The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline has passed, but that doesn’t mean the dealing is done. Teams can still make trades through waivers, which is much more difficult.
When a team places a player on waivers, they can either revoke the waiver, let that player and his salary go to the team that claimed him or work out a trade with that team. Once a player is placed on waivers and pulled back, he cannot be placed on revocable waivers again.
If a player goes unclaimed, he can be traded to any club. The one tricky aspect to working out a trade is that players can only be traded for other players who have cleared waivers or are not on a team’s 40-man roster.
Who Wins The Claim
If only one team claims a player, that team is awarded the claim, but what happens when more than one team is in the mix? The claim is awarded to the team with the worst record in that player's current league. If no teams in his current league claim him, the claim is awarded to the team with the worst record that claimed him.
When a player is placed on waivers, teams have 47 business-day hours to claim him. Once a player is placed on waivers, teams have 47 ½ business-day hours to work out a trade.
The waiver period doesn’t end until sometime in November, but any players acquired after August 31 can’t play in the postseason. So, it’s still possible to make waiver trades in September and even October, but it’s rare since most waiver trades are made for the sole purpose of improving a team’s playoff roster.
Previous Notable Waiver Transactions
2011: Delmon Young goes from the Minnesota Twins to the Detroit Tigers, the Arizona Diamondbacks swap Kelly Johnson for Aaron Hill of the Toronto Blue Jays.
2010: Derek Lee is traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Atlanta Braves, Manny Ramirez is claimed by the Chicago White Sox.
2009: Carl Pavano, Aubrey Huff, Billy Wagner, Jon Rauch, Scott Kazmir, Jim Thome, Jose Contreras and Jon Garland are all traded in August. Alex Rios of the Toronto Blue Jays was claimed off waivers by the Chicago White Sox.
2008: Adam Dunn is dealt from the Cincinnati Reds to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Greg Maddux goes to the Los Angeles Dodgers from the San Diego Padres and Jose Bautista is traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Two of the most famous trades of the past 25 years happened through waivers: The deal that sent John Smoltz to the Atlanta Braves in 1987 and the Houston Astros’ acquisition of Jeff Bagwell in 1990.
Okay, let’s say the Chicago Cubs place Alfonso Soriano on waivers. Most teams (if not all) would shy away from Soriano, because if they claim him the Cubs could just let him and his salary go.
Just for fun, let’s say the Baltimore Orioles and Cincinnati Reds are willing to add Soriano to the payroll and they both put a claim in. Even tough the O’s have a worse record, the claim would be awarded to the Reds since they’re in Soriano’s current league.
At that point, the Cubs could try to negotiate a trade with the Reds for either one of their players who passed through waivers or a player not on their 40-man roster. If a deal could not be reached, the Cubs could either revoke Soriano from the waiver wire, keeping him on their roster, or just let the Reds have him and the rest of his salary.
I hope that helps explain the waiver process, but if you have any questions please post them in the comments. Here are a few links to great references around the Internet:
- So You Want To Understand MLB's August Waiver Period? | Baseball Nation's Jeff Sullivan
- Know Your Waiver Rules | ESPN's Jayson Stark
- Transaction Glossary (scroll down to Waivers) | Cot's Baseball Contracts
- Death, Taxes, and Major League Waivers | Keith Law at The Baseball Analysts (2006)