This was once the point where we’d remind everyone of the August trade rules — that set of convoluted procedures by which players could still be swapped even after the “trade deadline.” Confusing as that was, it was a key backstop for contenders that saw needs arise. Increasingly, that second bite at the apple had provided a significant source of talent movement, giving teams opportunities to re-think their earlier decisions.
No more! We’ve already examined the new trade deadline rules in a detailed rulebook reading. But that’s not for everyone. What you want to know is: how can my team get new players from here through the end of the season?
Here are the remaining ways in which players can still move from team to team the rest of the way:
- Waiver claims: Teams can no longer trade players who have been designated for assignment, but they can still be placed on outright waivers. This is the only way to nab a player on a Major League contract until after the end of the World Series. August 31st is still the deadline for postseason eligibility — that limitation applies also to all classes of players discussed below — but otherwise teams can claim a contract just like usual. It’s a simple and direct way to add a player, but entirely uncertain and often undesirable when the deal includes substantial guaranteed money. Note that the priority order is determined by lowest winning percentage on a leaguewide basis. League status (NL/AL) no longer matters, except in the event that two teams placing a claim have the same record.
- Signings of outrighted/released players: Nothing says ’ya can’t ink a guy who’s a free agent. That’s not generally notable, but it could well work in a different manner than it has in years past. It used to be that we’d talk about revocable trade waivers — again, click here if you want to walk down memory lane — but they’re now a non-entity. Now, we’re talking about outright or release waivers. If a team obtains waivers on a well-compensated veteran — say, Asdrubal Cabrera, who was designated after failing to draw deadline interest and may well clear — it’s quite likely that said player will end up on the open market. Even if they’re outrighted, players with five or more years of service can elect free agency without sacrificing any guaranteed money. At that point, they’d be free to sign with any team. Their prior organization would at least stand to recoup a bit of cash for any time said player ends up spending on a MLB roster, earning a pro-rated portion of the league minimum. Point being: there is a way that some high-cost veterans could end up moving to contenders, even if their contracts are too spendy to be claimed.
- Dealing for veterans on minor-league deals: Before you ask, no, this doesn’t include players whose MLB contracts have already been outrighted. Why do you think Dan Straily and John Ryan Murphy were dealt on deadline day? (Yes, I’m bragging that I called it.) But there are plenty of veteran types playing on minors deals who’d at least represent worthwhile fill-in assets. There are frankly too many to list. You can scroll the Triple-A leaderboards to find some plausible guys who’ve been performing well this year after settling for minors arrangements. In many cases, such players won’t come with significant future value for the clubs that control them. Getting a little something in return, and logging some marketplace goodwill by facilitating an opportunity for such a player, might well make a trade worthwhile.
- Dealing for prospects: Who knows? We may even see some higher-end talent moved if a contender gets desperate and sees an opportunity. That used to happen all the time … albeit generally not with the pre-MLB piece moving to a contender. The reason major August trades were possible in the past was that non-40-man talent could be swapped without having to pass through waivers. Remember when the Astros sent three quality prospects to the Tigers for Justin Verlander (whose big contract had cleared revocable trade waivers)? That particular deal couldn’t happen any more, since Verlander couldn’t be traded, but all such prospects can be dealt as freely as ever. It’s conceivable we’ll see prospect-for-prospect arrangements happen this August. It’s hard to imagine elite players being shipped around, but not impossible. More likely, perhaps, would be a move involving a fast-moving, recently drafted collegiate reliever or lower-ceiling starter who hadn’t yet been placed on a 40-man roster.
- Acquiring players from abroad: Remember this move, Orioles fans? That particular mid-season MLB deal for a player that had been playing in Japan didn’t work out, but it showed a potential (albeit limited) path that could be followed now. Due to roster restrictions, only so many players are suiting up in the Asian professional leagues, so there aren’t all that many players. And most are not only earning well, but are playing key roles on their teams (with championship schedules that generally align with that of MLB). That might limit the field to players that aren’t playing all that well or those that can be made available through some inducement to their current team. Still, it’s definitely a possible avenue for digging up potentially necessary pieces. MyKBO provides a helpful table of foreign players in Korea. You can browse the NPB rosters and statistics for possible finds. And there are also quite a few names of note over in Taiwan, as CPBL Stats tracks.
- Scouring the independent circuit: It’s not the sexiest way to find talent, but cultivating depth is cultivating depth. The Twins already nabbed some outfield depth with such an addition earlier today, and it won’t be terribly surprising to see the Long Island Ducks, the Sugar Land Skeeters, the St. Paul Saints or the Milwaukee Milkmen (yes, that’s a franchise) have a few players poached over the course of the month. Those types of signings are often met with an eye roll, but we’re also nearing the four-year anniversary of Rich Hill’s signing with the Red Sox (out of the Atlantic League).