When is a Trade Deadline Not a Trade Deadline?

Are you confused about the whole “July 31 was the trade deadline but it wasn’t REALLY the trade deadline” thing? Does thinking about the ins and outs of waiver trading give you a headache (or make you yawn) worse than UZRs, BABIPs and OPS+s all rolled in to one?

We here at Knuckleballs are going to try to make it all simple and easy to understand. After all, we’re nothing if not simple around here. So here are our “Waiver Rule Q&As for Dummies Knuckleballs.”

Q: I thought the trade deadline was July 31. Now I hear it’s August 31. Is there really a trade deadline at all?

A: No. There’s really no such thing as a trade deadline in Major League Baseball. A player can be traded any time. BUT (isn’t there always a “but”?) there are hoops that teams have to jump through that change on July 31 and August 31 that lead media types to confuse us simple folk by using the term “deadline”.

Q: So what are those hoops?

A: Here’s a rundown on the way the rules change on July 31 and August 31:

  • Through the deadline on July 31, teams could trade players to any team. July 31 is commonly referred to as the “non-waiver trade deadline.”
  • After July 31 and through the remainder of the season, players must first go through “revocable waivers.” This process involves:
    1. placing the player on waivers. At this point, any team may place a waiver claim on that player.
    2. If the player IS NOT claimed by any other team, his team can trade him to any other team.
    3. If the player IS claimed, his current team has 47 business-day hours to choose one of three options.
      • revoke the waiver and keep the player.
      • let the player go to the team winning the waiver claim for the waiver price of $20,000. The new team takes on the player’s current contract.
      • take up to an additional 48 1/2 hours to work out a trade with the team winning the waiver claim.
  • Any player acquired in a trade after August 31 is not eligible to be a member of his new team’s playoff roster that season.

Q: 47 hours and 48 1/2 hours? What idiot came up with those numbers?

A: I have no idea who came up with those numbers, but when it comes to idiotic things MLB does, I look first, last and always at Bud Selig.

Q: If more than one team claims a player, can his team can try to make deals with all of them?

A: No. The claim of any team in the same league gets priority over claims by any team in the other league. If that rule doesn’t determine who wins the claim, then the next criteria is based on current winning percentage of the teams making the claim. Lowest winning percentage wins the claim.

Q: Can a team just keep putting the same player on waivers and revoking those waivers over and over?

A: No. A team can only pull a player back from waivers once. If they revoke the waivers once and put him back on waivers again before the end of the season… and he is claimed by another team, then that team automatically gets the player (and his contract).

Q: Do teams only put players they want to get rid of on waivers?

A: No. Almost every player on every MLB roster will be placed on waivers in August.

Q: WHAT!?!?!? The Twins are going to waive Joe Mauer?!

A: Maybe. You see, every General Manager thinks he is clever, crafty, and really smart… and that every other GM is a total idiot. So they think that if they put ALL of their players on waivers, the dumb GMs on the other teams won’t be able to tell which players they want to keep, which ones they might want to trade, and which ones they might want to dump on another team stupid enough to take on an overpaid washed up pitcher who couldn’t strike out your great-grandfather.

Q: And this works?

A: Amazingly, sometimes… yes. You see, not many GMs are all that smart. At least not nearly as smart as those of us who blog about their teams.

Q: Can players with no-trade clauses in their contract get waived or traded in August?

A: Yes. A lot of them actually want to get he heck off of the sinking ship they’re currently playing for and get in a pennant race. But if a player is claimed by a team to which he has the right to reject a trade, his team is required to revoke the waiver unless the player agrees (usually for a hefty price) to waive the no-trade rights and join the new team.

Q: So do teams just automatically put all of their players on waivers August 1?

A: Some might.

That way they find out quickly who might be interested in making a deal for which of their players. They also think there might be a chance teams will be so overwhelmed by the volume of waived players that they might overlook some players, making it more likely those players will completely pass through unclaimed and thus able to be traded to any team.

But other teams, especially those that are still deluding themselves (and their fans) in to thinking they still may have a shot at the playoffs, may wait until later in the month when even the most delusional GM has to admit his team sucks and he should start sending through waivers the dead weight he gave obscene contracts to two years ago.

Q: Do teams really want every player they claim or do GMs sometimes claim players just to keep another team from getting that player?

A: GMs do occasionally make preventive claims. They may claim a player they don’t really want in order to keep a team with a better win percentage at the time from getting him. If they win the claim, they won’t make any attempt to make a trade for the player and assume the player’s current team will simply revoke the waiver and keep the player. Sometimes it backfires, though, and the GM gets stuck with a player (and a contract) he and his manager (and owner) didn’t really want. Oops.

Q: You said you would make this simple to understand. You lied. My head still hurts.

A: That’s not a question, but maybe we can come up with an example that will help.

Let’s say the Angels put closer Brian Fuentes on waivers 47 hours ago. If nobody has claimed him, the Angels can trade him to anyone they can make a deal with.

But let’s say he has been claimed by several teams who think he could help their bullpen this month and in the playoffs… the Phillies and Rockies in the NL and the Rangers, Rays and Yankees in the AL. Now what happens?

First, forget the Phillies and Rockies because teams in a player’s current league get priority over teams in the other league, regardless of their records. Their only shot was to hope no AL team claimed Fuentes.

Next, we look at the winning percentages of the Rangers, Rays and Yankees. The lowest is currently the Rangers so they win the claim on Fuentes.

Now the fun starts.

What do the Angels do? If they think they’ve gotten all the use they can out of Fuentes this year, they may simply let Texas have him (and shed the $3 million or so still owed on his 2010 contract). If they aren’t willing to just let him go and get nothing but the claiming price of $20K in return, they revoke the waivers.

If the Angels believe they’re still in the playoff hunt and don’t want a team in their own division to have Fuentes, they pull him back and keep him. But if they are ready to concede they have no shot this year, they’ve got 48 1/2 hours to finalize some kind of trade with the Rangers.

If Texas really does want Fuentes, they’ll offer some sort of package of low level minor leaguers and probably try to get the Angels to eat some of Fuente’s remaining salary in a trade. If their intent was simply to keep potential playoff opponents from getting Fuentes, they’ll just tell the Angels, “No thanks.”

Let’s assume the Angels end up keeping Fuentes. Now fast forward 3 weeks to the last week of August and see that the Angels are so far back that even the rosiest colored glasses in Anaheim recognize there’s no shot in 2010. They see playoff contenders still out there who need bullpen help and they have no use for a closer to whom they still owe about $2 million. What do they do?

They may put Fuentes back on waivers. Now, any team that claims him knows that there’s a reasonable chance they may get him. If one of the contenders really feels he’ll help their bullpen and has $2 million burning a hole in their pockets, they’ll make a claim. Otherwise, he’ll go unclaimed and the Angels are free to try to get whatever they can for him in a trade with any team. Whether by claim or trade, if he becomes a member of his new team by August 31, he’ll be eligible for the playoffs with his new team.

Q: Did you say something? My eyes glazed over after, “Now the fun starts.”

A: Yeah… I said the Twins just put Joe Mauer on waivers.


This information was gathered from Cot’s Contracts and various other sites. If any of it is wrong, it’s not the author’s fault. It’s never the author’s fault. Ever. – JC

GameChat – Twins @ Rays #4, 11:10am

This is it.  This is the final game of the series.  After that marathon pitching battle last night, I would really like to come out and play well today.  Mauer tried throwing this morning and the shoulder is still sore so he’s not ready to catch yet.  Butera will be going for the 5th day in a row.  My hope is that Slowey will continue his good pitching and not shake off Butera either.  He has to let his pitcher run the call and not let himself get tied up in his own head.  Win TWINS!!!

Minnesota @ Tampa Bay
Repko, CF   Rodriguez, S, 2B
Casilla, A, 2B   Crawford, LF
Mauer, DH   Longoria, 3B
Young, D, LF   Aybar, W, DH
Kubel, RF   Joyce, RF
Cuddyer, 1B   Johnson, D, 1B
Valencia, 3B   Upton, B, CF
Hardy, SS   Brignac, R, SS
Butera, C   Shoppach, C
  Slowey, P     Davis, W, P


  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 4 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 2 8 15 2
Tampa Bay 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 0 6 5 0


*dies laughing*  No, really, I’m still laughing.  What an utterly ridiculous series of events!  For those who couldn’t see the game because they are gainfully employed, this is going to be hard to convey and the boxscore simply does not do it justice.

To start with, Kevin Slowey was amazing.  He pitched a BEAUTIFUL game (very similar to Bakers but even faster).  He really had the Rays lineup off-balance in ways that were obviously frustrating them – poor Kelly Shoppach tried to break his bat over his knee after one particular strike out.  He got ALMOST all the way through the 8th inning before he started to struggle a bit – kind of wish he’d stayed out there because he couldn’t have done any WORSE than the relief pitching that came out.  Our bullpen was taxed and tired after the last three games so it was wonderful that Slowey did what he did. 

The Twins offense got to Davis early and hard getting 4 runs in the first inning and sending all 9 hitters to the plate.  In the following innings, Davis managed to refocus but we still tagged the Rays with another couple runs and kept the shutout going until the 8th inning.  That was assisted hugely by some GREAT defensive plays that contrasted greatly with the defensive miscues from yesterday.  But defense and pitching kept the Rays frustrated for a good portion of the game…  and then came the 8th inning. 

Slowey didn’t seem to be working as successfully with the strike zone and started letting men on base after he gave up a solo HR.  Jesse Crain was brought in and he couldn’t get an out to save his life and by the time he walked in an additional run to make the score 6-2, he was pulled and Mahay came in.  Um… yeah, ouch.  Mahay ended up giving up a grand slam to Bartlett who came in as a pinch hitter and tied the game.  All of Twins fandom felt their hearts crack as yet another stellar starting pitching outting ended in a no decision. (We really have to do better to support our starters wehn they do so well guys!)  Matt Capps came in and FINALLY got the last out.  That left one inning left to try to take the game back even if it was too late for Kev.

Twins hitters once again managed to make something happen to get on base even without Mauer who was walked intentionally twice.  The truly entertaining part was Kubel coming up with runners on the corners and 2 outs.  He REALLY wanted to hit that long HR and be the hero…  well, he hit it hard, that’s for sure – straight up.  The ball ended up bouncing off of the inner-most metal catwalk and bouncing back down into the infield in what was the luckiest play to go the Twins way in a long time.  The Rays infield simply had no way to play the ball as it ricocheted back down to almost the pitchers mound.  There was a lot of dropped jaws on the faces of players from both teams and much broadcaster reading of the rules so that fans knew what the heck counted as what.  But EVERYONE knew that was just a lucky bounce that went our way irregardless of what it bounced off of.  So Kubel ended up getting us that winning RBI off a hard hit single into the sky. For that, he and JJ Hardy and Jason Repko all get pastries for timely hitting.

However, the two highlights of today won’t really show up in the final stats.  The first was that no decision of Kev Slowey’s which was a beautifully pitched gem and the other was some consistently miraculous fielding from Alexi Casilla including the final out that didn’t even look humanly possible.  Especially since their accomplishments seem to lose impact in the final stats, the Chat voted them CO-BOD’s today.  Thanks you so much for your hard work and excellent comebacks from two players who have known what it is to struggle.