With the non-waiver trade deadline having passed yesterday, perhaps it’s a good time to review the rules concerning August trades that can be made between clubs. Some people erroneously assume that once the “trading deadline” passes then the rosters are pretty much set for the end of the year. However, there is a provision that will allow trades to be completed, but it’s a little bit more complicated.
MLB allows a club to place a player on revocable (or what they refer to as “recallable”) waivers for the purposes of testing the market for player transactions. If, for example, the Mets placed Jon Niese on this list and the Boston Red Sox put in a claim for him, the Mets have the right to pull him back off the list and are not obligated to let Niese move to Boston.
The alternative is within two days to work out a trade with the Red Sox for players or money going back to the Mets for Jon Niese.
Finally, the Mets could also simply let the Red Sox have Niese and transfer the responsibility for the current contract to the claiming team. A good example might be someone like Andre Ethier of the Dodgers who is earning far more than he is producing. Should a team claim Ethier the Dodgers would likely relinquish their rights to him to get out from under the salary still owed to him for the next few years.
If, after the waiver period, no one has claimed the player in question, the GM is free to trade him to any of the other 29 clubs.
Where it gets a little complicated is you can only play this game once. Once a team exercises its option to remove a player from the waiver list, should they later list him again then the claiming team DOES get to keep that player.
During the month of August it is not uncommon to put nearly an entire roster’s worth of names on these waivers since you do have the right of rescission. Placing a player on waivers helps a GM know if another team is interested in that player and could lead to trade talks.
Sometimes teams are known to put in waiver claims simply to block a player from going to a division rival. For example, if the Cubs put Starlin Castro on waivers the Mets might claim him not necessarily because they want to take on his contract, but to prevent the Washington Nationals from getting someone who could be a long term solution for them at shortstop with Ian Desmond scheduled to hit free agency.
The last wrinkle to consider is post-season eligibility. A player must be on the 25 man roster (or DL or bereavement or the suspended lists) prior to midnight on August 31st. Now in the case of the Mets, their only currently suspended player, Jenrry Mejia, wouldn’t have qualified anyway due to his first PED suspension. However, suppose a player on the club had a temper tantrum and destroyed part of the dugout. If the Mets chose to suspend him for 10 days in late August and it spilled over to September, he would still be eligible for the post-season.
It’s a little more difficult to consummate deals come August, but the mechanisms are there to get things done if a GM is so inclined to improve his roster.