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Blue Jays roster notes: Michael Saunders reaches service time milestone

From the day we arrive in the big leagues / And blinking, step up to the plate...

Minor Leaguer

The Circle of Life

It's being D-F-Aed!
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On a roster somewhere
In the majors
Or be outrighted!

At the time of writing, Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays have designated a total of nine players for assignment in 2015, ending their lives on the 40-man roster. Unlike actually dying[citation needed], some players can come back on the roster after being DFAed, like Chris Colabello and Steve Tolleson did.

Collabello and Tolleson's cases reminded me of the song "Circle of Life" from The Lion King, probably because I re-watched part of that movie on TV a couple weeks ago. Colabello was first DFAed back in February when the Blue Jays traded for Jayson Aquino. When he was called up last week, Jayson Aquino (who was sent to the Pirates for cash considerations) was the one to be DFAed. Tolleson lost his roster spot when Michael Saunders was reactivated from the disabled list, and after a string of roster moves to "cheat" the system, was brought back onto the roster when the team placed Saunders back on the DL.

Five Year Mission: To Refuse Assignment

To little fanfare--perhaps because most people were focused on his health--Michael Saunders achieved an important career milestone this weekend by reaching five years of major league service. Brett Cecil achieved the same distinction in late April.

Being a five-year major leaguer gives Saunders and Cecil quite a bit more control with respect to being sent to the minor leagues. According to our Option and Outrights Status chart, Saunders had only been optioned in two seasons in his career, so the Blue Jays could have optioned him unilaterally earlier this season. However, he now has to give the club permission to be sent to the minor leagues (except for injury rehab stints), even on an optional assignment. Both he and Cecil have never been outrighted, so they both could've been sent off the roster and to the minor leagues had they cleared waivers. Now, they can just refuse the assignment, and force the club to keep them on the 25-man roster, or to release them and pay them the rest of the season's salary. Essentially the Blue Jays won't be able to unilaterally send either of them to the minors without their consent.

Neither Cecil nor Saunders were in any danger of being sent down, but Josh Thole is also close to his fifth year of service. At the time of writing Thole has accumulated 4 years and 102 days of service time. If he spends 70 more days in the majors (a service year is 172 days long), the Blue Jays will need his permission before optioning him back to the minors.

Justin Smoak, who is out of options, has 4 years and 112 days of service as of the time of writing. If he stays on the big league roster (including time on the disabled list), Smoak's fifth year will be achieved on July 9.

Players who reach three years of service time cannot refuse to be outrighted yet, but they can elect free agency immediately upon being outrighted or at the end of the season of their outright should they remain off the 40-man roster. Electing free agency immediately means the player gives up what's owed in the rest of his contract, but sometimes freedom is worth that price.

Josh Donaldson is the only Blue Jays player who has gained this right since the beginning of the season, but Drew Hutchison is only nine days away. Aaron Loup and Steve Delabar can also reach three years of service this season. None of these players are in any danger of being outrighted though.

Note: Service times on the Option and Outright chart reflects the amount of service accumulated as of January 2015  and those numbers will not be updated until next year.

New Waiver Period

On May 4 the Blue Jays recalled Steve Delabar from the minors, who is on his third--and last--season in which he could be optioned. The Blue Jays could have sent him right back down to the minors that day, or May 5, but they wouldn't have been able to on May 6 or 7.

Delabar made his major league debut in 2011, which was over three calendar years ago, which means that even though he has one option remaining this year, he has to pass through optional waivers in order to be sent down to the minors. Unlike outright waivers, the 30 Major League clubs have a "gentlemen's agreement" to never claim anyone on optional waivers, meaning that clubs have the de facto free rights to send any player with options remaining (and fewer than five years of service) to the minors.

This type of waivers generally don't impact in any way; however the optional waivers the Blue Jays secured for Delabar in spring training (in order to send him to triple-A to start the season) expired at the end of the 30th day of the season, which was May 5. A new waiver period began on May 6 and the club would have to request new optional waivers for Delabar in order to option him again, and because waivers take 48 hours to secure, the earliest time he could've been sent down would be just past midnight on May 8. The existence of these (essentially) useless waiver periods didn't likely how the club handled Delabar this time, but it did affect how the Jays dealt with Jesse Chavez in 2012 and Bobby Koercky in 2014.

New optional waivers will also have to be obtained for Josh Thole before they can be sent down.

Minor League Signings

In case you missed it, the Blue Jays signed Joel Pineiro to a minor league deal--a deal so minor that it didn't even merit its own post here. Pineiro is 36 and was apparently still pitching in affiliated ball last year, despite not having made a major league appearance since 2011. He is minor league depth at his point.

The Giants will reportedly ink the pitcher formerly known as R.R. Cool Jay to a minor league deal, according to Bob Elliott. Ricky Romero was recently released from the Blue Jays as he had not been recovering well from his knee injuries. Romero, who hasn't pitched in a game since taken out of his start with the Bisons last June 1, was paid $7.75 million this year and will be owed a $600,000 buyout for 2016.


If you are interested in learning more about MLB transactions, or would like a quick reference to which players can be optioned, consider adding the following pages to your browser's bookmarks for quick access. I refer to these pages almost daily.