This happens every year: August 1 rolls around, someone reports that some big and famous ballplayer has been placed on waivers and people chatter about it, pondering its meaning and importance. And every year we remind you: there is no meaning or importance to almost any waiver move.
When people refer to waivers at this time of the year (i.e. after the trade deadline and before the end of the season) they almost certainly mean revocable waivers. Meaning that the team can pull the player back off waivers if the player is claimed. The reason for using revocable waivers? So a team can try to slip someone by every other team. Because, if they can and if the player goes unclaimed by every other team (i.e. he “clears waivers”) he can be traded the same as he could have been before the deadline. He’d be eligible for the playoff roster and everything, as long as it was before the end of August.
If a player is claimed and his team does not pull him back that the claiming team is stuck with the player, including his current salary. This is why you get a lot of big names on waivers. Teams that would prefer not to pay that guy anymore would much rather give him up and his salary if they could, so they try. Rarely if ever will a highly-paid guy actually get claimed in such a fashion.
There are often games played with this process, of course. There is an order to the claiming process — teams with the worst record in the same league get to claim guys placed on waivers first, and then the choice cycles through the teams in the other league, worst record to best as well. Sometimes a team will claim a guy for the express purpose of NOT allowing him to clear waivers and thus be traded to a rival. For example, if the Braves really wanted a starting pitcher placed on waivers, the National may claim him so he does not clear and thus may not be traded to the Braves. But of course there is that risk that the team placing the guy on waivers doesn’t pull him back, thus sticking him with Washington.
So that’s waivers. Ignore them for the most part. Feel free to pay closer attention if someone is claimed and if that someone does not have an albatross contract. Pay closer attention if a guy clears waivers, because then he’s every bit as tradable as all players were back in July.