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Writing about the post-July-31 trading system has become an annual rite. Not a lot has changed since I explained the process last year, but, I suppose the faces have changed (as have the readers). Thus, it’s worth doing again.

Invariably, the non-waiver trade deadline passes, a bunch of would-be trades don’t happen, and folks start to wonder something they didn’t really openly wonder on July 30: what’s that “non-waiver” part mean?

The short answer is that, before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, anyone can be traded to any team. After that date, trades can still happen, but you’ve got to first deal with the sticky issue of “waivers.”

You’ve actually heard that term before. Waivers are not relevant only in August, you see. They’re used throughout the year, for various purposes, and the types of waivers employed vary based on the time of year and the purpose of the waiver. For the purposes of this post, however, I’m focused only on waivers in August, which is the process by which teams make players eligible to be traded. (Perhaps next March, I’ll write up a more complete explanation of waivers, as that’s the next time you’re likely to hear the term thrown around a lot.)

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?” And, if you want to trade a guy in August, you’ve got to first give every other team a chance to take him (and his contract) for nothing.

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 47 hours (business days only), 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).

One more important piece of the pie, which I’ll just grab from last year’s edition, since I’d mostly be saying the same thing:

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.

So, against that backdrop, let’s take a quick look at the Cubs’ tradable pieces (because of the revocable nature of these waivers, you can safely assume – whether it’s true or not – that all Cubs will be waived).

Hopefully it’s apparent to you at this point that Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Marmol, thanks to their unhealthy contracts, will easily clear waivers. They can be traded as freely in August as they could have been in July. The Cubs will undoubtedly shop them aggressively, and try to save a little money and pick up a prospect or two in the process.

Jeff Baker is a closer call, but he still makes a hair more than a team would probably care to claim ($1.375 million this year). If he is claimed, you can be sure that it will be by a team that actually wants him this year, and the Cubs will try to work out a trade. He won’t net much, but the Cubs could at least save a few hundred thousand in the process. If he clears waivers, the Cubs will continue to shop him.

The story is largely the same for Shawn Camp (despite his implosion yesterday), though I suspect he would get claimed (he makes the minimum). The Cubs will try to work out that deal, and could get a not-totally-forgettable prospect in the process (but not any kind of impact talent). If he clears waivers, like Baker, he’ll be shopped.

A tricky case is someone like Bryan LaHair. No, he isn’t hitting, but neither is he even remotely expensive. Why wouldn’t a team take a chance on him if they could have him for free? Unless there’s some kind of gentleman’s agreement not to claim guys like LaHair unless you really want to work out a deal, I have a hard time seeing LaHair even making it past the crappy teams (none of whom would probably give up much for him in trade, instead submitting the waiver claim as a way of saying, “well, I mean, sure, we’d take him for free”). I would be very surprised if LaHair is dealt in August.

As for someone like a Matt Garza, let me say it as clearly as possible: there is a 0.00000 (and then an infinite number of 0’s thereafter, without so much as a hint of a “1”) % chance that he could make it through waivers. Again, absent some kind of gentleman’s agreement (which I don’t think exists for August waivers the way it does earlier in the year), he wouldn’t even get past the very first team, the Houston Astros.

The injury won’t scare teams off from a waiver claim, because the upside in claiming is more than worth the risk that he’s broken. Since he is arbitration eligible, he’s not “under contract” for 2013 (he’s simply “under control” for 2013). If a team took him (which, by the way, wouldn’t happen either, because the waivers are revocable, and the Cubs would be plenty happy to keep Garza, so they would revoke the waiver and keep him), and he was all broken, they could just “non-tender” him in December, and he’d become a free agent. All they’ve lost is the couple million bucks they paid him in 2012 by taking his contract for this year. That’s chump change when the reward on the other end is getting Garza in 2013, or getting to trade Garza for a bounty of prospects in December.

I don’t think any other other tradable pieces – Darwin Barney, David DeJesus, Manny Corpas, James Russell – will go anywhere in August, for a variety of reasons. Given the explanations above, I imagine you can figure them out.

A final note on September trades – We call the end of August the “waiver trade deadline,” but, strictly speaking, it isn’t a deadline at all. Trades can still go through in September, but here’s the rub: to be eligible for a playoff roster, a guy has to be on your team before September 1. So, although a team *can* acquire a guy in September, in-season trades overwhelmingly tend to involve sending big league pieces to teams in playoff contention. If you can’t use that piece for the playoffs, themselves, how valuable is that piece? Hence, the last batch of important trades tend to happen in August, before the “waiver trade deadline.”

  • CubsFan4Life

    Dempster’s ERA is climbing tonight. He has given up 7 earned runs in just 4 innings against the Angels.

    • Atfinch

      Make that 8 runs. I’m thinking his reluctance in going to ATL is going to hurt him come free agency time. And after everything that happened I don’t feel bad one bit for him.

      • fortyonenorth

        Angels the hammer, Ryan the nail.

        • JP cubed

          Yeah and I think he was “blindsided” by the Angels tonight…

    • DarthHater

      Hey, get off Dempster’s case. He’s got 10-5 rights. That means he gets to give up 10 runs in 5 innings. He earned that right, so shut up.

      • Doug Dascenzo

        har har

      • CubsFan4Life

        Hey DarthHater, That was very funny. I will never think about 10 – 5 rights the same again.

  • morgan

    yep just let the trade play out, all us knew that dumpster would get lit up in the al, his stuff isnt good enough for the al, Also mike olt looks like a stud, know why rangers didnt want to trade him, would of looked nice at the corner for the cubs, but lets just hope vitters turns out to be a good player. Think the 3b we got in the trade going to be a good one, maybe not an all-star but and everyday player

    • fortyonenorth

      “Think the 3b we got in the trade going to be a good one, maybe not an all-star but and everyday player.”

      Too early to tell, but 2 for 3 with 2 homers is not a bad way to start.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Pfft. What happened in that third at bat?

  • notcubbiewubbie

    so nice to see dumpster living up to his name charlie choker. nice to see albert bitchslap him again. didn’t want to go to atlanta????? hardee har har har.

    • stillmisskennyhubbs

      Schadenfreude. Understandable, but serves no purpose.

  • Bric

    Brett- great analysis of the worst system in major league sports.This whole overly complicated waivers thing pretty much demonstrates that. Waivers, 10-5 rights, NTCs, luxary taxes, overslot contracts, this new thing about small markets getting an extra draft pick…

    WTF? This isn’t Wall Street or Vegas- It seems the Emporer and the owners purposefully want to make anything involving a contract or draft pick so complicated that no one understands it. Seriously- before last week had anyone ever heard of the 24 hr waiting period to decide on a trade? Dempster wasn’t trying to buy a gun. I swear the GMs and Bud make this shit up as they go.

  • Alex

    AZL Cubs had a 5 run 3rd inning and are up 5-0 over the AZL Angels. Soler hit a 2 run double and Almora also has a double.

  • stillmisskennyhubbs

    One more time please: Who gets first dibs on a Cubs player, for example. The worst AL team, or the worst NL team?

    • daveyrosello

      Worst NL team is first. Best NL team has dibs on the worst AL team. Best AL team is last.
      Reverse NL and AL roles if an AL team is putting a player on waivers.

      • stillmisskennyhubbs

        Thanks ! Another site had it backwards.

  • Bric

    The worst NL team.

    • stillmisskennyhubbs

      Thanks for the answer.

  • daveyrosello

    Bwaaahhaaaa, Dumpster gets ripped by the Angels. Yeah, it’s juvenile to gloat, but this time I think it’s deserved. And the pudding? Villanueva could be a real get for us, how ironic would it be if the two prospects from the Rangers end up with better upside than Delgado? Yummy yummy pudding.

  • Doug Dascenzo

    So he turns down Atlanta because it was better for his career and his family that he go to that launching pad in Texas? ლ(ಠ_ಠლ)

    • Scotti

      Folks with children with disabilities make choices that many don’t understand.

      • Bric

        Very true.

        • Rebuilding

          You guys do know his ex-wife is dating Chipper Jones now…right? Don’t think it had anything to do with his child.

      • Simmer

        Don’t be an asshole man. Leave his kids out of it.

      • notcubbiewubbie

        im sure he thought of that when he was boinking the nanny

  • art

    IMO the reason wasn’t the family, it was the dodgers.

  • MaxM1908

    Nice video. Cubs part starts at 4:19.

    • MaxM1908

      That link doesn’t work. Use this one.

      • Leroy K.

        Excellent!!! I didn’t know I could have a Cubs casket!!! Whoo hoo!!!! I wonder if the army would pay for THAT!

  • Nathan

    Charlie Villanueva had a nice first game huh? haha

  • Kyle

    So I have a question about waivers, lets just say for the sake of this question that garza makes it through waivers, and they trade him to the d-backs. The return would be Justin Upton and some prospect named Joe Schmo, again just for the sake of the question. For this to happen would Upton have to pass through waivers as well? What about Joe Schmo? i guess I am asking if pieces of the return also have to pass through waivers.

    • Turn Two

      Upton yes, Jow Schmoe if he was on the 40 man roster.

  • http://www.eyecanseeinc.com LeotheCub

    Thank you for the Waiver explanation as it relates to August and September. That is a big help to understand how that works. Again, I enjoy this site so much. Thanks

  • Mr. Gonzo

    Great article per usual, Brett. Who else may be a good fit for Soriano besides Detroit… Tampa? Baltimore? I guess the real question mark is their interest level..

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  • http://www.twitter.com/laughhammer Bill In Plainfield

    A very good explanation of the August waiver process. Thank you! I’m clear when it comes to the NFL but was a bit hazy when it comes to MLB waivers because they have so many different processes to trade and waive players.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Maybe you can explain NFL to me some time …

      • http://www.twitter.com/laughhammer Bill In Plainfield

        sure

      • http://www.twitter.com/laughhammer Bill In Plainfield

        What’s the waiver wire you ask? It’s the way that the NFL manages released players who have four or less accrued seasons in the league.

        Once players are cut by a team, they are eligible to be signed first by the team with the worst record in the previous season (in this case the Lions), then the second worst and so on until you get to the best NFL team. So if a player is cut and the Lions don’t put a waiver out on him, he’s eligible to be signed by the Rams and then the Chiefs and so on. Of course, the team that signs him can’t go over the 53-man roster limit so they may have to make cuts as well to make room.

        If a waived player is picked up by a team and then released again, he goes through the waiver wire process all over again.

        Only players with four or fewer accrued NFL seasons enter the waiver wire. Here is the definition of an accrued season: 6 or more regular-season games in one season in which a player is on the 53-man protected roster, IR list or PUP list.

        Players who have completed more than four accrued seasons automatically become free agents if they are let go at this point in the season.

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