A little break from the Giants-oriented commentary because…well, this weekend sucked.  Let’s talk about how trades in August work.  No, really.  Apparently, this is complicated.  When I was applying to be a Game Manual writer at EA Sports, when they found out I knew baseball, I was asked this question…by three different interviewers.  I was also asked about Icing in Hockey and Offsides in Soccer, but they were most enthused about learning about this rule.  You know, because they actually cared about baseball.

If this team, or any team, is going to help themselves with some new players in August, they need to navigate the murky rules of the Waiver Trade Deadline.

As you can see above, this all works on the basis of “Revocable Waivers”.  Unlike most of the year, waivers after July 31st until the end of the season allow the team that waived a player to pull him back.  Usually, waivers mean you’re sending a guy off your 40-man roster, and to be fair to the player, every other team gets a chance to say that they want that guy before he’s sent down.  If someone else claims him, they get him.

With “Revocable Waivers”, when a player gets claimed, his team gets to keep him anyway (if they want…wait for it).  If he clears waivers after 48 hours, he doesn’t have to get kicked off the roster.  But…if he is claimed or he clears waivers, then he can be traded.

So, if he clears waivers, he can be traded to anyone.  But if he’s claimed, he can only be traded to the team that claimed him.

That’s an important part of why August has a bit of intrigue for trades.

As stated above, a team with a worse record might just make claims on players only to stop the better teams from getting them.  But doing that too much might land a surprise new player that team might not need or really want.  After all, the team that put a player on waivers could just let him go after all, as if the month wasn’t different.

That’d mean the new team would have to pay his salary, and clear a roster spot off for him (ironically potentially meaning putting one of their existing players on waivers that they would not have room to revoke).

While such things happen rarely, they do happen.  After all, in 2010, the Giants were more interested in blocking the San Diego Padres from getting an extra outfielder after Tony Gwynn Jr. got injured.  So they put a claim in on an outfielder named Cody Ross.  But the Marlins decided to let Ross and his $1+ million in salary go to the Giants anyway.  So the Giants quickly had to let Matt Downs slip off their roster to make room.

Then again, Ross went on to hit two home runs off of Roy Hallady in Game 1 of that year’s NLCS and was the NLCS MVP.  Matt Downs had a good 2011 season for Houston, and retired after the 2013 season.  So that did work out okay after all.

There are other minor details.

  • Each player in a trade that is part of a 40-man roster must meet the rules.  So, if two teams want to trade, they had to have claimed each other’s players or had them clear waivers entirely.  There is a loophole, however: The ever-popular Player To Be Named Later.  It just means one side of the team won’t get their guy for a while.  I hope interest is built into the negotiations.
  • The Revocable Waivers last until the end of the regular season, but since a player has to be on the roster by August 31st, so that’s why most people only talk about August trades.
  • The Waiver Order works by reverse order of standing in each league.  National League players have to clear the rest of the NL before any American League teams can get a chance, and vice versa.  So, if the A’s want to muck with the Giants, they still can.
  • If a team wants to put in a claim, there’s a fee of $20,000.  In the grand scheme of things, that’s not a lot when it comes to payroll these days, but it certainly can build up if lots of claims are made by one team, so it keeps anyone other than the Yankees or Dodgers from just claiming everyone.

We’re already halfway through August, but check back on this comic anytime you want to be reminded of the rules.