I opined as recently as Saturday here that it simply made good business sense to cut Tejada loose. Apparently the Mets agree. When the news about the Mets’ decision to place Ruben Tejada on waivers on Tuesday, it caused quite a stir among the fans. There were the folks who said, “It’s about time!” and then there were others who felt he’s a useful albeit overpaid bench piece (particularly in light of the Asdrubal Cabrera injury and the ongoing David Wright saga). A few astute fans questioned why waivers and not a DFA or outright release? Let’s take a look at these alternatives and piece together what the front office may have been thinking.
One assumption we’ll make up front is that Tejada is on “trade assignment waivers” and not “release waivers”. Sandy Alderson in his typical fashion has likely been quietly working the phones to try to find a taker for the $3 million man. While Tejada’s at best a league average player, for someone who figures to play very little he’s a bit on the expensive side. However, there are other teams who might need a starter or more frequent contributor for whom his salary seems eminently reasonable.
Unfortunately for the Mets, those teams are also aware that the Mets do have the ability simply to release him before the end of spring training. Whoever picks him up can then negotiate a new deal. Many GMs are playing a waiting game, expecting that’s exactly what the Mets will do and they could get him on the cheap.
Per MLB rules, there are four waiver periods during the year. Right now we’re in the midst of period number one which runs from February 16th (start of spring training) through the 30th day of the Major League season (approximately April 30th).
Placing Tejada on waivers accomplishes a few things. First, it ascertains potential trading partners for his services as the waivers for purposes of trade are fully revocable. Second, the Mets could opt to let the claiming team have him and pay his full 2016 salary. Third, it establishes his availability in trade later in the year should he clear waivers this time around. He can then be traded at any time. A player can be on revocable waivers once during each waiver period and if a claim is made the Mets would have 48.5 hours to negotiate a trade. Finally, if he's released now he's due only $500K (1/6 of his salary) as opposed to over $800K if they wait until the end of spring training.
Waiver claims are fulfilled in reverse order of the previous season’s standings. As such, if the two clubs in obvious need right now – the St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies – both put in a waiver claim, the fact that Colorado finished with an inferior record to the Cardinals would establish them as the team awarded Tejada. Should no one in the NL claim Tejada, then and only then would AL claims be considered for a trade assignment waiver.
The waiver period lasts two business days past the posting date. If the waiver is put in before 2:00 PM it is considered to be live that day. If it is after 2:00 PM, then it is considered live the next day. News broke before 2:00 PM Eastern Time Tuesday, so by 1:00 PM Thursday the waiver period will be over.
My conclusion is that this waiver maneuver is a fishing expedition to see who nibbles. Obviously the ideal scenario would be to receive something of value in return, though one could argue a simple relief of the negotiated salary would also be palatable. In the back of my mind I’m thinking that they could revoke the waivers if claimed but know they could move him after the season begins once Asdrubal Cabrera is back on the field. Overall, it’s a smart move.