Clearing Up The Confusion Surrounding Chad Jenkins And Jesse Chavez Roster Moves

August 4, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Jesse Chavez (20) pitches the ball against the Oakland Athletics during the tenth inning at O.co Coliseum. The Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Oakland Athletics 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

This article is quite long and deals with a lot of detail with regards to Major League Rules. Feel free to read as much as you want, or just skip to the summary at the end. I won't be too offended.

Less than an hour before game time today, the Toronto Blue Jays announced a couple of roster moves: Chad Jenkins had been called up to the Major Leagues and that Jesse Chavez was no longer with the big club. Perhaps it was because the announcement came so close to game time, but there was some amount of confusion in the media and on the internet regarding the details of the move.

Richard Griffin of the Toronto star was one of the first to break the news with this tweet:

Then Sportsnet's Barry Davis tweeted this:

You may have noticed a bit of a discrepancy between the two tweets: Griffin had said that the Blue Jays had selected Chad Jenkins' contract, while Davis said that he was recalled. This started a bit of a confusion of whether Jenkins was on the 40-man roster prior to this move. You see, when a player is on the 40-man roster but is playing in the minor leagues, he is said to be serving an "optional assignment"--that is why when players are sent down we say they're "optioned." When that player is called up, he is recalled from the optional assignment. When a team has to add a minor league player to the 40-man roster in order to call him up, the term "selection (or purchase) of contract" is used.

I did not remember him being added at any point this season, so I was convinced that he was not on the 40-man roster, and a quick check on the New Hampshire Fisher Cats website shows that he indeed was not placed on the 40-man roster until today. Mike Wilner of Sportsnet Radio 590 The Fan mentioned in his post-game show that he thought Jenkins was already on the 40-man roster, but I am sure he was mistaken. Thus, in this this case, Richard Griffin used the more correct term. Jenkins could not have been recalled since he was never optioned. I shouldn't single out Barry Davis on the error as this is really confusing baseball semantics and many others in the media had gotten it wrong, from ESPN to the Associated Press.

Now that we have determined what had happened to Chad Jenkins, a second confusion comes up with what happened to Jesse Chavez.

When a player gets designated for assignment (DFA), like Jesse Chavez was reported to have been, I thought that he gets removed from the 40-man roster immediately in all cases. That confused me a whole lot because, according to my counting, there were just 39 players on the 40-man roster as the vacancy created by Drew Carpenter's DFA was not filled with a corresponding move. The Jays did not need to DFA Chavez to make room for Jenkins in my mind, so I sent off this tweet:

Now, my thoughts were backed up with the Blue Jays' official site's transactions page saying that Chavez was indeed optioned to AAA Las Vegas. As mentioned above, that means Chavez was not removed from the 40-man roster, just the 25-man active roster. Richard Griffin's quick piece on the Toronto Star mentions that Chavez was "sent" to Las Vegas--he would not have been sent anywhere until he was formally outrighted by the team after going through waivers if he were DFAed. At this point, I did not know that one could be DFAed without being removed from the 40-man roster.

So after seeing this, I sent a tweet asking for someone to double check that Chavez had indeed been DFAed. Barry Davis helpfully replied that indeed, Chavez was DFAed. Tom Dakers contacted someone from the Blue Jays PR department asking how many players were on the 40-man roster, and they replied that there were "40, which is why [they] had to DFA Chavez." Now, that doesn't add up because the Blue Jays only had 39 players on the roster after Drew Carpenter's DFA.

This confusion loomed over my head until after the game, when Barry Davis provided a series of tweets with comments from manager John Farrell and assistant general manager Tony LaCava:

Quite a few people on Twitter, including Davis himself, were even more confused at what was going on after these comments. But I think I have figured out what had happened after pulling up a copy of the Major League Rules (MLR).

First, let's take a look at MLR 2(k) (bolds mine):

DESIGNATED PLAYERS. When the Active List and/or Reserve List limits of a particular Major League Club have been reached, and the Club desires to acquire, sign, transfer, recall from an optional assignment or reinstate an additional player, notice must first be given to the Commissioner or the Commissioner's designee of the Club's intention to release or assign an equal number of designated players. The player(s) so designated shall be released or their contracts assigned within 10 days after such notice is given, and they shall not be eligible to participate in a championship season game after having been so designated until they are released or assigned to another Major or Minor League Club. [...]

The way I read it is that, although the majority of DFA cases removes a player from the 40-man roster (also known as the Reserve List), a club can DFA a player off of the 25-man roster (the Active List) and send him to "baseball purgatory" for up to 10 days, upon which he must be released or somehow assigned (optioned, outrighted, or traded). Thus, Jesse Chavez could still remain on the 40-man roster despite being designated for assignment. The Blue Jays have 10 days to decide what to do with him.

According to this rule, the Blue Jays could not have even removed Chavez from the 40-man roster via the DFA because its limit had not been reached before Jenkins was added.

John Farrell then mentioned something about optional waivers. He mentioned that they take 48-hours to apply for and that's why Jesse Chavez could not simply be optioned down he had to go through a DFA. Why would that be a problem when Chavez had already served an optional assignment this season?

Let's look at MLB Rule 10, which covers the topic of waivers. Waivers are essentially permission slips from the Commissioner that allow clubs to perform certain roster moves. There are four types of waivers: trade, outright, option, and unconditional release. MLBR 10(a)(4) reads (bolds mine):

Optional Assignment Waivers. Optional assignment waivers must be sought and obtained in order for a Major League Club to assign a Major League player optionally (i.e., with right of recall) to a Minor League Club, if required by Rule 10(b)(3). An Optional assignment waiver request may be revocable or irrevocable, as set forth in Rule 10(e)(4) (Restrictions on Waiver Requests). Once obtained during a waiver period set forth in Rule 10(c)(4) (Grant of Waivers and Effective Periods), Optional assignment waivers are effective for that entire waiver period.

Now, optional waivers are not required with recent call-ups, they are only required when the roster move is made three or more years after a player's first report to a Major League club (MLBR 10(b)(3)). Jesse Chavez first reported to the Pittsburgh Pirates 4 years ago, in August 2008.

So let's look at the second bolded passage, regarding waiver periods. According to MLBR 10(c)(4)(B), there are three optional waiver periods:

  1. February 16 to 5:00 pm Eastern on the 30th day of the regular season
  2. The 31st day of the regular season until 5:00 pm Eastern on July 31
  3. From August 1 until 5:00 pm Eastern on October 1

When the Blue Jays optioned Chavez on June 6, they had to have obtained a waiver to do so, but when they optioned him gain on July 15, they did not have to apply for another one since the one from earlier was still effective. However, that waiver expired at 5 pm Eastern on July 31st, and that's why a new optional waiver was needed for this most recent option. Why are there three waiver periods? I have no idea.

The problem is that the Commissioner can take his time to issue waivers. According to MLBR 10(c)(1), a club must request the waiver from the Commissioner "in writing or by approved electronic means by 2:00 pm Eastern Time during any permissible day" (it actually even specifies that "no Club may give notice of its request by telephone"). What is a permissible day? Well take a look at MLBR 10(c)(1)(A) (bolds mine):

All Times Other Than a Certain Period in Spring Training. Except as provided for in Rule 10(c)(1)(B), a permissible day, within the meaning of Rule 10(c)(1), shall be any Monday to Friday. Notices received after 2:00 p.m. on Friday shall be considered as received on Monday morning. Waiver requests shall not be accepted on Saturdays, Sundays or holidays as published by notice from the Commissioner's Office. Such requests shall be deemed received the morning of the following business day.

So, despite the 7-days-a-week operations of Major League Baseball, the Commissioner's office's waivers department does not operate on weekends and holidays. Since the Blue Jays recalled Jesse Chavez on Saturday, August 4, they cannot obtain his new optional waiver until Monday, August 6 (it is not a holiday in the United States). In order to make room on the 25-man roster for Chad Jenkins, Chavez had to be designated for assignment.

No wonder the media were so confused about what actually happened. This complex move was only made because Jesse Chavez hit the perfect storm: a) the 25-man roster was full and the Jays needed to add a player (Chad Jenkins) to it, b) Chavez needed new optional waivers in order to be sent down because the last waiver period just elapsed, and c) Chavez was recalled and removed on the same weekend.

SUMMARY: Chad Jenkins was added to the 40-man roster and was assigned to the Toronto Blue Jays (MLB). Jesse Chavez designated for assignment and was removed from the 25-man roster while remaining on the 40-man roster. He will be optioned to AAA Las Vegas after his waiver arrives from the Commissioner. The Blue Jays now have 40 players on their 40-man roster.

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