Full Breakdown, Blueprint of the MLB Waiver-Trade Process
Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images
Transactions in Major League Baseball can essentially occur at any time during the season, and the offseason as well.
The recent non-waiver trade deadline concluded on July 31, a time when any team can make a trade involving players on their 25-man rosters as well as minor league prospects, subject to approval by the MLB office.
However, for the more casual baseball fan, the waiver-trade period in the month of August is not as clear cut. Many questions arise from these particular transactions, and we at Bleacher Report are here to provide simple answers for those questions.
What Is a Waiver Transaction?
Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Ryan Roberts was first placed on waivers and then traded to the Tampa Bay Rays.
J. Meric/Getty Images
To understand exactly how the waiver-trade process works, one first must understand what a waiver transaction is.
A player can be waived at any time. During the season, if a player is under-performing or is simply not a part of the future for his current team, he can be placed on waivers. Any team is eligible to claim a player off waivers, however, if more than one team places a claim, the team with the weakest record at the time is given preference to the claim.
During the month of August, the waiver process becomes revocable.
Once a waiver claim is placed by another team in August, the team waiving the player has three choices:
1. They can pull the player back from waivers and negotiate a trade with the team placing the claim.
2. They have the option of rescinding the waiver, placing the player back on its 40-man roster.
3. They can simply allow the claim, whereby the team posting the waiver claim picks up the remainder of that player's contract obligation.
Why Do Teams Wait Until After the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline?
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Oftentimes, MLB teams use the waiver-trade period during the month of August to actually gauge trade interest for particular players.
For example, Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton was thought to be on the market before the non-waiver trade deadline until team president Derrick Hall said that Upton would not be dealt during the season.
However, Upton could very well end up on the waiver wire sometime in the next, giving GM Kevin Towers a better idea of who could be interested in Upton's services.
Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee has already been placed on waivers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers made a claim on the left-hander, but the two teams were unable to come together on a deal.
Lee cannot be placed on waivers again for the rest of the season, since a player can only be placed on waivers once during the month of August.
Is a Player Eligible for the Playoffs with His New Team If He's Dealt in August?
Oakland A's catcher Kurt Suzuki was also traded during the waiver-trade period, moving to the Washington Nationals.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
The short answer is yes.
A player is only not eligible for the playoffs if he's dealt after the waiver-trade deadline expires on Aug. 31.
A player dealt after Aug. 31 could be considered playoff-eligible if they are replacing an injured player.
Are Waiver Wire Transactions Publicized by Teams?
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Waiver wire transactions are not made public by MLB teams, they are transactions that are conducted in secrecy. Only when the player is actually waived or another transaction is conducted is the news made public.
The reasons for this are two-fold. First, a player placed on waivers does not have to be informed they're being placed on waivers during the month of August. If that information were made public, it could cause irrevocable damage between the team and player, especially if the team is simply gauging trade interest for a possible future transaction.
That happened in the case of Wandy Rodriguez last season. Rodriguez was placed on waivers last August, and word leaked out. While Rodriguez remained with the team, it put the Houston Astros in an awkward position.
Second, the waiver can quickly be rescinded at any time before the 72-hour expiration, so oftentimes a player isn't even aware they were on waivers in the first place.
Can Players Traded in August Negotiate a Contract Extension Before the Trade?
Ryan Dempster may be this year's best example of a rental player.
Rick Yeatts/Getty Images
Oftentimes, players are traded in the final year of their contract. In some cases, they could simply be rental players who will just be spending the final months of the season with their new teams for the express purpose of getting them into the playoffs and beyond.
However, some teams may have interest in keeping the player beyond that particular year as well. That is not allowed under the current MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The NBA has its sign-and-trade policy which allows a team to sign an unrestricted free agent to a long-term deal and then trade him to that player's preferred team. In the NBA, that gives the trading team the opportunity to get something back rather than losing the player to free agency and getting nothing in return.
In MLB, the new collective bargaining agreement has changed, whereby a team trading for a player in the final year of his contract no longer receives a compensatory draft pick if they are unable to sign that player long-term. That will likely have an effect on how trades are conducted in the future, including during the August waiver-trade period.
Can a Player Be Traded If No Team Claimed Him While on Waivers?
Delmon Young was traded by the Minnesota Twins to the Detroit Tigers on Aug. 15 last year.
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
It's common knowledge that the vast majority of players are actually placed on waivers during the month of August.
In most cases, the team has no intention of trading those players, or has no intention of allowing any team to successfully process a waiver claim. It's simply to gauge market interest in that player.
If a player clears through waivers without any team placing a claim on him, he can then be traded by his team at any time during the month.
Can Teams Block Waiver Transactions?
Photo courtesy sports.espn.go.com
The waiver wire can often lead to teams attempting to block other teams from picking up a player who could be of use to them in a tight late-season stretch run.
Such was the case of Jose Canseco in early August, 2000. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays placed Canseco on waivers. New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman feared that the Toronto Blue Jays, who were just a game behind the Yankees in the AL East at the time, might be inclined to place a claim on Canseco.
Cashman ended up placing a waiver claim himself, and the Yankees were awarded the claim on Aug. 7. Canseco was of no use to the Yankees, who already had several players in place ahead of Canseco, but Cashman nonetheless followed through with the express purpose of blocking the Blue Jays.
Canseco would later say his time with the Yankees was horrible because of his limited playing time while in the Bronx.
Why Are so Many Players Placed on Waivers in August?
Jeff Bagwell was a part of one of the famous waiver trades in history in August, 1990.
Al Bello/Getty Images
According to Buster Olney of ESPN, virtually every player is placed on waivers at some point during the month of August.
This is done so that other teams can't be completely sure which player on any given team is actually under consideration for being traded.
In essence, the sheer numbers of players showing up on the waiver wire actually disguises the player that a particular team might have interest in trading.
Kind of like throwing a dog off its scent with multiple smells, so to speak.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.