While we talk about July 31st as the “trade deadline,” it really isn’t a deadline. Or at least a hard one. You can still trade guys in August. It’s just that (a) any trade after the July deadline is a little trickier; and (b) if you trade a guy after August 31st, he can’t be on the playoff roster of his new team.
Trades that occur now have to involve players who have gone through waivers. The waiver process is a bit confusing, but the upshot is this:
- To trade a player, the team places him on waivers;
- Once on waivers, other teams can claim him.
- If a player is claimed, his current team can either (a) pull him back and keep him, as these are “revocable waivers;” (b) let him go to the claiming team for nothing, with the claiming team assuming his contract; or (c) negotiate a trade with the claiming team, with the understanding being that, hey, if they can’t work anything out, his current team will take him back.
- There is a priority to waiver claims. Teams in the same league as the player’s current team get first dibs, with the order being determined by who has the worst record. For example, if the Yankees put Alex Rodriguez on waivers, and both the Red Sox and the Mariners put a claim on him, the Mariners get dibs. After the current league, priority then goes into the other league.
- If the guys is unclaimed by every team — i.e. he “clears waivers — he can be traded to anyone, just like it was before July 31st.
- If a guy is put on waivers and revoked, and then he is put on waivers again, that second time he is on irrevocable waivers, meaning his current team can’t pull him back.
The key thing to remember here is that if you read a report that so-and-so is on waivers, don’t think too much of it because a huge number of players are placed on waivers. We rarely know who is and who isn’t. Even the players themselves don’t know.
Often it’s expensive players on waivers, with the guy’s current team hoping that someone else will take on his salary. Super expensive guys usually clear waivers and can be dealt in August. Sometimes, however, they’re claimed and trades are worked out. See, for example, Manny Ramirez’s late-career trades.
So that’s that.