How August Trades Work: Your MLB Waiver Season Primer, 2012

Teams will be wary of claiming Alfonso Soriano as a blocking maneuver, because it means the Cubs could just stick them with Soriano's contract.

If an organization wants to make a trade after the July 31 deadline they still can, it just becomes more complicated. It's harder to trade with one specific team, there's more risk involved and it's a lot more tactical as teams have the opportunity to potentially interfere with rival clubs. In many cases a club will put players on waivers simply to judge interest (indeed, most players are put on waivers), and will pull him back if he's claimed. But we'll deal with that in a moment; let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The process explained in detail after the jump!

The only way to trade a player in the month of August is to place him on waivers. Most teams will put players on waivers, even if they don't have any intention of dealing them. We'll use the Twins as an example, and we'll pick on Matt Capps (simply because I think he'll be winning this morning's poll).

Now that the process has begun, there can be three possible outcomes: no claim will be made, one team will make a claim, or multiple teams make a claim.

What happens when a player is not claimed off waivers?

In this scenario a player has "passed through waivers", and the Twins would be free to trade Capps to any team in baseball they choose...provided he is traded for either A) 40-man roster players who have also cleared waivers, or B) non 40-man roster players.

What happens if only one team places a claim on a player?

The Twins would have roughly two days to work out a trade with the claiming club, or allow the claiming club to pay $20,000 and assume the player's contract.

What happens if multiple teams place a claim on a player?

Claim priority goes to the team with the worst record in the same league as the waiver player's team, and then to the team with the worst record in the opposite league. In our case, let's say the Royals, Yankees, Astros and Giants all have interest and think about claiming Capps. Kansas City would have priority over the three other teams; New York would have priority over the two National League clubs; Houston would have priority over San Francisco. Again, the two teams would have roughly two days to work out a trade, or the claiming club would have to pay the $20,000 transaction fee and assume the player's contract.

Why would a team place a player on waivers?

There are three primary reasons: to judge interest in the player, to trade the player, or to dump his salary.

Why would a team place a claim on a player?

We can narrow this down to two reasons. One is simple and one is tactical and slightly more complicated. The easy reason is that the claiming team actually has interest in acquiring the player.

The more complicated reason: a team is trying to block a competitor from being awarded the claim, in which case the claiming team usually believes the player will be pulled off waivers. But this is also how teams get stuck paying salaries they did not actually want to take on, if the original club is looking to dump salary. Even if a deal can't be worked out, the original team can essentially stick the claiming team with the tab. "No, we didn't want to pay Alfonso Soriano anyway. You can just have him."

Can waiver claims be revoked?

The first time a player is placed on waivers in August, he can absolutely be revoked if, for whatever reason, the team isn't happy. If the Twins are looking for a trade partner for Capps but they pull him back, it's likely that they did it for one of three reasons:

  1. They were gauging interest and had no interest in trading him, as mentioned earlier.
  2. They do not want to send the player to the team awarded the waiver claim.
  3. The Twins and the claiming club cannot work out a trade, and simply "dumping salary" isn't good enough.

However: once a player has been pulled off of waivers, he can't be revoked again. Therefore if the Twins would then put Capps back onto waivers for a second time, if he is claimed they would be forced to deal with the claiming team with the highest priority.

In summary:

  • Nearly all players are put on waivers in August.
  • Not all players on waivers are placed there with the intention of being moved.
  • Teams with worse records have priority over teams with better records, American League teams have priority over American League players and National League teams have priority over National League players.
  • Teams will often make a claim on a player to block a rival club from being awarded the claim, but this is dangerous because the claiming team could just get stuck with a player they didn't want...and his salary. It's the reason Manny Ramirez cleared waivers a few years ago: nobody wanted to get stuck with his contract.
  • If a player clears waivers they may be traded to any team, for a player who has also cleared waivers or for non 40-man roster players.
  • If a player is claimed he can only be dealt to the team awarded the claim.
  • A player can be pulled off waivers once, but if put on a second time the waivers are irrevocable.
  • Finally: injured players cannot be passed through waivers. This season, it means Carl Pavano and the aforementioned Capps cannot be placed on the wire until they come off of the disabled list.

Hopefully that clearly the muddy waters of the August transaction season, if only just a little bit.

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