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Understanding the MLB Waiver Process

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Judging by the tool used to take the pulse of the nation, Twitter, (shameless plug: follow @JasonMarlo) It seems as if many in the baseball watching population are generally clueless about how the MLB waiver process works. While I’m not a GM (although I do play one on a daily basis from the comfort of my couch), I will attempt to explain how waivers work and what it means to you and your team of choice.

Before getting into the process, it’s important to note why it was put into place. More or less it was created so that after the trade deadline (July 31) teams in the pennant race can’t simply load their teams with talent as the playoffs near. With that in mind, the waiver process favors the lesser-performing teams, giving them first dibs on players and with that, the ability to block better teams from making deals.

The first thing that you should take away from this article is that virtually EVERY player in the league will go on waivers at some point in August. This is done for a couple reasons: 1) because it allows the team to see who is in demand and who isn’t and 2) it disguises players who teams try to push through waivers in order to deal.

“But wait… what do you mean that every player goes on waivers?” Every player goes on waivers because during the month of August, generally the first time you place a player on waivers (called Major League Waivers, as opposed to unconditional waivers and outright waivers), the move is revocable. Meaning that if the Dodgers put Clayton Kershaw on waivers, he would undoubtedly be claimed, but they can just “pull him back” off of waivers and keep him. Why go through the trouble of waiving everyone? Aside from gauging interest, teams may also not put claims in on guys that they think will certainly be pulled back. Say the Pirates were to put Andrew McCutcheon on waivers and every team in the league thought “no point in claiming him, he will just be pulled back” and somehow he made it through… the Pirates would be able to deal him if some sort of blockbuster offer was presented to them.

Now we get to the nuts and bolts of the process.

  • Players placed on waivers remain there for 47 business hours. The period starts at 2PM ET and runs until 1PM ET two days later.
  • Any team can place a claim at any point during the 47 hour window. It makes no difference if you place it 46 minutes in or 46 hours in.
  • As mentioned, Major Leauge Waivers are revocable. If a player gets claimed, the team can simply pull him back and keep him. Important to note that if a player is pulled back, the team loses the ability to place him on Major League Waivers for 30 days and if they put him on waivers again, they are outright and can’t be revoked.
  • If a player is claimed, the claiming team has a 48 ½ hour window to negotiate a deal with the player’s original team.
  • If no deal is consummated within that timeframe, the player is automatically pulled off of waivers and his Major League Waiver is lost for that 30 day span.
  • If a player isn’t claimed by any team, he can then be freely traded to any team in either league until the end of the month.
  • If a player is claimed by more than one team, the team with the worst record in that player’s current league (American or National) is awarded the claim and has exclusive opportunity to negotiate for that player.
  • If a player is claimed only by teams in the opposite league, the claiming team with the worse record is awarded the claim and has exclusive opportunity to negotiate for that player.
  • If a player has a no-trade clause in his contract, he can still be placed on Major League Waivers, but can only be traded to a team not on his no-trade list or he needs to approve the trade in writing.
  • The waiving team also has the right to simply dump the player and his contract onto the claiming team. This is important to note because many times teams place claims simply to block other teams from certain players. A claim, however, is binding and the waiving team can allow the claiming team to have that player for a small waiver fee and is stuck with the player and his contract (Think Alex Rios to the White Sox from the Blue Jays).

That essentially sums up how the process works, save for two points.

  • The “worse record” determination comes into play at the time that the 47-hour waiver window expires (not starts).
  • Unlike your regular fantasy baseball waiver process, teams with waiver priority (ie. Worse records) can claim as many guys as they want. Typically in a waiver system the team with waiver priority can claim a single player then they go to the back of the line. In the MLB that’s not the case, they can claim everyone in order to block other teams. An example of this has been rumored this season when the Minnesota Twins placed Jim Thome and Jason Kubel on waivers. The Chicago White Sox could’ve placed claims on BOTH of these players, thus blocking the Cleveland Indians (and other teams with better records) from either of them. Whether or not they did, remains to be seen, but it seems to be a loose end in the process that needs to be addressed and tied up.

So there you have it. The MLB waiver process outlined and discussed. Hopefully this will stop the “Cardinals placed Albert Pujols on waivers, O-M-G… I’m gonna die” tweets. In almost all cases players aren’t even informed that they were placed on Major League waivers because all expect to be.

 

Discussion

2 Responses to “Understanding the MLB Waiver Process”

  1. thanks for the explanation. I for one was confused about the waiver process. keep up the good work here.

    Posted by spudnut | August 26, 2011, 12:21 pm

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  1. […] In other words, it's a blind process for the individual teams. Am I right? Here's the breakdown: Understanding the MLB Waiver Process | sidepoints.com Something I didn't see mentioned in there is that I believe within the first month of the season, […]

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