Major League Baseball: Waiver Wire 101

No waiver wire move. No Cody Ross. No World Series title?

Every year, major sports-media outlets make a huge deal out of the MLB trading deadline. But is the coverage of the deadline overblown?

Once July 31 passes, teams officially are no longer allowed to make formal trades with other clubs; however, every front office is well aware of the month of August, also known as Waiver Wire month.

Just last year the San Francisco Giants were huge benficiaries of some waiver wire magic when they picked up playoff hero Cody Ross from the Florida Marlins.

If it weren’t for Ross’s clutch play in the NLDS & NLCS the team would have never gotten to the World Series, let alone have won it.

This year shouldn’t prove to be different. One or more teams in the hunt will make moves  via this process and some of them will undoubtedly pay off in big ways.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the process, it goes something like this:

Any player under contract may be placed on waivers at any time. If a player is waived, any team may claim him. If more than one team claims the player from waivers, the team with the weakest record in the player’s league gets preference. If no team in the player’s league claims him, the claiming team with the weakest record in the other league gets preference. In the first month of the season, preference is determined using the previous year’s standings.

If a team claims a player off waivers and has the viable claim as described above, his current team (the “waiving team”) may choose one of the following options:

  • arrange a trade with the claiming team for that player within two business days of the claim; or
  • rescind the request and keep the player on its major league roster, effectively canceling the waiver; or
  • do nothing and allow the claiming team to (1) assume the player’s existing contract, (2) pay the waiving team a waiver fee, and (3) place the player on its active major league roster.

If a player is claimed and the waiving team exercises its rescission option, the waiving team may not use the option again for that player in that season. If no team claims a player from waivers in three business days, the player has cleared waivers and may be assigned to a minor league team, traded, or released outright.

The waiver “wire” is a secret within the personnel of the Major League Baseball clubs; no announcement of a waiver is made until a transaction actually occurs. Many players are often quietly waived during the August “waiver-required” trading period to gauge trade interest in a particular player. Usually, when the player is claimed, the waiving team will rescind the waiver to avoid losing the player unless a trade can be worked out with the claiming team

Have curveball. Will travel?

Who knows who is going to be moved off the wire this August, but if I was pressed to bet on one I’d have to go with the Houston Astros‘ Wandy Rodriguez.

He’s owed a modest $2.3 million for the remainder of this season, but $36 million over the next three years.

Not all scouts are convinced that his stuff translates well in the A.L. East, but provided Houston comes down on it’s pre-deadline price tag (the team was asking for one or two “can’t miss prospects” in return for eating some of his salary) a team like the Yankees, White Sox or Twins might roll the dice on the guy.

As always, we’ll see soon enough.

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