The DeWitt Options
IF-OF Blake DeWitt was Designated for Assignment on Sunday to make room on the Cubs 25-man roster for LHP Travis Wood, and in the process DeWitt (at least temporarily -- see below) has been removed from the Cubs MLB Reserve List (40-man roster), although he will continue to get paid and accrue MLB Service Time while he is on the Designated List.
The Cubs now have ten days to decide his fate.
While many Cub fans couldn't care less and probably just wish he would go away, here are the Cubs options (and DeWitt's options):
DeWitt had a hot Spring Training at the plate and might have drawn some interest from other MLB clubs at that time, but he has played so poorly since the start of the regular season that it is very unlikely that there would be much trade interest in him now.
So a trade is not likely.
If the Cubs decide to release DeWitt, he would be placed on Outright Release Waivers where any other MLB club could claim him for $1 and assume 100% of his remaining salary.
If DeWitt were to be claimed off Release Waivers, he would have the right to refuse the assignment and be a free-agent, but if he does that, he receives no termination pay.
However, clubs almost never claim players off Release Waivers because it's better to just wait for the player to clear waivers and then sign him for the pro-rated portion of the MLB minimum salary, sticking the player's previous club with paying the balance of the player's salary.
So the Cubs will almost certainly not release DeWitt.
If the Cubs decide to try and outright DeWitt to the minors and he is claimed off Outright Waivers, the claiming club would pay the Cubs $20,000 and assume 100% of DeWitt's contract and all of what remains of his 2012 $1.1M salary (about $900K). The Cubs would be absolutely ecstatic if this happens.
If DeWitt were to be placed on Outright Assignment Waivers and not be claimed, the Cubs could outright him to the minors (just as they did prior to the start of Spring Training).
However, per Article XX-D of the CBA, any player on an MLB 40-man roster who has accrued at least three years of MLB Service Time and/or has been outrighted to the minors previously in his career (and DeWitt fits both criteria) has the right to decline an Outright Assignment and be a free-agent immediately (and receive no termination pay), or accept the Outright Assignment (and continue to be paid his salary) and defer the right to be a free-agent until after the conclusion of the MLB regular season.
So if Outright Waivers are secured and the Cubs outright DeWitt to the minors (as they did prior to the start of Spring Training), DeWitt would have the right (per Article XX-D of the CBA) to either decline the Outright Assignment and be a free-agent immediately (and receive no termination pay), or accept the Outright Assignment and continue to be paid per the terms of his 2012 guaranteed contract, deferring free-agency until after the conclusion of the MLB regular season. (NOTE: DeWitt would lose the right to be an Article XX-D minor league free-agent post-2012 if he defers the right to be a free-agent and then is added back to an MLB 40-man roster prior to the conclusion of the 2012 MLB regular season).
This was the same choice DeWitt had when he was outrighted prior to Spring Training, and at that time he opted to accept the Outright Assignment to AAA Iowa and continue to be paid his $1.1M salary, with an NRI to Spring Training giving him a chance to make the Cubs MLB Opening Day 25-man roster (which he did).
While the Cubs would probably hope that he would elect free-agency immediately if outrighted (and save the Cubs about $900K in 2012 payroll in the process), DeWitt likely would make the same choice this time should he be outrighted again. He would accept the Outright Assignment and defer free-agency until the conclusion of the MLB regular season. (His agent would insist!).
And finally, the Cubs could elect to option DeWitt to AAA Iowa.
But why would the Cubs DFA DeWitt if they just want to option him to the minors?
Some players on an MLB 40-man roster who do not have enough MLB Service Time to refuse an Optional Assignment to the minors but who have minor league options remaining still cannot be optioned to the minors until Optional Assignment Waivers are secured, and Blake DeWitt is one of them. (Ian Stewart, Chris Volstad, and Randy Wells are the other Cubs in this category). That's because DeWitt, Stewart, Volstad, and Wells made their debut on an MLB 25-man roster more than three years ago.
If a player is claimed off Optional Assignment Waivers, the waivers are (like Trade Waivers in August-September) revocable (meaning the waivers can be recalled if a claim is made). so players placed on Optional Assignment Waivers are almost never claimed. (The claiming club also assumes 100% of the player's remaining salary, another reason not to make a claim).
Once secured, Optional Assignment Waivers are good for the balance of that waiver period, so the player can be recalled and then optioned back to the minors again and again (as many times as the club desires) during that waiver period without waivers needing to be secured each time.
A new waiver period commenced last Friday (the 31st day of the 2012 MLB regular season), and so the Cubs probably had not gotten around to securing Optional Assignment Waivers yet, Thus the Cubs had no choice but to DFA DeWitt in order to open up a slot on the 25-man roster for Travis Wood, while they wait a couple of days to secure Optional Assignment Waivers on DeWitt. (It takes two business days to get a player through waivers).
So because Outright Assignment Waivers need to be secured before DeWitt can be optioned to the minors, and since the Cubs presently have one slot open on their 40-man roster so that DeWitt's roster slot is not needed for another player (and probably won't be needed until September), don't be surprised if the Cubs ultimately just option DeWitt to the minors sometime later this week, once Optional Assignment Waivers have been secured.