The Waiver System in August – Claims, Trades, Deadline

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.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

62 responses to “The Waiver System in August – Claims, Trades, Deadline”

  1. Fishin Phil

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

    1. 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…

      1. Fishin Phil

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

  2. 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?

    1. 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.”

  3. hardtop

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

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

  5. Spencer

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

  6. 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.”

  7. dreese

    Thanks Brett, i feel smarter

    1. hardtop

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

  8. 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

    1. MichiganGoat

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

  9. 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.

    1. MichiganGoat

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

      1. Caleb


        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.

      2. 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.

  10. 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.

    1. TWC

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

      1. Michigan Goat

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

  11. Ron

    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.

  12. 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.)

  13. 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)

  14. Ron

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

    1. Michigan Goat and create an account

  15. Michigan Goat

    Sorry Pitsburgh

  16. Skooter

    Garbage in garbage can….hmmm…makes sense!

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  18. Mike Foster

    Good post Bret, thanks.

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