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.
The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.
The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.
For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.
The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.
St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.
The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.
Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?
Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.