MLB Waiver Trades: Explaining the Process in Simple Terms

Dan MoriCorrespondent IAugust 4, 2011

Cody Ross was a great waiver claim acquisition in 2010
Cody Ross was a great waiver claim acquisition in 2010Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Your favorite team did not make the deals you wanted them to at the July 31 trade deadline.  Are they sunk?

The answer is most likely but not for certain.  There is a process that teams can use to trade players after the deadline, and it's called waivers.  Here's how it works in simple terms.

If a team wants to trade a player after July 31, they will place him on waivers.  All 29 other teams have the option of making a waiver claim and trying to obtain this player.  This is how the Giants got Cody Ross, who turned out to be the NLCS MVP, in 2010.

The pecking order to determine the team that is awarded the claim starts with the worst team in your own league.  After all teams in your own league have had their chance, if no team claims the player, the opposite league's teams are considered.

The period a player is exposed to waivers is 47 hours.  If you can imagine a secret ballot, that is the waiver claim process.  Every team has the right to make a claim. 

Following the claiming period, the original team that a had a player claimed has three options. First off, they can work out a trade with the team that's claiming the player. They can also decide to keep him and pull him back off of waivers.

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The third option is for the original team to receive $20,000 from the claiming team.  The claiming team must also pay the entire salary of the player they acquire.

Catcher Ramon Hernandez could be in a waiver deal
Catcher Ramon Hernandez could be in a waiver dealRob Carr/Getty Images

Once a waiver claim is made on a player, the original team has 24 hours to make a decision on what they wish to do.

Both the original team and the team making the waiver claim can rescind their action, as it is a non-binding situation.  By this, I mean the original team can pull the player off waivers and keep him and the claiming team can also drop their claim.

Typically, these post trade deadline waiver deals involve veterans with higher salaries.  The idea is that many teams will not put in a claim because they will be on the hook for the remaining salary of that player. 

On the other hand, younger, cheaper players will almost always be claimed by multiple teams.

We have also seen teams make waiver claims to block rivals from obtaining a player for the stretch run. 

Looking back at the Giants' claim of Cody Ross, they liked the player, but they also did not want the then division leading Padres to get him.  It turned out to be a great move by the Giants.

Most of these waiver deals occur prior to Aug. 31, although there is no official deadline.  The reason for this is in order for a player to be eligible for the playoffs, he must be on the roster by Aug. 31.

There are other nuances to the waiver process, but you now know enough to win almost any bar room argument.  


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