Before you completely give up hope that your team has completely lost the opportunity to make late-season upgrades, it's important to note that it's not impossible to make an impactful trade in August.
On the other hand, be sure to temper your expectations. Trade targets who are performing up to expectations and don't have bad contracts aren't likely to be moved in a post-July deal.
As for why it would be difficult to acquire a player of value and how the overall process of the waiver trade deadline works, I'll give you the quick explanation here.
- Players on the 40-man roster cannot be traded after the deadline to any team in the league unless they first pass through revocable waivers. This means that none of the other 29 teams put in a waiver claim.
- If the player is claimed, their team can pull the player back and keep him. Next time they put that player through waivers, it will be "irrevocable."
- Players that are claimed are awarded to the claiming team in the same league with the worst record. If no team claims the player from the same league, they're awarded to the team with the worst record in the other league. Once the claim has been awarded, the two teams have 48.5 hours to complete a deal. If a deal hasn't been worked out, the player can be pulled back off waivers.
- If a player is claimed, their team has the right to allow the waiver claim to occur with no trade involved. This is how the White Sox ended up with Alex Rios in 2009. The Blue Jays were just happy to free their payroll of Rios' contract.
- Teams often claim a player just so another playoff contender doesn't have a chance to do so and work out a trade. By not offering anything of value to complete a trade, that player's team will normally pull them back off waivers. This is how the Padres were "stuck" with Randy Myers and the remaining $12-plus million on his contract in '98. They were blocking his move to a competitor in need of bullpen help, guessing that the Blue Jays would pull him back off waivers. They guessed wrong.
- Trades can be made for the remainder of the regular season. Players acquired after August 31 can't play in the postseason, though.
Remember that blockbuster trade the Dodgers and Red Sox made last August? Many big-name players changed teams, but why did they all pass through waivers? Because Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez each had multi-year contracts for a ridiculous amount of money and, aside from the Dodgers, teams had no interest in inheriting those salaries.
The Dodgers may be rolling now, but they got little out of Beckett before his season-ending neck surgery. Crawford and Gonzalez have been good but not as good as their contracts say they should be.
Meanwhile, the trade gave the Red Sox the financial flexibility they needed for the offseason and trade deadline.
The Nationals also picked up Kurt Suzuki after the trade deadline, the O's acquired lefty starter Joe Saunders, and the A's landed shortstop Stephen Drew from the D'backs. Aaron Hill and Kelly Johnson were swapped in August 2011. Delmon Young, who went on to hit five homers in nine postseason games, went from Minnesota to Detroit that same month.
The underlying link throughout here? Subpar performances and/or bad contracts (or just bad enough in each aspect to get to the interested team on the waiver wire).
So who would possibly fit into that group this year? Here's an analysis of each position.
The Yankees were reportedly interested in Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz but were told he was not available, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. If they're unable to make a run for a playoff spot over the next few weeks, the Phils could change their minds.
The 35-year-old free agent-to-be is having a terrible season at the plate (.591 OPS), and he'll still be due the prorated portion of his $5 million salary.
This is why he'll get through waivers (or at least to the Yankees). But it's also why any team looking for catching help will cross their fingers that the Cubs make Dioner Navarro (.881 OPS, 9 HR) available. Because of his high production and low salary ($1.75 million), however, that is unlikely.
White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez stayed put at the deadline, despite being the lone potential upgrade in the infield and the presence of at least one interested team in the Cardinals. His production is down and his contract (guaranteed $19.5 million through 2015) will scare some teams off.
But teams are aware of the Cardinals' need, and a National League contender will likely put in the claim before he can get to St. Louis.
Brendan Ryan and Omar Quintanilla are also possibilities for teams looking to add some defense to their bench.
One second baseman who could be an intriguing option to pass through waivers is Milwaukee's Rickie Weeks. Due $11 million in 2014 with an $11.5 million player option in 2015, Weeks still has value, even though he has a .671 OPS.
The 30-year-old has 10 homers and had a strong second half last year (.800 OPS, 13 HR). If he can drop down to the Royals, they'll have a chance to rethink their decision to stand pat the rest of the year.
Corner Infielders/Designated Hitters
Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales probably aren't expensive enough and still provide too much value offensively to slip through waivers. Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, on the other hand, would very likely pass through and could have interest from the Orioles, Yankees and Pirates.
Adam Dunn is on pace for another 40-homer season, but his $15 million salary in 2014 and lack of overall production from someone limited to first base or the designated hitter spot (.786 OPS) may keep everyone at bay.
At the hot corner, Michael Young should get through waivers. Aramis Ramirez of the Brewers would almost certainly clear if he can make it back from the disabled list (players on the DL cannot be passed through waivers).
The three names who were most involved in trade rumors, Marlon Byrd, Alex Rios and Nate Schierholtz, all are having productive seasons, and only Rios' contract might be prohibitive for some teams.
So unless a team is banking on Delmon Young waking up in the postseason once again—he has a career .859 OPS with eight homers in 29 posteason games—there's probably not much to see here.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see Joe Saunders on the move for the second consecutive August. And the lefty he replaced in Seattle's rotation, Jason Vargas, could join him.
On the mend from blood clot surgery, the 30-year-old Vargas was having a solid season for the Angels (3.65 ERA in 14 starts) before he landed on the disabled list. Since he's expected back later this month, several contenders will show interest. While he might not make it through waivers, there's a good chance that whoever is awarded the claim will want to work out a deal for him.
Mike Pelfrey of the Twins and Edinson Volquez of the Padres are two other possibilities that may go to a contending team in need of help at the back of the rotation. Scott Baker of the Cubs, who is currently on a rehab assignment as he returns from Tommy John surgery, could be a dark-horse candidate.
Several free agent-to-be relievers in the rumor mill failed to switch teams, including Mike Gonzalez, Kevin Gregg, Javier Lopez and Oliver Perez. Which contending team wouldn't want a low-cost veteran who is having a strong season?
If the asking price drops, expect them all to be pitching for a contender by the end of the month. Since all are pitching well, though, the negotiations may be limited to just one claiming team.