Joe Mauer: Why Waiving Superstar Catcher Is No Cause for Panic

Allan Brulett@@AlanBrouiletteCorrespondent IIAugust 30, 2012

Let's all take a deep breath about Joe Mauer.
Let's all take a deep breath about Joe Mauer.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Stop it, ESPN.  

Turn off the BREAKING NEWS icons, don't waste our time with the text alerts and tell your talking heads to calm down.  

Joe was just waived.  It's barely worth mentioning.


What Does It Mean To Be "Waived"?

Okay, some background (most of which is available in long, tedious, dense legalese on the "Waivers" page at,  but unless you're in law school, stay here).  First of all, baseball's July 31 "trade deadline" is really the "non-waiver-trade deadline."  After July 31, in order to be eligible to be traded, players must clear waivers.  This prevents dominant teams with more resources than other teams—*cough* AL East *cough*—from stacking their rosters by overpaying.  Ninety-nine times out of 100, putting a player on trade waivers means nothing more than, "I'll listen to trade offers."  Claiming him means, "I would be interested in discussing a trade for him."   It's like sending your fellow fantasy league owners an email that says, "Looking to trade."  It's not binding, it's just notice.


What Happens When A Waived Player Is Claimed?

When a player is put on the waiver wire, all other Major League teams have the option to claim him.  If more than one team claims a player, the team with the weaker record gets him.  If one does, one of three things can happen:

  • The waiving team can work out a trade for the claimed player with the claiming team.
  • The waiving team can withdraw the player from waivers, and keep him.*
  • The waiving team can do nothing.  This allows the claiming team to take the player without compensating the waiving team beyond a smallish .  The claiming team takes on the player's salary.

*If a trade is not worked out, the waiving club cannot waive that player again that season without losing the right to withdraw him. 


Why Don't Teams Do This More?

Actually, they do it all the time.  Some GMs have been known to put their entire team on waivers, once a year, just to gauge trade interest.  You just don't hear about it very often.


Why Don't We Hear About It More Often?  

Because Major League Baseball has a policy prohibiting team management from commenting on the waiver wire, which means you only hear about waivers when it becomes advantageous to a team to leak information about them.


If This Is No Big Deal, Why Is Everyone So Fired Up?

Because in the much more popular NFL, being waived is basically synonymous with being cut.

Also because there is more than one kind of waiver.  Trade waivers is the one we're talking about here.  Unconditional release waivers, outright waivers and option waivers are different, and Joe isn't on those.  Blurring the distinction is the kind of thing that makes people tune in to SportsCenter and gives sports talk radio something to fill segments.


Why Wouldn't Anyone Claim Joe Mauer?  He's Awesome!

Get real.  His power is in decline, he's due $23 million a year through 2018 and he's a catcher who'll turn 30 next spring.  A team would be foolish to take on that risk.  The Twins appeared to be gauging interest in him—but any team that claimed him ran the risk of having to take on an aging and expensive player who had a mysterious injury last year.

Then again, Josh Beckett has a bad back and a bad attitude, and Carl Crawford is falling apart like the Bluesmobile. So you never know.  But you're playing the percentages by assuming nothing is going to happen.