I’m sure some of you will be terribly offended by this post, since you already know MLB’s waiver rules like the back of your hand. If that’s the case, by all means, accept my profoundest apologies. But for the rest of us who need a little schoolin’ on some of the finer points of MLB’s transaction rules, let’s get it on.
So all together now, let’s get on the same page. According to Keith Law, formerly a member of the Toronto Blue Jays front office and writing at baseballanalysts.com:
There are three kinds of waivers in MLB:
Unconditional release waivers. These are self-explanatory. A player on release waivers can be claimed for $1, and the claiming team assumes the player’s contract. The player does have the right to refuse this claim and become a free agent.
Outright or special waivers. The name changes depending on the time of year, but the effect is the same. These are the waivers you use to kick a player off of your 40-man roster. They’re also the waivers to use when you wish to send a player who is out of options to the minors (thereby also removing him from your 40-man). These waivers are irrevocable, meaning that if you place a player on outright waivers and he is claimed, you cannot pull the player back off waivers.
Major league waivers. These are the waivers in question during August. Between 4 pm on July 31st and the end of the season, players must clear major league waivers to be assigned to another major league club. These waivers are revocable, and they are also the waivers required for players in Choi’s situation, who have options remaining but are more than three calendar years removed from their debuts on major league rosters. Although these waivers are revocable, if a player on major league waivers is claimed and the waiver request is revoked, a subsequent major league waiver request in the same waiver period will be irrevocable.
Got that? Good. Let’s discuss.
When the Indians placed Lewis on waivers, it was the second type—called “outright” waivers. What that means is they wanted to outright him off the 40-man roster, not necessarily outright him out of the organization. Since Lewis is out of minor league options, he needed to be removed from the 40-man roster to be sent to the minor leagues. That’s what the team tried to accomplish with the waivers process. Now that he’s successfully “cleared waivers”–meaning no other team put a claim in–Jensen is off the 40-man roster and can be reassigned to AAA Columbus.
And from what I understand, the Indians couldn’t have just pulled Lewis back the way you’d do after the July 31st trade deadline. That’s what is meant by “irrevocable.” You can’t just test the waters: if another team claimed Lewis, they’d get him and consequently would’ve been forced to place him on their 40-man roster.
I assume that the club is trying to make room for Jack Hannahan and/or Travis Buck to be placed on the 40-man, which was chock-full with Lewis still aboard. To keep both of those guys, which looks like what’s going to have to happen, we’d need to move two players from the 40-man roster. (Players on the 15-day DL still count toward the 40-man, whereas those on the 60-day DL do not. So Grady will open the season as a member of the 40-man roster.)
On the other hand, it’s completely possible that the Indians just don’t want Lewis to be on the Major League roster this season, regardless of other roster considerations. He’s had a poor spring, and his fastball velocity hasn’t averaged over 90mph since 2007. Couple that with the organization’s recent influx of bullpen arms over the last few seasons, and perhaps they thought it was time to cut bait altogether. I wrote recently that much of the “success” of the 2010 bullpen could have been a mirage, and no one epitomizes that sentiment for me more than Jensen Lewis: a flyball pitcher with below average velocity and control. Last season, Lewis had a 2.97 ERA, but it was due in large part to some unsustainable peripherals (.260 BABiP and 0.25 HR/9 IP—both well below average).
It’s also possible, of course, that the Indians are preparing to make a big splash in free agency and needed the roster spot. After all, Oliver Perez just got released.