What does DFA mean in Baseball?

Anyone watching baseball for a long enough time will have heard DFA, but what does DFA mean in baseball. In baseball, DFA stands for Designated for Assignment.

Basically, it means that a major league baseball team is replacing a player from their 40 man roster. However, the procedure for this process is not as simple as it sounds.

Remember that DFA isn’t the same as out-and-out release, which means permanently releasing a player from the major league team.

Below I, from bestbaseballreviews, will guide you on what does DFA mean in baseball and what happens.

What does DFA (Designated for Assignment) mean in Baseball?

Before I talk about what does DFA mean in baseball and its meaning, I need to example some crucial terms.

  • Waivers: For the most part, it is basically permission from a player’s team allowing another team to grab him. The waiver will state that the player is unconditionally free from the Major League.
  • 40-Man Roster: I can’t say for sure for minor leagues, but in every major league team, there are 40 players. In it, 26(used to be 25 before 2020) are active. The rest of the 15 players are those in the minor leagues or the injured list.

With those terms understood, I can now explain what does DFA mean in baseball.

In simple terms, a DFA on a player means that the team they play for is trying to out them from their 40-man roster.

Thanks to the seven days rule, the player won’t immediately be sent down to the minor league of the player’s club. However, within those seven days, the major league team needs to make a move.

We will talk about the moves available to the team that placed the DFA on the player a bit later. Next, I will inform about the reasons why a player will receive a DFA from their team.

What does DFA mean in baseball? Reasons for DFA

In fact, what you might be really curious of is why the team immediately removed the baseball player from that team’s 40-man roster.

This section will mention some of the more common reasons a player will get DFA from their team.

  1. Move a Minor League player into the team
  2. Activate a player, by trade or free agency, into the 40-man roster
  3. Return a player from the injured list

To put it another way, a designated player for assignment makes a roster spot for the team. 

What does DFA mean in baseball? Procedure

What does DFA mean in Baseball
What does DFA mean in Baseball

By now, you should be completely familiar with the terminology and meaning of DFA in baseball. Therefore we can move on to how designated for assignment works in real-life baseball.

Once a player has been DFA, they are pretty much in limbo. The team that placed them in limbo will have seven to ten days before moving them to the minor leagues or something else.

Within the seven days limit, a team can do multiple things, including:

  • Return the player to their 40-man roster
  • Place the player on waivers – most common and more on it later
  • Trade the player with other teams – additional protocols
  • Release the player – becomes a free agent
  • Move the player to the minor league

DFA player on Waivers:

Basically, the waiver claim of the player must happen within three days of the seven or ten days limit.

The teams that can claim the player first are in a similar league as the player with the lowest records. If the player isn’t claimed by anyone in the same league, then the successive lower league can claim the player.

In the lower league, the teams with the highest records will get priority.

If the claim is successful, the new player is immediately part of the team’s 40-man roster.

Trading DFA player in Baseball:

With trading for DFA players, it happens within the first four days. After that, to increase interest in the player to go elsewhere, many teams place DFA on them.

For example, in 2006, Texas Rangers reliever Brian Shouse was designated for assignment. The Milwaukee Brewers traded for him four days later. 

In this example, the Brewers didn’t wait for Shouse to get a waiver. This is because, with a waiver, the other 13 AL teams might have sent offers.

Releasing Designated players for Assignment in Baseball:

A player might be set free by their parent club if the player clear waivers and isn’t traded either. Another option for the team might be to return the player to the 40-man roster or drop them to the minor leagues.

Once a player is set free, he becomes a free agent who can sign up with any of the league teams. The current team that sets free the player is responsible for paying what is left minus what the new team is paying them.

Options Available for Major League Baseball teams

Once a player is designated for an assignment, the team they play for has some options.

For baseball fans, we hear things like “optioned to the minor leagues.” or “sent down to the minors.” We call them options because the team uses them to place the player somewhere else without subjecting them to waivers or sending them to free agency.

The direct MLB Glossary definition of option is:

 “An option allows that player to be sent to the Minor Leagues (“optioned”) without first being subjected to waivers.”

Exceptions to DFA in Major Leagues:

As with any rules and regulation, there are always some rules and regulations that exists. In the case of DFA in baseball, the same is true as well.

If a player gets DFA in baseball while having played for five or more years of major league service, they can’t also be “outright” without consent.

Also, an MLB player with a total of 10 years of major league service time and more than five years with a team can’t be traded without giving consent.

10-and-5 is the name of the rule generally.

What does DFA mean in baseball? Top players

In the meantime, I hope that you learned what does DFA mean in baseball. If so, I can show you some examples of players who got DFA recently.

My reason for doing so is to, in fact, show you that the result of designated assignments isn’t always bad.

what does DFA mean in baseball_infograp
what does DFA mean in baseball_infograp

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Albert Pujols

First on our list of DFA players is Albert Pujols, a recent most example for us. 

Albert Pujols, in full José Alberto Pujols Alcántara, is a Dominican-American first baseman and designated hitter for the Los Angeles Angels. Before playing for the Los Angeles Angels, he played with the St. Louis Cardinals for 11 seasons.

During all that time, he won two World Series championships and three league MVP awards.

However, with increasing age and decreasing performance for a number of seasons, the Angels announced his DFA six months ago. This was the end for the ninth player in MLB history to hit for 600 career home runs with a ten-year 254 million player’s contract.

Chris Gimenez

Out of the many players I researched about their DFA, the one that stood out to me the most has to be Chris Gimenez. In total, I believe he got DFA four times which apparently isn’t that unusual, but to me, it was.

He moved from Cleaveland Indians to Seattle mariners, then to Oakland Athletics. After that came Texas Ranger and finally the Minnesota Twins. In between those, he made a few other moves as a minor leaguer since he elected to be a free agent multiple times.

Chris Young

Another Chris I found that has DFA was Chris Young. He was a baseball outfielder who played for Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels.

In 2007 he made the record with 30 home runs and 25 base steals. In 2014 New Tork Mets designated him then released him. He later signed with Red Sox in 2015, but in 2017 they granted him his free agent right.


Compared to other abbreviations you see more often, like ERA, WHIP, FPS, and Cycles in baseball, DFA is slightly less common. So now that you know what does DFA mean in baseball, you should become familiar with this uncommon baseball term.

Also, for baseball fans, DFA needs to look at since you never know when a player you like might get DFA and traded or on irrevocable outright waivers in the off-season.

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