I was a little shocked when the Royals made so few moves prior to the trade deadline. With so many possible trading chips and a history of past deadline activity, it seemed likely that they would make a plethora of moves. Only two relatively minor moves actually happened, but although the traditional trade deadline has passed, trades can still be made through the waiver system. It’s not the simplest system in the world, so I figured I’d dig in and try to shed some light on how these trades work. It’s pretty likely that the Royals will make a waiver move, so this might come in handy.

The machinations of baseball rosters have a number of quirks and complicated processes. From Super-two to arbitration there are seems no end to the contractual and legal issues that surface in the national pastime. The one that we’ll focus on today is waivers. There are roughly four different kinds of waivers, but for this exercise we’ll be focusing on the trade waivers.

The trade waiver system comes into play after the traditional trading deadline at the end of July has passed. To initiate the process a team will place a player or a number of players “on waivers”. They notify the league office and then every team is notified. Placing a player on waivers is essentially saying “hey, here’s player X and he’s on waivers, who wants him?” Most teams will place a large number if not all of their players on waivers to guage interest and possibly as subterfuge.

Teams have roughly two days to say that they want a player on waivers by placing a claim on him. There is no limit to the number of teams which can place a claim. If no teams claim the player and he makes it through waivers, he can then be traded to any team subject to any no-trade clauses the player has in his contract.

If a player is claimed by only one team then there are a few things that can happen. The claiming team can pay $20,000 and receive the player and his contract in whole, or the player can be pulled off of waivers or “revoked” and the two teams can work out a trade for that player. The player can only be traded to that one team that claimed him and no other negotiations can be made. A player must waive his no-trade clause if he has one with that team.

If multiple teams make claims on the player then the team with the lowest winning percentage in the same league as the player gets priority and a trade can be made with only that club. So, for example if the Royals put Bruce Chen on waivers and every National League team and the Yankees made claims, then he can only be traded to the Yankees. To cross leagues every team in in a players league would have not make a claim.

These revokable waivers can only be used one time. If a team were to revoke a player and then place him on waivers again, he is then on irrevokable waivers and the team cannot pull him back. Players on the disabled list cannot be put through revokable waivers. Playes can be traded in September but cannot be placed on a post-season roster.

Sometimes teams in a pennant race will claim a player on waivers so that a team with a better record in their division cannot acquire that player in trade. However that maneuver can back-fire if the team doesn’t pull the player back. This supposedly happened last year when the Giants put a claim on Cody Ross to keep him from going to the Padres. The Marlins didn’t pull him back and the Giants paid the $20,000 fee and then were given Ross. In a case of double irony, Ross made some great plays in the postseason to help the Giants win the World Series.

I would imagine the Royals will put the vast majority if not all of their roster on the waiver wire and pull them back after a team makes a claim. There aren’t any giant contracts which the Royals would be happy to dump if there was a claim. Players like Bruce Chen, Jeff Francis, Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera and the entire bullpen are possible candidates for trade.


Nick Scott hosts the Broken Bat Single Podcast and writes a blog for the Lawrence Journal World. You can follow him on Facebook or email him at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.