What Exactly is Happening When Teams Place Players on Trade Waivers

The Major League Baseball trade deadline is August 1 at 4:00 pm, which means after that point, players can no longer be traded. That is, unless they’re put on trade waivers after the deadline. When a player is placed on revocable trade waivers, he can then be traded later in the season, which sometimes happens. Occasionally, two or three weeks after the deadline has passed you might see a player get traded. And that’s perfectly legal. That player passed through trade waivers; otherwise, it wouldn’t be a legal trade and thus would not go through. What teams do in order to have this option after the trade deadline is the front office of all 30 MLB teams will place every player on the roster on revocable trade waivers. That means if a player gets claimed by another organization via trade waivers, the original organization can then revoke those waivers and pull the player back, which means he does not pass through trade waivers, and thus cannot be traded later in the season. They do this in case they want to negotiate a trade after the deadline, because then the player will be available to trade. Front offices don’t want to receive a call from another organization who’s inquiring about trading for a player, only to have to tell the inquiring team, “I’m sorry, we never placed him on waivers.” The waiving (or in this case, the team that didn’t waive the player) team may then lose out on an opportunity to improve their team either currently or for the future, depending on whether they receive an MLB ready player or prospects.

Once a player is waived, then any team may place a claim on him; if two or more teams place claims on the player, then the team with the worst record in the player’s league receives the player. If no team in the player’s league claims him, then the team with the worst record in the other league receives the player.

If a player passes through waivers untouched (after three business days), then the player may be released outright, optioned to the minor leagues, or traded.

Players mostly pass through waivers untouched for two main reasons: 1) the other 29 teams know that the organization that placed the player on waivers will then rescind its decision to do so, or b) the player’s contract is simply too high and the other teams aren’t willing to take on that kind of contract.

Therefore, when a player is placed on waivers and then claimed, three things can then happen:

I.) the original team may then negotiate a trade within three business days of issuing the waiver

II.) rescind the waiver, thus cancelling the waiver

III.) do nothing and then the claiming team is then allowed to keep the player that it claimed

If none of the above happens, and the player passes through waivers untouched, then the the team that originally passed the player through on waivers can later trade him to any team that is interested.

If a player is initially claimed off waivers, but then the waiver is rescinded, the waiving team could theoretically place the player on waivers again. However, if the player is again claimed, then the waiving team must allow the player to go. These are called irrevocable trade waivers.

This is essentially all there is to trade waivers. The premise of trade waivers is very simple, but many fans don’t know exactly how it works. Trade waivers are, however, an integral part of Major League Baseball.

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