Those Darn Waiver Rules

Tom DubberkeCorrespondent IApril 4, 2010

In the last two days, I have commented on the fact that the A’s just designated for assignment Jack Cust and the Pirates have designated for assignment Ramon Vazquez.  However, their situations differ slightly based on their respective amounts of major league service time.

Cust appears to have less than five years of major league service time.  Under MLB’s current collective bargaining agreement, this means that if he clears waivers (and he almost certainly will given his guaranteed $2.65 million salary this year) the A’s can send him to AAA Sacramento without his consent.  Cust may not like it, and he could request his release.  If he does so, however, he would have to forfeit his guaranteed contract in exchange for the A’s agreeing to release him, although I suspect that how much he would actually forfeit may be negotiable.

The upshot is that Cust is likely to play next for AAA Sacramento, the A’s top farm team.

On the other hand, Ramon Vazquez appears to have more than five years of major league service time.  This means that even if he clears waivers (and he almost certainly will given his $2 million guaranteed contract), the Pirates cannot send him to AAA without his written consent.  If Vazquez refuses to give his consent, the Pirates will have no choice but to keep him on their major league roster or release him.

Assuming they release him, any other major league team can sign Vazquez for a pro-rated portion of the major league minimum of $400,000, and the Pirates will be on the hook for whatever remains of his 2010 contract for $2 million.  Thus, players with five years of service time almost always reject assignment to the minor leagues, because once they force their release one of the other 29 teams is usually willing to scoop them up at the lowest possible price for a major league player.

That being the case, the Pirates’ best scenario is probably to trade Vazquez and $1.4 million dollars to another team for a player to be named later.  It’s unlikely that any other team would offer much more than that, since Vazquez can be signed so cheaply after his release.  The reason to pay more than the minimum and give up a player to be named later is that once Vazquez hits the open market, he may well have more than one suitor interested in signing him.

I always have a hard time keeping track of the waiver rules, so I hope the discussion above is useful to you also.