Baseball Roster Rules

Baseball is a simple sport that anyone can understand. It also has some of the strangest and most complex rules of any sport. Let’s take a look at roster rules, perhaps more confusing than the NFL Catch Rule.

Currently, MLB teams have a 25-man roster (active roster) and a 40-man roster. The 25-man is made up of players on the 40-man roster. The 25-man is made up of the players who dress and are eligible to play in a game, while the 40-man includes anyone who is on a major league contract. Generally, in the case of an injury, a player is selected off the 40-man roster to fill the opening in the 25-man roster.

An active roster, beginning as of 1977, is required to have at least 24 players on the active roster, maximum of 25. In 2012, there was a slight rule change to this–on days of a doubleheader, both participating teams may call up a 26th man. The interesting part about this is that it still has to be someone from the 40-man roster. An example of this happened today (Aug 13, 2018), where the Atlanta Braves called up Touki Toussaint from Gwinnett. In order to do this, since he was the 26th man and not currently on the 25-man roster or the 40-man, they added him to the 40-man roster, optioned him to Gwinnett (on a major league contract), then added him to the active roster as the 26th man, meaning that he will go back to Gwinnett after today’s game (barring an official call-up and addition to the active roster while making a corresponding move sending someone else down to Gwinnett or DFA’ing them off the active roster.)

DFA’s are the next tricky thing. If a player is currently on the 40-man roster and the team wants to add someone else, they can DFA (designate for assignment) a player. This gives the team a 10-day period to either place on trade waivers (only 7 days to do this), trade the player, release the player, or send the player back to the minor leagues, no longer on a major league contract. Generally, they are placed on waivers. If no other team is willing to trade, they wait out to see if the player is willing to accept a minor league assignment with the current team. If they are not, the team releases the player who is now a free agent and may sign with whichever team he pleases.

Options are the last confusing rule we will cover. Players who are under their original contract generally fall into this category. The first time a player is added to a major league roster, the team is given 3 “options.” Before that confuses you, an option is what allows an MLB team to send a player to the minors after a call-up. In Touki Toussaint’s case, the team exercised his first option today. This means they have 2 more. However, each option lasts for an entire season–you can call up the player back and forth as often as you’d like and it will only use one option until the next season. When a player is optioned, he must spend 10 days with the minor league team before he can be called back up to the MLB team. In the case of a doubleheader, if the 26th man plays the first game, it takes the limit down to just 9 days as the later game counts as a day. Once a player has no options left, DFA’ing the player is the next option, in hopes that he either is traded or accepts a minor league assignment with the team.

While there are many rules to baseball, these are the basics of the strange and confusing roster rules. We hope we were able to help clarify those, especially for those of you who are confused about this (as many are), or are curious because your team is currently making moves, or you wish they were.


By Andrew Carter @AndrewC_Braves


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Andrew Carter
Grew up in Gwinnett Co. Have always been a huge Braves fan, have followed them for years. If you have any suggestions on articles, send me an email at andrew.carlton.carter@gmail.com! Follow me on Twitter @AndrewC_Braves

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