MLB Roster Rules: The 25 Man Roster and Options

With the transactions constantly going on for Major League teams, we thought it would be a good idea to go over some of the key roster rules that teams must adhere to, and help define them. First up on the list are the 25-man rosters and optional assignments.

The 25 Man Roster

Essentially, the 25 man roster is the active roster for each day's game. From the start of the season until August 31st of each season, the team can only use players on the 25 man roster in a game. As a result, players are pretty consistently added to, and removed from, the 25 man roster as team needs dictate. Some of the ways that players can be moved to/from the roster include:

  • Placing a player on the 15-day disabled list
  • Activating a player from the 15-day disabled list
  • Calling up or sending down a player in the minors
  • Signing a free agent or releasing a player

The key with the 25 man roster is this: All players on the 25 man roster must also be on the 40-man roster. No player can be added to just the 25 man roster without either already being on the 40-man roster, or added at the same time.

Options

If a player is removed from the 25 man roster and sent down to the minors, they are considered to be "optioned" to the minors. They are removed from the 25-man roster, but will remain on the 40-man roster as a result of this move. Each player has a limited number of options (3) that can be used for them. If the team has used up all of that players' options, the player will have to clear waivers prior to being sent to the minors.

Options are a bit tricky, but here's the basics:

  • If a player is sent down to the minors on April 10th, he uses an option.
  • The option is technically good for the whole year, meaning that however many times the player is called up and sent back down during that season, they still only use up 1 option.
  • If a player stays up from the time they are called up through the rest of the season, no option is used. For example, Evan Longoria still has all 3 of his options, as he has never been sent down since being called up in 2008.
  • A player must remain in the minors for 10 days before being recalled. The only exception is if the team places a player on the 25-man roster on the disabled list after the move.
  • A player is not charged with an option if the total number of days spent in the minors during a season is fewer than twenty.
  • A team can not option a player with five years or more major-league service time, without his consent. If the player refuses to be optioned, the team needs to either trade, release, or keep the player on the 25-man roster.

If a player is sent to the minors and has already used up all their options, they are required to be placed on waivers, where one of two things can occur:

  • A team will claim the player, at which point the player's contract is transferred to this new team.
  • No team puts in a claim on the player, and the original team can send him to the minors.
A fourth option is triggered for some players, instead of the traditional three. The player needs to meet the following criteria:
  • Less than five pro seasons, and optioned in three separate years.
  • Spent less than 90 days on an active pro team in a season, but not including a player who played a full season in short-season ball.
  • Can't be placed on the disabled list after accumulated 60 days of service in any particular season.
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