The Week That Was...

So the Cubs are going to sign Scott Hairston, but since the deal isn't official we don't really have comments from TheJedi on his exact purpose. Chances are though, he'll platoon with DeJesus and Schierholtz and be the thunder off the bench late in games. And if they happen to trade Alfonso Soriano at some point, he might just be the starting left fielder. The 33-year old usually puts up OPS numbers around the mid 700's, most of it playing in pitching friendly parks like Oakland, San Diego and Citi Field, although he did start out his career in Arizona. The deal at 2/$5M with up to $1.25M in perfomance bonuses each season is reasonable enough in today's baseball economics, there's also something about another extra $1M being tacked on per year as well. It's probably bad news for Dave Sappelt's hopes of making the Opening Day roster, but doubtful the outfield will stay healthy all season, so he'll probably get his chance. If you're looking for 2 good reasons to like the deal, it's a career .825 OPS versus lefties(.867 last year) and that for his career he sees 3.85 pitches per plate appearance (closer to 4 the last 2 seasons). So another efficient, if not spectacular move by TheJedi.

And then the great 40-man mystery has been solved, although another is awaiting once they deal with Hairston's spot. But last year's Rule 5 pick-up Lendy Castillo has been DFA'd to make room for Carlos Villanueva. If no other team wishes to use up a 40-man spot on him, and he pitched rather poorly this winter, he'll likely be outrighted and wander the Cubs's farm system this season.

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Some clarification on what it means when a player is Designated for Assignment:


Somebody sent me an E-MAIL asking if Lendy Castillo can be added back to the 40-man roster after being Designated for Assignment, and the answer is...


Not in this case at this time.


1. If a player is Designated for Assignment and is replaced on the 40-man roster by another player, the club has ten days to either trade, release, or outright the player to the minors. He cannot be returned to the 40-man roster. However, if he is sent outright to the minors (after waivers have been secured), then he can be added back to the 40. But he would first have to be sent outright to the minors (after first clearing waivers). And unless the player had some leverage when he was outrighted (like he has the right to elect free-agency if outrighted, and he agreed to accept the outright assignment only if the team agrees in advance to return him to the 40-man roster within a certain period of time), there would be no point in returning an outrighted player to the 40-man roster unless & until the club wants to add him to their MLB Active List (25-man roster) sometime during the season, or to keep him from being a minor league free-agent or because he is eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft after the conclusion of the season.


2. If a player is Designated for Assignment but is NOT replaced on the 40-man roster by another player, the designated player must be either outrighted, traded, released, or RETURNED TO THE 40-MAN ROSTER within 10 days. But the latter option is only available if the player is not replaced on the 40-man roster by another player. And Lendy Castillo was replaced on the 40 by Carlos Villanueva, so the Cubs cannot put L. Castillo back on their 40-man roster unless he is first sent outright to the minors, and then what's the point?


So why would a club ever DFA a player without replacing him on the 40-man roster?


There is a certain class of player who cannot be optioned to the minors until Optional Assignment Waivers have been secured.


Optional Assignment Waivers (which are revocable the first time they are requested in a given waiver period, and are good for the entire waiver period once they are secured) must be secured before a player can be optioned to the minors if the anniversary date of the player making his REGULAR SEASON debut on an MLB 25-man roster or 15-day or 60-day DL was at least three years prior to the optional assignment, or if the anniversary date was at least two years prior to the optional assignment if the the player spent one full season on optional assignment to the minors prior to making his debut, or if the anniversary date was at least one year prior to the optional assignment if the player spent two full seasons on optional assignment to the minors prior to the player making his debut on an MLB 25-man roster (or DL).  


Ian Stewart is one of these players. He made his debut on an MLB regular season Active List (25-man roster) on August 11, 2007. He has one minor league option left. And he has not accrued five years of MLB Service Time (he is at 4+050 through the 2012 season), so he cannot refuse an optional assignment to the minors.


So let's say Stewart is the Cubs starting 3rd baseman coming out of Spring Training, but he struggles at the plate, and the Cubs (let's say) trade Matt Garza to Texas for Mike Olt on May 15th. The Cubs decide that they want to option Stewart to Iowa and replace him on the 25-man roster by Rafael Dolis (who was on optional assignment at Iowa), since the trade involved the Cubs exchanging a pitcher for a position player. It takes two days for Optional Assignment Waivers to be secured (presuming he is not claimed), so in this case the Cubs would have to DFA Stewart (which gets him off both the 25-man roster AND the 40-man roster for up to ten days), while they wait for Optional Assignment Waivers to be secured.   


Since Stewart was not replaced on the 40-man roster by another player when he was Designated for Assignment (Dolis was already on the 40-man roster, he just wasn't on the 25-man roster), he can be returned to the 40-man roster and optioned to the minors once Optional Assignmernt Waivers have been secured. If he were to be claimed off Optional Assignment Waivers (which is rare, because the waivers are revocable), he can be returned to the 40-man roster (and 25-man roster) and a different player can be optioned to the minors to make room for Dolis (or Dolis even could be sent back down if the there are no other choices).


So that's why & how a player might be Designated for Assignment and then returned to the 40-man roster.


Note that if a player is being optioned to the minors using a 4th minor league option (which can happen with Rafael Dolis this season), Optional Assignment Waivers are NOT required, even though the player's anniversary date for making his debut on an MLB 25-man roster (or DL) might otherwise require Optional Assignment Waivers to be secured.


Also, while it rarely happens, occasionally a player who has accrued more than five years of MLB Service Time will accept an Optional Assignment to the minors. Dioner Navarro did this last season while with Cincinnati, and when that happened, the Reds first had to secure Optional Asignment Waivers on Navarro before he could be optioned to the minors. We know that the Reds secured Optional Asignment Waivers on Navarro sometime before they decided to option him out, because he was not Designated for Assignment prior to being optioned. (Optional Assignment Waivers can be requested at any time in a waiver period, they are good for the entire waiver period once they are secured, and the player does not have to be optioned to the minors after the waivers are secured).


At this time, Ian Stewart, David DeJesus, Matt Garza, Carlos Marmol, Dioner Navarro, Alfonso Soriano, and Carlos Villanueva will require Optional Assignment Waivers before they can be optiioned to the minors (DeJesus, Garza, Marmol, Navarro, Soriano, and Villanueva are the only players with five-plus years of MLB Service Time on the Cubs 40-man roster who have options left), although only Stewart can be optioned without having to give his permission. Then on April 4th James Russell will join them, because he made his debut on an MLB regular season 25-man roster on April 4, 2010. Like Stewart, Russell cannot refuse an Optional Assignment to the minors until he has accrued at least five years (5+000) of MLB Service Time. (BTW, Starlin Castro reaches his 3rd anniversary on May 7th, and Darwin Barney reaches his 3rd anniversary on August 12th... Welington Castillo and Travis Wood are out of options, so their anniversary dates are moot).           

Arizona Phil... who is next to get booted from the 40 man roster to make room for Scott Hairston?
Other than
1) a trade that brings back a non-40 man roster minor leaguer for someone on the 40 man roster or a 2 for 1 trade;
2) your Ian Stewart scenario; or
3) the wait until they can 60-day DL Baker or Arodys Vizcaino scenario.

As I see it, the candidates are: Campana, Sappelt, Raley, Dolis (or someone I've glossed over). I'm thinking Brooks Raley is next.

CUBSTER: I would say one of the three choices you mentioned first is more likely (with stringing out the Hairston signing until they can place Vizcaino or Baker on the 60-day DL the most-likely scenario), but if they just plain DFA somebody and then try to outright the player (and it's not Ian Stewart), I would say it will be Brooks Raley. 


It probably would be Chris Rusin if it wasn't that he is a Draft-Excluded player and can't be outrighted until 20 days prior to Opening Day (although he could be given his Outright Release), but I suspect the Cubs would rather take a chance that they can sneak Raley through waivers, due to the time of the year and the fact that only four MLB clubs have slots open on their 40-man roster.


BTW, if Outright Assignment Waivers can be secured and he is outrighted, Raley is not eligible to elect free-agency, and he can't be a minor league FA until post-2015, although he would be eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft unless he is added back to the 40-man roster in the meantime. So the Cubs would retain control over Raley for another three seasons if he were to be outrighted (presuming he doesn't get selected in the Rule 5 Draft).


I suppose either Campana, Clevenger or Dolis could get moved, but more-likely in a trade for a similar-type player not on the other team's 40-man roster, rather than by placing one of them on Outright Waivers. (And Dolis can't be outrighted until he has signed his 2013 contract, and I don't know if he has).


Normally this is the time of the year when you can gamble on getting a player through waivers, with most clubs having pretty-much solidified their roster, and with only four clubs (WAS, SF, NYM, and ATL) having openings on their 40-man roster. However, the Mets might very well claim both Clevenger and Campana if they get the opportunity. (Clevenger would be an upgrade over Anthony Recker, and Campana could conceivably be the Mets starting CF).


The main thing is, you don't want to wait until the start of Spring Training to try and sneak a guy through waivers, because a club whose 40-man roster is full can claim a player off waivers and easily make room for the player by placing an injured player (usually a surgery rehabber) on the 60-day DL. The time to act (place a player on Outright Waivers) is within the next 15 days. 


BTW, if the Cubs claim Chris Carpenter off waivers from Boston (presuming he isn't traded first), they will not be able to string that move along until the start of Spring Training (as they can do with the Hairston signing). A player claimed off waivers must be added to the claiming club's 40-man roster immediately. And if a club whose 40-man roster is full claims a player and then places him back on Outright Waivers again to try and outright him themselves, another (different) player still must be Designated for Assignment when the waiver claim is awarded. That's how and why the Cubs lost Jeff Beliveau to Texas (the Cubs claimed Sandy Rosario and DFA'd Beliveau to make room on the 40 for Rosario, and then they placed Rosario back on Outright Waivers again to try and outright him to the minors themselves, and Rosario was claimed by the Giants).

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