Waiver Rules

This is a work in progress. More information is needed in the area of when waiver requests could be withdrawn, as well as the various waiver periods. Unless otherwise stated, these rules deal with waivers for assigning a player to another team, rather than for releasing the player.

The precursor to modern waiver rules began early in Major League Baseball's history as a means of controlling players. From the earliest days, teams could release players upon ten days notice. In 1885, a rule was implemented allowing the other clubs in the league to claim a player once his team has given notice of intent to release him. He did not have to give his consent, although if more than one team put in a claim for him, he was allowed to choose which one he would play for. Prior to 1895, teams could withdraw the notice of release. An additional waiver-like feature was added in 1896, when it was decided that no player could be sold to a minor league unless all the other Major League teams refused to purchase him on the same terms. The process of waiving the right to purchase a player's contract was formalized in 1903. Whenever a team wished to release or farm a player, it placed his name on a list which was circulated throughout the league. Only if he was not claimed could the team do as it wished. Otherwise, the claiming team would buy the player. Two years later, the player had to clear waivers in both leagues.

The two leagues diverged in their practice after 1907. The NL did not allow players to be withdrawn from the waiver list after they were claimed, while the AL did. Also, in the AL, once a team claimed a player on waivers, it could not place him on waivers for 30 days. If it did, the team they had obtained him from had 10 days to sell him to a team outside the league without waivers being required. This became the rule in both leagues in 1921, with the added provision of a 90 day limit during the offseason. The NL bounced back and forth on allowing waiver requests to be revoked; after the 1909 season it made them revocable within two days of the claim, but in 1915 they became irrevocable (except on drafted players). In 1918 they were made revocable again, but this only lasted a year, when both leagues switched (the AL changed its mind again in 1920). In 1921, revocability was again in fashion in both leagues, within 5 days of a claim, and in 1923, the period was shortened to 2 days. Waiver claims could not be withdrawn.  Waiver requests for the purpose of unconditionally releasing a player have been irrevocable since December 1921.

The interleague waiver price was established at $1000 in 1903. Starting 1908, the waiver price was set by the league president with a $1,500 limit, until 1921, when a fixed price of $4,000 was established. For interleague waivers, this was increased to $7,500 in 1927. An exception existed for players purchased from the minor leagues; the cost of claiming them was equal to the purchase price. The NL raised their price to $6,000 in 1934 and in 1939 matched the interleague price of $7,500, while the AL jumped their intraleague fee from $4,000 to $7,500 in 1935. In 1947, the price was raised to $10,000, where it remained until 1958, when it was doubled.

Originally, waivers were on a first-come, first-served basis. As of 1910, if more than one team claimed a player from the waiver list, one team was chosen by lot to receive him. In 1921, this was changed; the team lowest in the standings was given priority (except for release waivers; that rule was changed in 1924.) An amendment in 1940 provided that if two teams with the same record selected a player, the prior season records would be used to break the tie.

During the 1945 season, a controversy arose after Hank Borowy was waived out of the American League and went to the first place Cubs. At the time, teams could place their entire roster on waivers to see if there was any interest in the players, then withdraw anyone who was claimed. To curb such abuses, beginning in 1947, a limit of 7 players per team per day was placed on waiver requests. After a player was withdrawn from the list twice in a year, he could not be removed again if claimed. Once a player was withdrawn, waivers could not be requested again for 30 days (this waiting period was 10 days in 1945). Also, the price to claim a player who is on waivers to be unconditionally released was dropped to $1. In 1973, beginning November 11, the rule was changed so that a player could be withdrawn only once a year after being claimed. As a result of the 1985 collective bargaining agreement, this was amended so that it only applied during a given waiver period. However, if the waivers were requested for the purpose of sending a player outright to the minors, they were irrevocable.

Once a player clears waivers, he can be sent to another club until the end of the waiver period.

Waiver periods through the years are detailed below. Similarly, the length of time required to clear waivers is shown in a chart below. These are for interleague waivers unless indicated.
Year How Long Waivers Last Length of time required to clear waivers
1905   1 day
1905 (NL)
10 days
1908 (NL) In offseason- until 10 days after opening day; during season, for 20 days. 10 days
1910 (NL) In offseason- until 10 days after opening day; during season, for 30 days after request. 5 days during season and 10 days offseason
1910 (AL)  30 days 2 days during season and 10 days offseason
1914   3 days during season and 5 days offseason
1917   5 days
1921 1 year unless player sent to minors in that period.  3 days during season and 7 days offseason
1929 9/1-6/15 and 6/15-9/1  
1932 (NL) 9/1-4/30; 4/30-6/15; 30 days between 6/15 and 9/1 5 days during season and 10 days offseason
1933 9/1-5/15; 5/15-9/1  
1935 (NL)   3 days (during season only?)
1940 9/1 to 30 days after opening day; 31 days after opening day to 8/31  
1945 (AL)
30 days
4 days-Intraleague
1949 9/1 to 30 days after opening day; 31 days after opening day to 6/15; 6/15-9/1  
1952 (NL)   7 days (offseason only?)
1963   3 days
1986 8/1-11/10; 11/11-30th day of season, 31th day of season to 7/31  
1990   3 business days

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