For decades, there was the Trade Deadline, and there was the Waiver Trade Deadline. Remember that? Your normal trade deadline was the one at the end of July, where the vast majority of moves took place, and every player was freely tradable. But then there was always that caveat: after July, players could still get traded, they just had to pass through revocable trade waivers first, or had to be traded to the team that claimed them. And there were so many rules beyond that. It was complex, but it was fun. More importantly, what that meant in practice was that guys with big contracts or marginal depth players were still pretty available in August, even after the July Trade Deadline.
But that’s gone now. No more August waiver trade period.
Guys who aren’t on the 40-man roster can still be traded in August, and there are always traditional waivers off of which you can claim guys who are being designated for assignment, for example. But the ability to trade for a decent depth guy? An extra bullpen arm or the obligatory “speed” guy or the third catcher? All gone now.
In case you forgot, this change actually kicked in the year before the pandemic – this wasn’t a change related to that. But then the pandemic happened, the season got cut down, the Trade Deadline moved, and the topic fell to the wayside because you couldn’t have had a waiver trade period anyway. So I think maybe some folks did forget that the waiver trade period was gone in 2019, irrespective of the pandemic.
What does that mean for the week ahead? Well, it means we might see more contract dumping than usual, but more likely, it means we could see more extreme depth trades, which we did seem to see in 2019 (especially on the day of the deadline). Fringier roster guys who might not otherwise be seen as a “trade candidate” could be dealt in just-in-case moves to contenders who don’t want to risk the next month+ without any reinforcements. To be sure, the returns in these trades would still be extremely modest – sometimes just salary relief, as I noted this morning in reference to Eric Sogard – but I suspect we’ll see more of these kinds of deals than usual in July. That doesn’t meant the Cubs WILL move more of these fringe depth guys on the bench or in the bullpen; it just means it’s more plausible than it would’ve been before 2019.
Meanwhile, minor league veterans who are borderline big league depth guys? The ones who are on a minor league deal as of July 31? They certainly might get moved in August, so I wonder if we’ll see some efforts in the next week for teams to try to get those types guys DFA’d and passed through outright waivers. Just in case. All of this is just in case.