The 40-Man Roster: What Does It Mean?

18 04 2011

Dellin Betances of the Trenton Thunder is on the New York Yankees 40-man roster.

If you look back at my last post, you’ll notice that several players on the Trenton Thunder roster are part of the New York Yankees’ “40-man roster”. Besides having some sort of special designation, what does that mean for those guys? Are they major-leaguers or not?

For some fans, the explanation of the 40-man roster and its quirks can be just as bumpy as the road to the majors itself. So grab some popcorn and dig in to the batter’s box as we try to explain how this all works.

Contracts

Most minor-league players are offered a standard Minor League Contract. This is by far the most common kind of contract in the minor leagues. If a major-league team wanted to call up a player who is signed to a minor-league contract, they would have to purchase the contract from the minor-league club and make room on their roster (be it by trade, release, or sending someone else down to the minors).

That being said, some teams offer select minor-leaguer Major League Contracts. Essentially, these minor-leaguers would be a part of the major-league club’s aforementioned 40-man roster.

As a part of the 40-man roster, these players are essentially emergency reserve players—the major-league club designates them as players who can appear in a game at any time. From the start of the season until September 1, only 25 of these 40 players are allowed to be with the major-league team at any time (leaving the other 15 to be “reserves” in the minors). Come September 1, though, all 40 are able to join the major league team.

Minimum salary varies depending on how many years a player has been on the 40-man roster. Players who have spent either one year on a 40-man roster or have appeared in 1 major-league game earn a minimum salary of $67,300. For other players on the 40-man roster who don’t meet these requirements, the minimum salary is $33,700.

40-Man Roster And Options

Players who are on the 40-man roster have three “option years”. When a major-league club exercises an option on a player, they’re basically sending him down to the minors without going through the required waiver process (in which case other teams have a chance to take the player).

A team can call up and send down a player as many times as they want during one option year, but the player has to spend a minimum of 10 days in the minors before being called back up to the majors. If a player on the 40-man is in the minors for more than 20 days, it counts as an option. (The exception to this is if a player is rehabbing an injury, since he techincally isn’t on the roster during a stint on the Disabled List.)

What Does The 40-Man Roster Mean For Minor Leaguers?

Basically, the 40-man roster is a way for major-league teams to exert control their top prospects. By signing a young prospect to the 40-man roster, they are protecting them from being signed by another team in the Rule 5 draft. The team can stash the prospect in the minors so he can work on his game, and then call him up if/when they need to.

The player also benefits from being on 40-man roster. They essentially have a guaranteed spot on a major-league roster, and are that much closer to the big time than their non-40-man roster teammates. They also have the benefit of being members of the MLB Players’ Association. Whether or not they get the call during the middle of the season is one thing, but come the last month of the season they will automatically join the major-league club.

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