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7 Interesting Facts About Designated For Assignment Rule in MLB


  • Strategic Roster Management: Designating a player for assignment (DFA) allows MLB teams to free up a spot on their 40-man roster and provides a period of seven days to trade, release, or waive the player, making it a crucial tool for managing roster flexibility and team performance
  • Financial and Development Considerations: DFA decisions involve significant financial implications, as the original team remains responsible for the player’s salary if unclaimed. It also allows teams to promote promising talent and manage payroll effectively, balancing immediate needs with long-term development.


It’s midseason, and the team just DFA’d their star third baseman. Fans are buzzing, wondering why the front office would cut ties with a player they signed to a multi-million dollar deal just last year. In the clubhouse, teammates are packing for a road trip, whispering about trade rumors and roster moves. The manager has a tough call to make, balancing the team’s future with the pressure to win now. Why would a team pay a player to leave in the middle of a playoff race? Let’s unravel the strategy behind these high-stakes decisions in MLB.

What is Designated For Assignment (DFA)?

DFA is a procedural term in Major League Baseball (MLB) used when a team wants to remove a player from their 40-man roster. Here’s a breakdown of how it works:

  1. Removal from Roster: When a player is DFA’d, they are immediately removed from the team’s 40-man roster. This move is often made to clear space for another player, such as a prospect being called up or a newly acquired player.
  2. Seven-Day Window: After being DFA’d, the team has seven days to decide what to do with the player. During this period, the team can trade the player, release him, or place him on waivers.
  3. Waivers: If placed on waivers, other MLB teams have the opportunity to claim the player. If another team claims him, they assume responsibility for the remainder of his contract.
  4. Outright Assignment: If the player clears waivers (meaning no other team claims him), the original team can outright him to the minor leagues. The player can accept this assignment or reject it if he has enough service time (more than three years in MLB) or has been outrighted before. Rejecting the assignment makes him a free agent.
  5. Release: If the team releases the player, he becomes a free agent and can sign with any team. The original team remains responsible for the remainder of his contract, minus any amount the player earns from a new team, which is usually the league minimum.
  6. Financial Responsibility: Regardless of whether the player is traded, outrighted, or released, the original team is generally on the hook for the remaining salary unless another team claims him off waivers.

DFA decisions are complex and strategic, balancing roster flexibility, player performance, and financial considerations.

7 Interesting Facts about DFA

Sure, here are seven interesting facts about the Designated for Assignment (DFA) process in Major League Baseball (MLB):

  1. DFA Clock: Once a player is designated for assignment, the team has seven days (reduced from ten days as of the 2017-2021 collective bargaining agreement) to decide the player’s fate. During this time, the team can trade the player, release him, or place him on waivers.
  2. Roster Flexibility: DFA’ing a player immediately frees up a spot on the team’s 40-man roster. This can be crucial for teams needing to make room for a returning player from the injured list, a new acquisition, or a minor league prospect ready for the majors.
  3. Waiver Claims: If a player is placed on waivers during the DFA period, other teams have the opportunity to claim him. If a team claims the player, they assume responsibility for the remainder of his contract, which can be a significant financial consideration.
  4. Outright Assignment: If the player clears waivers (meaning no team claims him), the original team can outright him to the minor leagues. However, players with more than three years of MLB service time or who have been previously outrighted can reject this assignment and choose free agency instead.
  5. Financial Implications: When a player is outrighted or released, the original team is still responsible for paying the remainder of his contract, unless another team claims him off waivers. If the player signs with a new team after being released, the new team only needs to pay the league minimum, with the original team covering the rest of the owed salary.
  6. Second Chance: DFA can sometimes act as a wake-up call or second chance for players. Some players who clear waivers and accept an outright assignment to the minors can work on their performance and eventually make a successful return to the majors.
  7. Strategic Moves: Teams often use the DFA process strategically, not only to improve their roster but also to manage their payroll and future talent pipeline. By DFA’ing underperforming or redundant players, teams can make way for promising talent and better allocate their financial resources.

These facts highlight the complexity and strategic importance of the DFA process in MLB, illustrating how teams balance performance, finances, and player development in their roster decisions.

Can a team DFA at any time?

A team can designate a player for assignment (DFA) at any time during the season. Here are some key points about the timing and circumstances under which a player can be DFA’d:

  1. Regular Season: Teams frequently use the DFA process during the regular season to manage their 40-man roster. This can happen at any point during the season when they need to make room for a new player, be it due to a trade, a player returning from the injured list, or a minor leaguer being called up.
  2. Offseason: Players can also be DFA’d during the offseason. This often occurs when teams need to make roster adjustments to protect certain players from the Rule 5 Draft or to prepare for free-agent signings and trades.
  3. Injuries and Performance: DFA can be used when a player is underperforming or returning from an injury and the team decides they need to adjust their roster. This allows the team to replace underperforming players with potentially better options.
  4. Contractual Considerations: Sometimes, financial strategy plays a role. A team might DFA a player to manage payroll or to strategically position themselves for future transactions.
  5. Roster Crunch: In moments of roster crunch, such as just before the trade deadline or during playoff pushes, DFA is a tool to optimize the roster for immediate needs.

DFA During Playoffs

During the playoffs, the rules regarding Designated for Assignment (DFA) are slightly different:

  1. Postseason Roster Rules: MLB teams must set their postseason rosters before the start of each playoff series. Once a player is on the playoff roster, they generally remain on it for the duration of that series unless they are injured.
  2. DFA in Playoffs: While a player can technically be DFA’d during the playoffs, it is uncommon. Teams are more likely to make such moves in the lead-up to the playoffs rather than during them, as the postseason roster is more stable. Any player DFA’d during the playoffs would not be eligible to be replaced on the postseason roster unless they are injured.
  3. Injury Replacements: If a player on the playoff roster is injured and unable to continue, the team can replace him with another player from the 40-man roster. This is one of the few scenarios where roster adjustments, including DFA decisions, might happen during the playoffs.
  4. Strategic Considerations: Teams are more strategic and cautious about roster moves during the playoffs. The focus is on maximizing the current roster’s potential rather than making long-term adjustments.

In summary, while DFA is possible during the playoffs, it is rare and usually only considered in specific circumstances, such as injuries, where roster adjustments are necessary. The postseason roster rules and the strategic nature of playoff baseball typically lead teams to make their DFA decisions before the playoffs begin.