After Friday’s loss to the Kansas City Royals, the Toronto Blue Jays announced that they have recalled Marcus Stroman to make Satuday’s start. To make room for him on the 25-man roster, reliever Bobby Korecky—who was just called up on Friday—was designated for assignment despite throwing a perfect 1.1 IP. However, the Blue Jays did not DFA Korecky to remove him from the 40-man roster (which would not have made any sense as they didn't need to add anyone onto the roster), so we hypothesized that they did so because in order to option him to triple-A, Korecky needs to go through optional waivers.
On Saturday morning, Bluebird Banter received confirmation from a source that Korecky has indeed been placed on optional waivers and is expected to clear and be returned to the Bisons by next week.
In the vast majority of cases, a designation for assignment leads to one of three outcomes which removes a player from the 40-man roster: outright to the minor leagues, release to grant the player free agency, or a trade to another team. However, there are two other possible choices an organization can make on a designated player in some special circumstances.
In this case, the Blue Jays want to keep Bobby Korecky under their control—they just didn’t want him on the active roster. But in order to send him down to the minors, Korecky has to go through an arcane procedure known as optional waivers. Even though Korecky had an option remaining (see our option and outright status chart), he has to go through waivers because he had made is major league debut more than three calendar years ago.
Optional waivers is like the appendix of baseball transactions; it’s there but it’s quite useless, but not bothersome enough (in most cases) for anyone to actively attempt to remove it. When a player is placed on optional waivers, any team can theoretically make a claim. If a claim is made, the player can be pulled back off waivers, but then he would not be allowed to be sent to the minors. Because no team would want to be blocked from sending players to the minors like that, there is a "gentlemen's agreement" between all the general managers in the league to not claim players on optional waivers. In fact, there is no known instance of anyone being claimed that way. Remember when the Red Sox signed Stephen Drew last week and assigned him to the minors? Drew needed to go through optional waivers, so theoretically a general manager who wanted to screw the Red Sox could've claimed Drew and forced him to get ready for the season in the major leagues.
The reason why Korecky was designated for assignment is that it takes time for waivers to go through the system (at least 48 hours). Players cannot be placed optional waivers until they have been added onto the 40-man roster. Since Korecky's contract was selected on Friday morning, that was the earliest time the Jays could've placed him on waivers. But they needed a roster spot by Friday evening, so Korecky was placed on the designated list to buy some time.
So in summary, Bobby Korecky will be sent back to Buffalo on an optional assignment, and will remain on the 40-man roster. Like all other players on optional assignments, he will need to remain in Buffalo for at least 10 days after he reports to the Bisons before he gets recalled (unless there is an injury). If he does get recalled and needs to be sent down again, he would not need to go through optional waivers again until August 1.
While rare, this transaction has been used in recent years by the Blue Jays.
Some of us may remember Jesse Chavez’s brief tenure with the Blue Jays, others may have missed it, still others probably have been actively trying to forget it (sorry). In August 2012, Chavez was designated for assignment to make room for Chad Jenkins. At that time the media was very confused about the transaction. But it was a very similar situation to Korecky, except that it had something to do with waiver periods that you can read about here.
UPDATE (June 1)
Korecky has cleared optional waivers and has been assigned to the Bisons, according to the Toronto Star's Brendan Kenedy.
Some roster housekeeping ... Bobby Korecky cleared optional waivers, was sent to Buffalo and remains on the #bluejays' 40-man roster.— Brendan Kennedy (@BKennedyStar) June 1, 2014