Though July 31 gets a lot of attention as one of the most important dates on the baseball calendar, August 31 is actually pretty important too. Here’s a primer on what to expect on what effectively serves as the league’s waiver trade deadline:
Why is August 31 important?
For a player to be postseason-eligible, he must be acquired by an organization before 11:59 p.m. ET on August 31. He doesn’t necessarily have to be on the 25- or 40-man roster, but instead simply a member of that organization in order to be postseason-eligible for that team.
Teams can still make trades in September, though anyone who switches teams during that month aren’t eligible to participate in the playoffs. Any moves of substance get done before midnight on the 31st.
How do waiver-wire trades even work?
It’s a very complicated, in-depth process that we fully detailed here earlier this month. Check out that guide for full details.
Who has already been traded in August?
If you’ve taken a break from baseball since the non-waiver deadline, you’ve actually missed quite a bit. Teams have already swung 13 deals this month, with some big names even getting involved.
Pitchers Mike Leake (Mariners), Tyler Clippard (Astros) and Tom Koehler (Blue Jays), infielders Yonder Alonso (Mariners), Neil Walker (Brewers), Sean Rodriguez (Pirates) and outfielders Jay Bruce (Indians), Curtis Granderson (Dodgers) and Rajai Davis (Red Sox) have been the biggest names to move so far. Leake, Rodriguez and Koehler are controlled past this year, every other move has involved a contender adding a short-term rental for the stretch run.
Who could be traded by tonight?
There are actually a few big-name candidates to be moved, including Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton and Detroit’s Justin Verlander and Justin Upton (EDIT: Upton appears headed to the Angels in a major trade). Anyone who has cleared revocable waivers is eligible to be moved, including (but not limited to):
OF Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins)
OF Justin Upton (Tigers)
RHP Justin Verlander (Tigers)
INF Brandon Phillips (Braves)
1B Joey Votto (Reds)
1B Chris Davis (Orioles)
OF Bryce Harper (Nationals)
RHP A.J. Ramos (Mets)
INF Asdrubal Cabrera (Mets)
OF Yoenis Cespedes (Mets)
RHP Felix Hernandez (Mariners)
SS Brandon Crawford (Giants)
LHP Derek Holland (White Sox)
RHP Miguel Gonzalez (White Sox)
RHP James Shields (White Sox)
1B Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)
DH Victor Martinez (Tigers)
RHP Anibal Sanchez (Tigers)
RHP Jordan Zimmermann (Tigers)
3B Nick Castellanos (Tigers)
LHP Matt Moore (Giants)
Of those guys, Phillips, Cabrera, Holland and Gonzalez have the strongest chances of getting dealt. Other candidates to be traded include San Diego’s Craig Stammen, Clayton Richard and Jhoulys Chacin, Oakland’s Jed Lowrie, Atlanta’s Jim Johnson and Kurt Suzuki and a slew of other veterans, mostly on expiring contracts.
Who’s definitely staying put?
Some seemingly strong trade candidates won’t be moved by midnight because they were claimed and pulled back off revocable trade waivers. That list includes:
LHP Jerry Blevins (Mets)
2B Ian Kinsler (Tigers)
RHP Marco Estrada (Blue Jays)
RHP Michael Fulmer (Tigers)
SS Jose Iglesias (Tigers)
SS Zack Cozart (Reds)
LHP J.A. Happ (Blue Jays)
Estrada (who was claimed by the Yankees and pulled back), Cozart, Kinsler and Happ were considered waiver-wire deal candidates at the beginning of the month.
Do big moves ever happen at the waiver deadline?
Eh, sometimes. Here’s a list of players moved on August 31 in each of the last few years.
2016: Fernando Salas (Mets), Michael Bourn (Orioles), Ben Gamel (Mariners), Coco Crisp (Indians)
2014: Jonathan Broxton (Brewers), Adam Dunn (Athletics), Kelly Johnson (Orioles), Alejandro De Aza (Orioles)
2013: John McDonald (Red Sox), Justin Morneau (Pirates)
2012: Ben Francisco (Rays), John Baker (Braves)
Some big names in there (Dunn and Morneau), but mostly just a collection of aging veterans and complementary pieces. Thursday has already seen Justin Upton to the Angels, though, so more big moves could be coming.