4 PM EDT on Monday, August 1 marked the end of the non-waiver trade deadline, but trades can still be made between 4:01 PM EDT on August 1 and August 31 through waiver trades. That means that some of the players that you expected to see traded but weren’t — Jeremy Hellickson of the Phillies, for example — may still wind up with new laundry by the end of the month.
(The trade deadline was moved up to August 1 from July 31 this year only because the 31st fell on a Sunday.)
You’ll hear myriad times this month that a player has been placed on waivers. It doesn’t mean anything, really. It doesn’t mean a team “intends to trade” a player. Most teams will put a handful of its players on waivers in August, but you’ll see fewer trades this month than in July.
When a player is put on waivers, other teams can put in a claim on that player. The team with the worst record in the same league as the waiver player gets to put in the first claim, followed by the team with the worst record in the other league, and on up the chain.
Once a player has been claimed, the player’s current team can choose to negotiate a trade with the claiming team (within two business days) or the current team can pull the player back from waivers. Once a player is pulled back from waivers, the player cannot be traded through waivers again. The current team can also simply let the claiming team have the player, which means the claiming team takes on the player’s remaining contract. The current team pays the claiming team a waiver fee as well.
If a player goes through waivers unclaimed after three business days, that player’s team can trade him normally, option him to the minors, or release him.
There is some strategy and gamesmanship to the waiver process. A team with a worse record looking to prevent a rival team with a better record from making an upgrade can put in a waiver claim on a player, effectively blocking the rival team from that player. Of course, there is some risk involved. The team who put the player on waivers can simply relent the player to the claiming team, sticking them with the player’s contract.
Mostly, the types of players you’ll see moved this time of year aren’t star players. Rather, they’ll be role players like a utility infielder or a swingman pitcher. You’ll also see injured players claimed by teams looking to fill a positional need or attempting to strike lightning in a bottle. And you’ll also see teams trying to dump bad contracts onto other teams.