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MLB trade rumors: How do August trades work?

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An explainer on how teams can still make moves in August.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Just because the non-waiver trade deadline has passed doesn’t mean we won’t see some more moves in August. Just last year, we saw Erick Aybar, Jeff Francoeur, Carlos Ruiz, Dioner Navarro, Coco Crisp, Ben Gamel, Michael Bourn and Fernando Salas dealt in August, and this year could be even more active.

We know post-deadline deals are confusing, so here’s an explainer on how they can happen:

In August, tons of players throughout the league are placed on revocable trade waivers, in many cases for clubs to gauge value of their players and in some rare cases, because clubs are actually interested in making waiver-wire deals. You’ll see plenty of reports of players being placed on revocable waivers all month, but that doesn’t mean they’re going anywhere.

When a guy is on revocable waivers, teams are free to submit claims on him over a two-day period, assuming the risk of taking on his entire salary if the claim is awarded. That’s why you’ll see a lot of players with big contracts hit waivers in August; teams are rarely willing to risk having to pay the rest of a player’s contract in a deal if they claim him.

If multiple teams claim a player, priority is awarded by reverse standings in each league. So if an AL team puts someone on waivers, the worst AL team gets first crack, then the second AL team, the third AL team and so on. If none of the AL teams claim him, it’s on to the NL, again with reverse standings.

If a player is claimed off waivers, his team has three choices:

  • The team can simply pull him back off waivers, revoking his status as available. The player simply stays with his team and is no longer eligible to be moved in August.
  • The team can simply award the player to the priority claiming team, with the claiming team taking on the rest of the player’s contract and immediately acquiring him. The most famous example of this is still, eight years later, the White Sox claiming Alex Rios from the Blue Jays and having to pay him $60 million. No-trade rights apply here.
  • The club can explore a trade with the priority claiming team over the course of a 48.5-hour window. In that time, the teams can either work out a trade or not come to terms, with the latter scenario causing the player to be ineligible to be dealt in August.

If a player goes unclaimed by the other 29 teams, he is immediately eligible to be traded to any club. Most big-money players end up clearing waivers in August, but few are ever traded. The big exception here, of course, is the blockbuster that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers in 2012.

Only players on 40-man rosters have to go through this process, and any player acquired after Aug. 31 isn’t eligible to be on a club’s postseason roster. So it’s safe to say we should expect some action over the next 30 days, even if some big names are already off the board.

Any questions? Ask in the comments.