Rule 11 – Optional Assignments


General Summary


In general, a team may only keep a player in the minor leagues for three seasons after that player is added to the team's 40-man roster. Each of those years is considered an "option year" or an "optional assignment." Thus, in other words, a player is said to have three "options" or "option years."
  • Prior to being placed on a team's 40-man roster, a player is not considered to be on optional assignment, but simply under minor league contract.
  • Generally, once a player is added to the 40-man roster, that player must either be: (1) added to the active 25-man roster for the major league team; (2) placed on an inactive list; or (3) on an optional assignment to the minors. If a player is added to the 40-man roster during the off-season, the team has until the first game of the upcoming season to decide whether the player will be optioned.
  • Once the player has spent twenty consecutive days on optional assignment, that player's "option year" burns. However, it is important to note that during an option year, the player is free to move up and down between the major leagues and the minor leagues, while only burning one "option" for that season, regardless of the number of times that the player moves up and down from the minors to the majors. For example, if a player is on his third option year in 2009, and his third option has already burned for 2009, the team remains free to option the player to the minors as many times as it desires during the 2009 season.
  • If a player spends less than twenty days in the minors in a given season, the option does not burn for that season.
  • In limited circumstances, a player may have a fourth option year. Players are eligible for a fourth option season if they have been optioned in three seasons but have not yet amassed five full seasons of professional service time.
  • Once a player has burned all three option years, that player may generally no longer be sent to the minor leagues without first being designated for assignment, removed from the 40-man roster, and clearing waivers. Options are not reset if an optioned player is designated for assignment.
  • If a player is designated for assignment without ever having been optioned for that season, an option year does not burn. However, under those circumstances, a player is often only designated for assignment in the first place because the player has no remaining option years.

Definition


In general, all assignments of players to the minors must be absolute. However, an Optional Assignment is an assignment from an MLB club to a minor league affiliate with the right to recall. The Optional Assignment or option must be exercised on or before the next October 1 and must be approved by the Commissioner.

Limitations on Recall


  1. Ten Day Rule – A club may not recall an optioned player until ten days of the season have passed since the optioned player reported to the affiliate, unless the club obtains approval from the Commissioner and one of the following condition applies: (a) the player is replacing a player placed on the disabled list or the bereavement list; (b) the affiliate’s season, including playoffs, has concluded during the 10 day period; or (c) the optioned player is being assigned to the active list of another MLB club.
  2. Certain Optionee Clubs – The recall of an optioned player for immediate service is prohibited if the MLB club is affiliated with any other club in the affiliate’s league, absent approval of the Commissioner.
  3. Recall to Request Waivers – An optioned player may be recalled to request waivers and still continue to play for the minor league affiliate. If waivers are obtained, the player may be assigned to any club within 72 hours or the waiver expires. If waivers are not obtained and a request is withdrawn, the player may be re-optioned.
  4. Notice to Player – The club recalling an optioned player shall give that player and the Commissioner notice in writing.

Limitations on Optional Assignments


  • A player may not be optioned in more than three seasons. However, if a player is optioned for a total of less than 20 days in a given season, the player shall not be charged with an option in connection with this limitation. A player is eligible for a fourth option season if he has been optioned in three seasons but has not yet amassed five full seasons of professional baseball experience. For the purpose of this exception, a full season is one in which the player is on any professional roster for at least 90 days. Time spent on inactive lists does not count toward the 90 day requirement.
  • No optional agreements are permitted between MLB clubs.
  • If an optioned player has played 3 months at a single minor league level, and that player is then optioned to a lower level, he must be paid at the rate of the higher level.

Number


The maximum number of optioned players a team may have at one time is 16. However, players that sign major league contracts directly following the Rule 4 draft do not count against this limit during that player’s first season.

Closed Period


No player shall be optioned during the off-season until the first permissible day of spring training the following season as set by the basic agreement.

Salary Arrears


The optioning club is responsible for the salary due to the player.

Salary on Option or Recall


During an option, the player shall be paid at the rate stated in the player’s MLB contract for minor league service, or at the minimum minor league service rate set forth in the basic agreement. Upon recall, the player’s contract and salary shall be in full force as it was before the option.

Salary Between Season Openings


If a player is optioned to the minors to start the MLB season, he must be paid his MLB salary until the season of the team to which he is assigned to begins, providing that the player promptly reports to the minor league club. If the minor league season begins first, he may be paid at the minor league rate.

Player Loans


Player loans between MLB clubs are prohibited. All rights to recall cease upon assignment to another team.

Reacquiring Player


  • If a player is optioned by an MLB club to a minor league club, the player’s contract may be reacquired at any time during the year except (a) from October 19 to the date of the Rule 5 Draft or (b) within ten days of the outright assignment if the assignment was made during the season.
  • The team may immediately re-acquire an optioned player during the season if the team receives approval from the Commissioner and one of the following applies: (a) the player is replacing a player placed on the disabled or the bereavement list; (b) the affiliate’s season, including playoffs, has concluded during the 10 day period; or (c) the optioned player is being assigned to the active list of another MLB cub.
  • If a player with options remaining is optioned and later reacquired by the same club more than 20 days later, the option year is burned.
  • Players are not officially credited with options until the commencement of the season, regardless of the number of time the player was optioned during that year.
  • A player may not be credited with more than one option in any given season.
  • No club will be charged with more than one option on a player in any given season.