How August trades work.

A few of you who were kind enough to respond this week with “honor system” contributions for the Newberg Report team asked if I would consider writing a rundown of how August trades work. It’s the least I could do, and it saves me from having to write about what happened last night in the Dodgers-Mets game.

(Quick aside: To those of you who donated, thank you very much. If you’re interested in participating [we do this once a year], you can find the details here.)

While it’s true that the fury of the trade deadline has come and gone — again, avoiding any Dodgers-Mets talk here — it wasn’t really a deadline at all. It’s a lot more difficult to make trades in August than in July, and a lot less constructive in September than in August, but there’s never a time when trading activity is fully shut down (except for the final week of the season).

A little history first.

The Rangers have made plenty of trades in August, the most celebrated of which, at least with Texas on the buyer’s end, was the 1996 deal that sent righthander Rick Helling, who had been on the AAA/big league shuttle for three seasons, plus Class A righthander Ryan Dempster to Florida for righthander John Burkett, a move designed to help boost the club’s effort to reach the post-season for the first time ever in its 25 years. (It paid off, as Burkett went 5–2 down the stretch, Texas won the division by 4.5 games, and Burkett went the distance in beating the Yankees in Game One of the ALDS — the club’s lone win in the 1996, 1998, and 1999 playoffs.)

Other trades Texas has made to add pieces in August:

  • Marcus Greene and player to be named Jon Edwards to San Diego for Will Venable (2015)
  • Future considerations to Boston for Mike Napoli (2015)
  • Player to be named Leury Garcia to Chicago White Sox for Alex Rios (2013)
  • Future considerations to Houston for Travis Blackley (2013)
  • Player to be named Pedro Strop to Baltimore for Mike Gonzalez (2011)
  • Joaquin Arias for Jeff Francoeur (2010)
  • Jose Vallejo and Matt Nevarez to Houston for Ivan Rodriguez (2009)
  • Adrian Myers to Seattle for Jeff Fassero (1999)
  • Players to be named Wilson Heredia and Scott Podsednik to Florida for Witt (1995)
  • Ruben Sierra, Bobby Witt, and Jeff Russell to Oakland for Jose Canseco (1992)

On the seller’s end, in the ’90s the Rangers traded Harold Baines to Oakland for Scott Chiamparino and Joe Bitker (1990), Steve Buechele to Pittsburgh for Kurt Miller and Hector Fajardo (1991), and Ed Vosberg to Florida to get Helling back (1997). In 2014’s lost season, they shipped Chris Gimenez to Cleveland for future considerations.

And of course, that’s the category Texas finds itself in this August, with players like Mike Napoli, Andrew Cashner, and Carlos Gomez among those whose names might find their way into the rumor mill.

Stories proliferated the last few days reporting that players like Jose Bautista, Justin Verlander, R.A. Dickey, and Jay Bruce were run out on waivers, and annually folks overreact to the point that you find players like those needlessly trending on Twitter.

Here are the basic rules.

After July 31, any player on a 40-man roster must first clear revocable waivers in order to be traded. “Revocable” is the key word. The player’s team still retains control over whether he changes clubs.

Almost all players in baseball are run through this type of waivers in August (though I believe there’s a limit of seven per day per team, unless that was changed with the last CBA). The waiver period on any given player lasts 47 hours, from 2:00 ET on the day he hits the wire until 1:00 ET two days later.

If a player placed on Major League waivers in August clears, he can be traded without limitation.

If he’s claimed within that 47-hour period, his current club has a few choices with regard to the player and the team making the prevailing claim (if he’s claimed by more than one team, the prevailing claim is determined by ordering them as follows: priority goes to teams in the same league as the player, headed by the team having the worst record as of the morning of the day that the waiver period on that player closes; if no team in the same league claimed the player, priority then goes to teams in the other league who claimed him, again in the order of worst record to best).

Once the team with the prevailing claim is identified, the player’s current club can:

  • Work out a trade with that other team — within 48½ hours of the closing of the waiver period (so by 1:30 ET on the day in question). If no trade is completed, the window shuts and neither the claiming team nor any other may trade for the player during the season.
  • Stick the other team with the player by simply conveying the player’s contract — which the other team doesn’t have the right to decline. Alex Rios (2009, Blue Jays to White Sox) and Randy Myers (1998, Blue Jays to Padres) are two examples of this very rare result.
  • Revoke waivers and pull the player back (a second run through revocable waivers is not permitted — waivers would be irrevocable in that case). This is what happens more than 90 percent of the time, and before the Twitter age we almost never heard about it.

Just about every player will go through this purportedly confidential process this month. Even players with full or partial no-trade clauses, including those with 10/5 rights, can be run through waivers. If the prevailing claim is made by a club to which the player cannot be traded contractually (or by virtue of 10/5), he can be traded only if the player waives his veto rights and consents to the trade.

That means a team on a player’s no-trade list (which is every team if it’s a full no-trade or 10/5 situation) can “block” by putting in a claim, with the only risk being that it makes the prevailing claim and the player’s existing club decides to stick that team with the player and the player agrees to waive his veto rights and consents to join the new team and the new team didn’t want him in the first place.

All the same rules apply starting September 1, but with one added restriction: An acquired player cannot appear on a post-season roster unless he was with that new team by August 31. From time to time, you do see a contender add a player in September to help get the team to 162+, even if that player is then ineligible for the playoffs.

Even if a player clears August waivers, giving his team and the other 29 the entire month to consider a trade, there’s another important hurdle.

Let’s say that Texas runs Cashner out on waivers tomorrow, that the Cubs place a claim, that no American League team and none of the 10 National League teams with a worse record than Chicago makes a claim by Tuesday, and that as a result the Cubs and Rangers have until Thursday afternoon to talk trade.

Should the standings hold, players like Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. would be off the table (not that the Cubs would even entertain moving any of them for Cashner) unless they were to get past every NL team on waivers, as well as past the White Sox and A’s and Blue Jays and Tigers, in order for Texas to place the prevailing claim on them.

Justin Grimm, Pierce Johnson, Jack Leathersich, Felix Pena, Alec Mills, Duane Underwood, Victor Caratini, Mark Zagunis, and a handful of others would also have to get to the Rangers on waivers, but each of those 40-man roster members — since they are in the minor leagues — could be designated as players to be named later to get around that hurdle (even though, procedurally, teams are not supposed to agree on those players before the season ends).

But not so for Schwarber or Happ or Almora, as another requirement there is that a player to be named later may not be on a big league roster between the time of the trade and the time that the player is identified.

There are timing considerations on when teams put their players on revocable waivers. Maybe it comes on the heels of a dominant start, or a hot streak at the plate against lefties. Maybe it’s timed based on where the standings sit. Maybe it happens when another club expresses specific interest in the player.

The apparent fact that Bruce and Verlander cleared waivers is notable because it means either one can be traded to any team this month. The report that Bautista has been placed on waivers, though, is not really news at all, aside from defining the timing on his tradeability if claimed — and waiver claims are not reported by the league and rarely by clubs.

We might find out, for instance, that Cashner was claimed by the Cubs on a certain date, and that it was the prevailing claim, giving Texas and Chicago a two-day period within which to strike a deal or not. Or we may never hear about any of that.

If Napoli gets traded on August 20, for example, we may find out then, and not before, that he cleared waivers a week or two before that. (Which is a likelihood, whenever he’s run out on waivers, given that what remains on his $8.5 million contract this year, plus another $2.5 million to buy out his $11 million club option for 2018, would probably dissuade any club from placing a claim and running the risk that Texas simply chooses not to revoke and sticks the claiming team with his contract.)

And if Cashner or Napoli or anyone else from Texas gets moved this month — and those two in particular should have some degree of value to a contender — the return is likely going to be minor leaguers not on a 40-man roster, or minor league player(s) to be named who are on a 40. The days of Canseco for Sierra, Witt, and Russell are long gone.

I would bet the Rangers aren’t through making 2017 trades. Several veterans could be on the move, which would accomplish a few things, for instance, pushing some money off the books, possibly getting a player or two in return that boosts the health of the farm system, opening up innings or at-bats for younger players as the club furthers the evaluation process for next year, or possibly even doing some current players a solid by giving them an opportunity to play for a ring somewhere else.

It’s a lot more fun wondering if ownership is primed to take on the balance of Mike Napoli’s contract in a down year (2015) than it is speculating whether the front office will find someone else willing to do that (2017), and the thought of adding a lefty specialist who could get a huge eighth-inning strikeout in the ALDS or the veteran role player whose RBI double kicks off the scoring and sets the tone in another ALDS fires me up a lot more than wondering who would take Cashner’s innings down the stretch if he’s moved.

Again, on behalf of Scott and the rest of the Newberg Report team, thanks again to those of you who have made (or are making) contributions to the effort. While the next month of articles may be less dynamic than the last month’s (Pudge, Adrian, Yu, COFFEY, Shonda) — and in that respect I’m talking about my entries and not Scott’s, whose reports on Willie Calhoun and Chris Seise and Kyle Cody and Ronald Guzman and Hans Crouse and Miguel Aparicio and A.J. Alexy and Scott Williams and Yohel Pozo and the very interesting Xavier Paul are can’t-miss right now — you can’t predict ball, and there could be a trade or two this month that may seem far more meaningful to other team than to Texas in the moment, but sometimes Pedro Strop becomes Pedro Strop, and if the Rangers do get involved in August on the trade market, which I’d consider a safe bet, we’ll cover it here, not only with regard to the players involved but also on the mechanics of how it came together.


Jamey Newberg

Dallas attorney Jamey Newberg has been commenting on Rangers from the big club down through the entire farm system since 1998.

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas was born in Arlington, Texas, to Richard and Becky Lucas. He lived mostly in Arlington before moving to Austin, where he graduated from The University of Texas. Scott works for Austin Valuation Consultants, Ltd., and has published several boring articles about real estate appraisal and environmental contamination. He makes a swell margarita and refuses to run longer than ten kilometres.

Eleanor Czajka

Eleanor grew up watching the AAA Mudhens in Toledo, Ohio. A loyal Ranger fan since 1979, she works "behind the scenes" at the Newberg Report.

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