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As you know, July 31 was the “non-waiver trade deadline,” and, for the rest of the season, teams can make “waiver trades.” You probably even nodded your head at these concepts as though they were as self-explanatory as “ground ball,” “second base,” or “team chemistry.”

And maybe you do understand them implicitly. But not everyone does, so I thought, as we enter August, it might be worth explaining how the waiver system works in August (and September).

The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is so called because it marks the date by which, if you want to complete a trade without having to worry about this whole “waivers” business, you need to makes yer dealz. After July 31 (and through to the end of the season), however, a team must first place a player on “waivers” to make that player eligible to be traded.

Ok, but what are “waivers”?

In a super shorthanded description: waivers are the way you say to every other team in baseball, “hey, you want this guy?”

If a player is placed on waivers, any team may “claim” him. If more than one team claims the player from waivers, only one team’s claim actually goes through. Priority is given to teams in the player’s league, with the team with the worst record getting highest priority. If no team in the player’s own league claims him, then priority goes to the other league, again, in reverse order of the standings.

If another team claims the player off waivers (and its claim is either the only claim or is the highest priority claim as described above), the player’s current team has three options:

(1) It can allow the claiming team to assume the player’s entire contract, who then places him on its 25-man roster; or

(2) It can trade the player to the claiming team within two business days of the claim; or

(3) It can cancel the waiver by pulling the player back.

If the player is not claimed by any team within three business days of being placed on waivers, the player is said to have “cleared waivers.” That player is then free to be traded to any team, released, or assigned to a minor league team (subject to various collectively-bargained-for rights about refusing assignments).

And that’s it. That’s how waivers work, and how they relate to trades in August.

Now, I know what you’re wondering: so who has been placed on waivers? The short answer is: no idea. The slightly longer answer is: probably just about everyone.

The complete answer is: unless the information leaks (or a player is ultimately traded to or assumed by another team), you’re not going to find out who is on waivers. This isn’t your fantasy football league. Who has been placed on waivers is a highly secretive business, for reasons that I’d think would be obvious. Every year, it leaks that some superstar has been placed on waivers, and the media erupts. “OMG! YANKEES PLACE AROD ON WAIVERS!!!!1!!LOL!!!!”

Sorry, folks. It’s not a story. And the reason is tied to that “slightly longer answer” up there. Because of the revocable nature of waivers, teams risk almost nothing by placing virtually every player on waivers in August. If there’s even a tiny chance you might want to move a guy, you might as well throw him up on waivers, and see what happens. If he clears waivers, cool. If he’s claimed, you can work out a trade, or just pull him back. No fuss, no muss.

The only risk that I can see is that, if a guy is placed on waivers in August, is claimed, and then is pulled back by his team, that’s it for him. No more waivers that year. But, for the types of players who would be claimed by a bunch of teams (i.e. stars or cheap players), you’re probably not going to want to place that player on waivers later in the year anyway.

One final note: this same procedure applies in September, despite the existence of another deadline, dubbed the “waiver trade deadline,” on August 31. The rub, however, is that guys who are traded in September are not eligible for the post-season roster. Every couple of years, it seems, a September trade goes down, but it’s rare.

So, with all this information in your back pocket, you can now more confidently approach the waiver trade period and say things like, “there is zero chance Geovany Soto would not be claimed,” or “Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano can be traded as easily in August as in July (of course, that is to say, not easily at all).”

For what it’s worth, I’ve heard that Zambrano, Soriano, and John Grabow have been placed on waivers – but, with your knowledge of how the system works, you didn’t need me to “hear” that to know it’s true. Odds are, most Cubs have been placed on waivers. Far more importantly, we may soon hear about who has cleared waivers, and who hasn’t.

  • Fishin Phil

    Great explanation Brett. Sure wish someone would put in a claim for Hendry.

    • deej

      Damn – I rushed to my computer to try to be the first to make a “can we put a GM on waivers…?” joke… You beat me to it Phil…

      • Fishin Phil

        I’ll let you have the next one. Anything to improve blog chemistry.

  • Mike S

    How long do the players have to be on waivers until they are considered “cleared through waivers”?? Do teams have 24 hours to place a claim on a player?

    • MichiganGoat

      If the player is not claimed by any team within three business days of being placed on waivers, the player is said to have “cleared waivers.”

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Crap. I missed this comment, and then I made a dick comment. I = dick.

        • MichiganGoat

          Yup your a dick and you actually besmirched Old Style and IPA so your a double dick which of course cancels each other out leaving you as a puss… but I kid I kid.

          • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

            I like your math, goat.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Not to be the guy who says “as the post says,” but…

      As the post says, players clear in three business days. So, teams have three business days to place a claim on a player.

      • pfk

        OK, can you slow down a bit Brett. This is waaaay too complicated. In the famous words of Jerry Kramer, the legendary guard of the Green Bay Packers when Vince Lombardi, in a rant after a bad loss saying he was going back to basics, held up a football and said, “This is a football,” Jerry Kramer raised his hand and said, “Coach, can you slow it down a bit.”

  • hardtop

    brett, thanks for educating me. i feel empowered.
    i am so smart, i am so smart, s.m.r.t., i mean….

  • fan man

    Brett, can you clarify something here. When a player is claimed off waivers then it’s his current team’s option to decide if they want to allow the claiming team to 1) assume his contract, 2) work out a trade, or 3) pull him back off waivers?

    So if the Cubs put Soriano on waivers, and another team claims Soriano it would be the Cubs option to allow them to assume the remainder of his contract? Is that accurate? Not that anyone would ever claim Soriano, just wondering if thats how it would work.

    • MichiganGoat

      Yup that’s why Soriano would easily pass through/clear waivers and then we could negotiate a trade just like it was in July.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      You got it. And then you got it again – no team in the history of the universe would ever claim Soriano right now.

      • marc

        I hear the bad news bears are looking for a water boy

  • Spencer

    okay so i get the wavier concept, now i expect a post on chemistry.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Now is not the time for bold posts on chemistry.

      (that will never get old to me)

      • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

        Add in one on “upside” while you’re at it, too.

  • CubFan Paul

    ..i didnt know Jeff Baker was a CATCHER or even a catcher at any point in his career. In fact, i think his natural position dating back to college was 3rd base but had to learn 2nd, 1st &the corner outfield spots to get playing time in colorado.. I hate when national wirters voice their uninformed opinions ..keep up the good work Brett, seriously

    “The noncontending Cubs seemed oddly possessive of several of their coveted veterans, including outfielder Marlon Byrd, first baseman Carlos Peña and catcher Jeff Baker, before the trade deadline.”

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/jon_heyman/08/03/chicago.cubs/index.html?eref=writers

  • dreese

    Thanks Brett, i feel smarter

    • hardtop

      Be careful learning new stuff, “every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain.”

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        I just forgot math.

        • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

          Me fail English? That’s unpossible!

          • hardtop

            Ah, the joy of being among the like minded… or should i say those whose minds are filled with useless simpsons lines.

            • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

              There’s no such thing as a useless Simpsons line!

  • philoe beddoe

    I feel so pathetic as a fan that we are reduced to being interested in “waiver claims”…but here goes anyway…what do you think of this

    WILL DEFINITELY CLEAR- Soriano, Zambrano, Grabow
    MOST LIKELY CLEAR- Pena(backloaded 5 mil due in Jan), Dempster
    CLAIMABLE(IF THAT’S EVEN A WORD- Byrd, Johnson, Baker, Soto
    NO F#ING CLUE- Ramirez…still not sure what to believe about next years option

    • MichiganGoat

      You could just join the beer conversation, it’s not pathetic at all.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That’s exactly how I’d have those guys, right down to the ? on Ramirez. I think we don’t know enough about his contract to be certain.

  • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

    Okay, here’s one for ya.

    A guy goes on waivers and is claimed by some team. His original team says “okay, you can have him and assume his contract.” So far so good.

    But, these contracts nowadays are weird. What goes into the picking-up-of of contracts? Options? Clauses? No trades? What if a player was guaranteed a thousand bobbleheads in his likeness, wearing his current team colors, but is then picked up by another team?

    Here’s my guess answer: lawyers and agents work this out, while keeping a little something for their trouble.

    • MichiganGoat

      I imagine NTC and options transfer as well as bonus payouts, as for team specific perks that’s why we have lawyers.

      • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

        Probably.

        And that’s why I’m going to law school in a few weeks. Maybe one day *I* can be that lawyer representing players and cutting a slice for myself.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Good luck to you. Keep your soul. It slithers away more easily than you might think.

          • Caleb

            I’ve been with the government for 5 years. What soul?

      • hardtop

        so thats why we have them, i knew there was some reason. for awhile i thought we had them so they could become disgruntled, drop out, and write clever and informative reports on the Cubs.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Ha. I get it.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      My understanding – and this could be seven ways from f’d up – is that you take the contract totally as is, with ONE exception: if a player has a NTC or 10/5 NT rights, the player can refuse to be assumed by another team.

      • Dave

        I believe you’re right, I recall there being reports that Manny had to waive his NTC when the White Sox claimed him.

  • philoe beddoe

    for everyone calling for Hendry’s head( I kind of am too, I just want everyone gone) thought this might give you hope:

    Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is in Peoria to visit the Class A Chiefs. Kevin Capie of the Peoria Journal Star has tweeted thusly this afternoon:

    Ricketts: “We want to be known as a team that drafts and develops players better than the other teams.”

    Ricketts on anticipating changes: “I don’t know just yet. It’s something we’ll decide at the right time.”

    That is not a ringing endorsement for anyone.

    • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

      Who the hell wants Hendry’s head? That thing probably weighs 60lbs!

      • Michigan Goat

        It would make good soup… Yeah I’ve been drinking delicious Michigan IPA.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      No, it’s not. I dig.

  • Ron

    http://espn.go.com/new-york/mlb/story/_/id/6830659/mlb-suspend-alex-rodriguez-illegal-poker

    Maybe the Yankees will be a bit more interested in Ramirez if he clears waivers. They need a DH and you never know what will happen here.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Eh. He’ll serve some token suspension while he’s on the disabled list.

      (like when Edinson Volquez tested positive for PEDs and somehow was allowed to serve his suspension while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery – bullshit)

  • ReiCow

    If a team claims your waver (say some crazy GM took Sori), could the Cubs go “You claimed him.. here is the contract, buh bye, now!”? (Just curious how BINDING the claim is.)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Totally binding.

  • ron

    Just curious, if we were to trade Pena away, how likely do you think it would be that we would be able to grab Pujols or Fielder when they become free agents? Do we have the money or do we need to get rid of some players first? (like zambrano, soriano, ramirez)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      If payroll stays flat, the money will be there. But the Cubs may have to top all comers to get one of them to come to this… team.

  • Ron

    I think it is time I get an identity, how do you get that picture do hicky thing again?

  • Michigan Goat

    Sorry Pitsburgh

  • http://www.weareworkers.com Skooter

    Garbage in garbage can….hmmm…makes sense!

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  • Mike Foster

    Good post Bret, thanks.

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