The General Manager Meetings are taking place in San Diego this week. We don’t often get a lot of general news from those. Heck, at the moment two teams — the Giants and the Orioles — don’t even have general managers. The best way to think of the GM Meetings is to think of them as a warmup to the Winter Meetings which will take place in Las Vegas next month.
There could be some news, however. Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the assembled executives are going to at least consider eliminating trade waivers and moving to a uniform trade deadline. Possibly in mid-August.
As you probably know, after the July 31 trade deadline, teams can still make trades by putting players on waivers. By doing so, 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. If a player is claimed, his team can simply let him go for free to the claiming team or it can negotiate a trade with the claiming team. It can only trade the player to anyone it wants if the player goes unclaimed by all 29 other teams (i.e. he “clears waivers”). If a waiver trade is made before August 31, the player will be eligible for the postseason on his new team.
As that description suggests, it’s a rather complicated process. It also invites gamesmanship, as one team may place a claim on a player with no intention of trading for him, simply to prevent a team with a better record from trading for him. It certainly makes it harder to make trades. Moreover, given that, with the addition of the two Wild Cards, more teams are in playoff contention later in the season than they may have been a few years ago, it makes it harder for a would-be playoff team to make an aggressive move to help its chances in the final two months of the season.
In order for waiver trades to be eliminated and for a later general trade deadline to be established, the players’ union will have to sign off. It’s not totally clear where they might stand on it, but the GMs taking up the issue would certainly inspire them to say what they think about it.