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Here's how trades work after the non-waiver deadline

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A primer on the waiver rules, and a couple of quirky historical notes.

Randy Myers didn’t expect to be playing for the Padres in 1998, but they got him on a waiver claim
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It’s August 1 and you’re thinking, deadline day has passed and teams won’t be making more trades.

You’d be wrong! There can be, and likely will be, deals made throughout the month of August. The only difference is, players have to clear trade waivers before they can be dealt.

I don’t actually expect the Cubs to make a waiver trade this month; they filled pretty much all their needs in July with the acquisitions of Jose Quintana, Justin Wilson and Alex Avila.

But just in case you’re interested in following along with the process, here’s a general outline of how it works.

Teams generally ask waivers on nearly their entire rosters during August. Putting a player on waivers doesn’t mean the team wants to get rid of him; it could be simply a gauge of interest. So if you hear “So-and-so got waived today!” breathlessly announced on Twitter during this month, ignore it. It’s just noise. Even if “so-and-so” clears waivers, that’s just a procedural move indicating he can now be traded.

Other teams can claim players on waivers. The team with the worst record in the same league as the player they want to claim goes first, then the worst record in the other league, and so on.

If a player is claimed, the team that has put the player on waivers has three choices:

  • Try to negotiate a trade with the claiming team. This must be done within two business days, or
  • Pull the player back from waivers, but if this is done, the player can’t be traded through the waiver process for the rest of the season, or
  • Simply tell the claiming team: “Here, he’s yours.”

The third choice is kind of the high-wire act teams go through when they put in claims. In August 2009, the Blue Jays waived Alex Rios, who had something north of $50 million left on his contact. White Sox GM Kenny Williams claimed Rios, probably thinking he could work out a deal with the Jays, or if not, just let it go. But Toronto said, “Here, he’s yours,” and the Sox got stuck with the contract. Rios, somewhat blindsided by this, hit poorly for the White Sox in 41 games (.199/.229/.301). The Sox were three games out of first place at the time of the claim but weren’t really contenders and finished under .500.

Rios had a couple of decent years for the Sox and was eventually traded to the Rangers for Leury Garcia, a modestly-useful spare-part outfielder.

Sometimes teams put in claims for players trying to “block” clubs ahead of them in a pennant race from getting help they want. Just as in the above case, that could come back to bite a team, as it did in 1998 for the Padres. They wanted to block the Braves, who they figured to meet in the postseason (and eventually did), from getting Randy Myers, then closing for the Blue Jays. So they claimed him when Toronto waived him. Here’s what happened next:

After they put in their claim, Gord Ash, the Blue Jays' general manager, called Kevin Towers of the Padres and asked what he wanted to do. The Blue Jays could have pulled Myers back and kept him, but Ash couldn't wait to shed his contract, his shaky ninth-inning pitching and his demeanor, which had not endeared him to teammates.

The teams wound up making a trade, with the Padres giving the Blue Jays two minor leaguers (one to be named) who may never be heard from. But the Blue Jays considered it a terrific deal.

Two general managers, one in each league, called the development ''the block that backfired.''

This sort of thing really doesn’t happen anymore, and largely because of these two deals that went very wrong for the claiming team. Myers, who had been closing for Toronto, was put in a setup role behind Trevor Hoffman, didn’t really want to be there, and was awful for the Padres (6.28 ERA in 21 appearances, and four runs allowed in three postseason innings). Myers suffered a shoulder injury the following year that led to rotator-cuff surgery and he never pitched again after 1998.

It’s unlikely, then, that any big names will be traded during August. If, for example, the Tigers waived Justin Verlander (and they almost certainly will) and the Cubs claimed him, Detroit could simply stick the Cubs with the contract. However, it’s my understanding that a player with a no-trade clause (or 10-and-5 rights) can exercise that clause to refuse to go to the claiming team.

Most August deals, then, will involve role players or relief pitchers, such as the trade the Cubs made August 27, 2015 with the Mariners to acquire Fernando Rodney, who actually pitched pretty well down the stretch for the Cubs and in the division series vs. the Cardinals. That deal was made for “a player to be named later or cash.” Rodney’s baseball-reference page lists no player sent later, so I assume the Cubs sent a small amount of money Seattle’s way.

As noted above, I don’t see the Cubs making any acquisitions in this way during August, as they seem to have put together the 25-man roster they want for the postseason. But the above are the rules that teams need to follow to make trades before the August 31 deadline to qualify for postseason play, and you can bet that some teams jockeying for playoff position will be looking to add some help.