Those other rules of the game: Part II


by Jean Gabler | 7/4/09 • In a recent blog entry, I started to tell you about the rules of baseball that affect the movement of players between the major league and minor league teams. Here is a quick recap: Major league teams are limited to 25 players on their roster. They move players off that roster in one of three ways:

the knothole view is jean gabler’s blog about the minnesota twins and all things baseball.

Disabled list: Injured players are moved to a disabled list for a minimum of 15 days. Minor League assignment: Players with fewer than five years of Major League assignment can be optioned to the Minor Leagues. Put on waivers: Players who are out of options (see my previous blog entry) are put on the waiver wire for three days. If they are not claimed by another team during that time they can be sent to the Minor Leagues. What I want to cover today is player salaries. The minimum wage for Major League players this year is $400,000, which certainly is an incredible amount for doing something you love to do. However, compared to the earning potential these players have, half a million dollars is just a drop in the bucket. After three years of Major League play (or two years and 86 days), players are eligible for salary arbitration. That means that if the team and player cannot agree to a salary, they both present their cases to an arbitration panel and a contract amount for the following year is agreed upon. The 86-day rule is interesting because it affects when players will be called up from the minors: Major League teams do not want players to be eligible for arbitration any sooner than possible. That is why you will hear agents complaining to teams on behalf of their clients about players left in the minors too long. Once a player has at least six years of major league experience, he has much more control of his own destiny. These players can choose to play out their initial contracts or become free agents. As a free agent they can re-negotiate with their own team or choose to sign with a new team. If a team loses a player to free agency they are compensated by receiving draft picks from the signing team. The most famous example of this recently has been Johan Santana. Santana declared free agency, stated his intention to leave the Twins, and eventually signed with the Mets. The Twins made a trade with the Mets (receiving players including, most notably, Carlos Gomez) rather than losing Santana outright. On the other hand, that is exactly what happened with Torii Hunter, and the Twins received nothing from the Los Angeles Angels except for a couple of draft picks. Right now, much is being made of the fact that Joe Mauer has only one more year left on his contract with the Twins. The fans are calling for the Twins to sign a contract extension with Mauer this year rather than risk losing him in 2010 to free agency. The other rule I want to note is the Rule V draft. The Rule V draft (so named because the operative rule is No. 5 in the Major League rules) is basically there to prevent teams from keeping too many players in the minor leagues when other teams would be willing to have those players on their Major League roster. Again, Johan Santana is probably the most famous Rule V player the Twins have acquired. The rules are so complicated that I am referring you to Wikipedia if you are interested in learning more. So the next time the Twins make a player move, pay attention to this very important game that is being played behind the owners’ doors.

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