What does it mean to be on the 40-man roster?

Fans have endless debates about a Major League Baseball team's 40-man roster. But it's more challenging than an armchair general manager would make you think online.

San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Angels
San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Angels / Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/GettyImages
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Fans have endless debates about a Major League Baseball team's 40-man roster. But it's more challenging than an armchair general manager would make you think online.

The 40-man roster is a combination of players on the 26-man roster, the 7, 10, and 15-day injured lists, the bereavement and family medical emergency list, the paternity leave list, and some minor leaguers.

To be added to a team's 26-man roster, the player must be on the 40-man roster. If a club with a full 40-man roster wishes to promote a minor league player off the 40-man roster, the team must remove a player from the 40-man roster. The team can designate a player's contract for assignment, trade a player, release a player, or transfer a player to the 60-day injured list.

What does it mean to make the 40-man roster in MLB?

A player on the 40-man roster who does not open the season on the 26-man roster must be optioned to the minor leagues.

Players typically have three option years, although a fourth could sometimes be granted. A player out of options must be designated for assignment, which removes them from the 40-man roster. Once the player passes through outright waivers, they become eligible to be sent to the minors.

Once a player has spent at least 20 days in the minors on an optional assignment, one of his option years is expended. Only one minor league option is used per season, regardless of how many times a player is optioned to and from the minors during a given season.

A player may be optioned five times per season. After that, the player requires outright assignment waivers to assign the player to the minor leagues.

The 40-man roster is an essential distinction in the offseason because players on the 40-man roster are protected from being selected by another organization in the annual Rule 5 Draft. The Rule 5 Draft is held in December at the Winter Meetings.

Interestingly, players who signed at age 18 or younger must be added to their club's 40-man roster within five seasons, or they become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Players who signed at age 19 or older must be protected within four seasons.

There are a lot of factors that play into an executive's decision-making process regarding the 40-man roster. It's easy to blow off what goes into the process. But know this is what they are paid to evaluate and set into motion. For that, a little respect must be given to those who put together the 40-man roster of your favorite MLB team.

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