Waivers 101: A Brief Overview of the August Trade Process


My friends, a word of advice if I may. When it comes to understanding an agreement or any sort of official declaration please be sure to read the fine print.

Take for example the passing of the July 31st trade deadline, a date that many erroneously consider to be the last chance to make an in-season trade. Unlike other sports, the actual term for everyone’s favorite day of speculation is “the non-waiver trade deadline”, and as most are aware of players traded post deadline are subject to the waiver process, making deals more difficult but far from impossible to accomplish.

Which brings us to our next step. The Oakland Athletics are currently in contention and stand a fair shot at postseason play. That much is obvious. Say, that Billy Beane identified the need for a starting pitcher and went about facilitating the acquisition of an available pitcher to join the rotation before the August 31st postseason eligibility deadline. Now let’s make believe that said pitcher is Dan Haren who was placed on waivers today by the Washington Nationals.

Okay, so let’s look at what this means. First thing to make note of is that players exposed to waivers, are not part of any type of transactional list that is privy to the public. This isn’t the same deal as a player who was designated for assignment, or given his outright release. It’s a common procedural move, where the player remains on the active roster and the only word that they are even on waivers is broadcast through the means of beat writers and reputable columnists across the land.

With Danny Knobler in the loop, we can safely assume that the information he has on Haren is in fact true. With the Nationals spiraling under .500, they are now willing to unload Haren and the roughly 3.7 million dollars remaining on his contract to an interested suitor who would then put a claim.

If the suitor has competition for Haren’s services, and given the lack of available starting pitching it’s safe to say there will be, than the real fun begins. The moment Haren was placed on waivers, he immediately became subject to a 47-hour revocable waivers period where the Nationals can gauge the interest level on him. If Haren goes unclaimed, then he can be traded to any of the 29 teams after the period eclipses. If he is claimed as expected, the Nationals will have the option of working out a trade with the interested team, pulling him back off waivers, or allowing that team to simply claim him without receiving compensation back. If two or more teams place a claim on Haren, then he would be rewarded to the team with the worst record and the preceding options would still come in play.

J Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s an example of each of the three scenarios, that could lie in the future for Haren. Just last August, the Athletics worked out a deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks for Stephen Drew after being rewarded a claim for the shortstop. With the deal completed on August 20th, the Athletics were able to beat the August 31 deadline and Drew was eligible for the postseason roster. The same would apply to Haren, if he were to be acquired before August 31st.

If Haren were to be claimed by a team who was uninterested in yielding talent for the right-hander, the Nationals could theoretically pull Haren back off waivers negating the claim. The Phillies pulled Cliff Lee back last August, after the Dodgers claimed the lefty and a deal failed to materialized in the allotted time necessary.

If the Nationals seek to shed themselves of the remainder of Haren’s contract, they could simply allow the claiming team to have him without receiving anything in return. This move is usually reserved to teams looking to shed payroll or create roster space, and recent examples include the White Sox inheriting Alex Rios in 2009 and the Giants adding Cody Ross in 2010. Teams will also occasionally place a claim on a player with no intention of acquiring them, the reason behind this is to block a contending team with a greater record from acquiring the player. At times this has backfired hilariously, and the claiming team has wound up with an unwanted, unproductive, and expensive player such as when the San Diego Padres claimed an ineffective Randy Myers in August of 1998 to keep him away from the Atlanta Braves. In that case the Padres were allowed to send two non-prospects to Toronto to save face, but the damage was done and their ruse fooled no one.