Now that the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline has passed, teams can still make trades, only with more restrictions than before. The full list of rules surrounding post-deadline trades have, of course, been shared elsewhere, most notably in an article by Jayson Stark (then with ESPN.com) from all the way back in 2004, and in greater detail at Cub Reporter. Since the rules surrounding August deals are confusing, though, they’re worth reviewing here.
- After the trade deadline, a big-league player must pass through revocable waivers before his team can trade him without restriction. These waivers last 47 hours. If no one claims him in that period, his team can trade him anywhere.
- If a player is claimed, his team can do one of three things. It can trade the player to the claiming team, revoke the waiver request (in which case the player will remain with his original team), or simply allow the claiming team to take the player and his salary (although a player with no-trade rights can block this from happening).
- A recent example of an August trade that developed from a waiver claim was the Mariners’ acquisition of Arquimedes Caminero from the Pirates in 2016. The Mariners claimed Caminero and then worked out a deal with the Bucs to bring the right-hander to Seattle for two players to be named later. An example of a claim that didn’t result in a trade occurred in 2015, when an unknown team claimed Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez. The two sides couldn’t strike a deal, so the Brewers revoked their waiver request, and K-Rod remained in Milwaukee. Examples of teams simply letting players go via revocable waivers are more rare, particularly with big-contract players. That being said, it is always possible; in 2009, the White Sox claimed Alex Rios from the Blue Jays, who simply let him go to Chicago without a trade. The White Sox were thus responsible for all of the approximately $62MM remaining on Rios’ contract.
- A team has 48.5 hours to trade a claimed player, and can only negotiate with the team awarded the claim on him.
- It’s common for teams to place players on revocable waivers, and their having done so does not necessarily mean they have serious plans to trade them. As Stark points out, teams commonly use waivers of certain players purely as smokescreens to disguise which players they really are interested in trading. In fact, sometimes teams place their entire rosters on waivers.
- If more than one team claims a player, priority is determined by worst record to best record in the league of the waiving team, followed by worst record to best record in the other league. For example, if an NL team places a player on revocable waivers, the team with the NL’s worst record will get first priority on claims, followed by every other team in the NL from worst to best, followed by AL teams from worst to best.
- If a team pulls a player back from waivers once, it cannot do so again in August. So if a team places a player on waivers for a second time, those waivers will be non-revocable.
- Players not on 40-man rosters are eligible to be traded at any time without passing through waivers.
- A player on the disabled list can only pass through waivers if his minimum period of inactivity has passed and he is healthy and able to play at his accustomed level.
- Teams can still make trades in September, but players acquired after August 31st can’t play in the postseason.
Due to the number of restrictions in place, it has long been relatively rare to see trades of real significance go down in August. But that all changed last year in a wild month of action. A variety of notable players were moved during August of 2017, most famously including Justin Verlander, who ultimately helped lead the Astros to a World Series victory. Justin Upton, Mike Leake, Neil Walker, Jay Bruce, Yonder Alonso, Brandon Phillips, Rajai Davis, Curtis Granderson, Tyler Clippard, and Sean Rodriguez were among the others that were swapped.
While that easily represented the most notable August trade season we’ve yet encountered at MLBTR, in terms of both quality and quantity of action, it didn’t contain the single most monumental transaction in the run-up to a waiver deadline. Rather, the biggest August trade in recent memory remains the nine-player swap between the Dodgers and Red Sox in 2012 that saw Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett head to L.A. That ground-shifting deal not only launched a Dodgers resurgence, but also allowed the Red Sox to clear tens of millions in salary commitments off their books, paving the way for the team to reload in the offseason and go on to win the 2013 World Series.