Here’s our annual reminder about waiver trades in August.
4 PM ET on Tuesday, July 31 marked the end of the non-waiver trade deadline, but trades can still be made between August 1 and August 31 through waivers. That means that some of the players that you expected to see traded but weren’t — the Reds’ Matt Harvey, for example — may still wind up with new laundry by the end of the month.
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. 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, a swingman pitcher, a middle reliever, or a starter at the back end of a rotation. You’ll also see injured players claimed by teams looking to fill a positional need or attempting to catch lightning in a bottle. You’ll also see teams trying to dump bad contracts onto other teams. Some players, along with Harvey, you might see moved this month: Devin Mesoraco, Jose Bautista, Dan Straily, Curtis Granderson, Tyler Clippard, Danny Valencia, Jason Hammel, James Shields, Bartolo Colon, Matt Moore, Freddy Galvis, A.J. Ellis, and Tyson Ross. That’s not an exhaustive list, of course.
Players can be traded through waivers in September as well, but there’s a catch: those players will not be eligible for their new team’s postseason roster. Teams will still make some waiver trades in September, but those are more oriented towards adding depth as opposed to making a legitimate upgrade.