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How baseball trades are made after the July 31st deadline

Players can still be traded, but it gets more complicated

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball’s 2018 non-waiver trade deadline has passed, as of July 31st at 4 pm, EDT. However, trades can still be made after the deadline, provided that the players involved pass through special waivers. Justin Verlander and Justin Upton were both traded last August, well after the non-waiver deadline had passed.

Many MLB players will be placed on waivers this week, but we won’t hear about most of them, and few will be traded. Waivers are supposed to be top secret, but names are often leaked. The Tigers can place their entire roster on waivers just so that they have the option of trading them, and they may do just that. They are almost certain to put players such as Francisco Liriano, Mike Fiers, Jose Iglesias, Victor Martinez, and even Miguel Cabrera on waivers, knowing they can be recalled.

Waivers are a permission granted by the other Major League Baseball clubs to allow a team to make a player move which cannot be made otherwise. Opposing teams are waiving their objection to the move.

Special waivers, also known as trade assignment waivers, are required before any player on a 40-man roster can be traded after July 31st each season. These waivers are revocable, so the players can be recalled if claimed.

A team may place up to seven players on waivers on any single business day. Other clubs are given notice, and then have 48 hours to make a claim. Any player who is on a team’s 40-man roster must clear special waivers before being traded for the rest of the season. Players on special waivers remain on the team’s roster unless they are claimed or traded.

When a player is claimed, his team can do one of three things:

  • Recall the player and keep him
  • Work out a trade with the claiming team within 48 hours
  • Let the player go to the team with the priority claim, giving up his full contract

Priority: Only the team that has the priority claim can trade for that player. If multiple teams claim a player, priority goes in reverse order of the standings, with teams in the same league going first. Clubs have until September 1 to acquire players in order for them to be eligible for postseason play. There is no risk in requesting special waivers since players can be recalled if a claim is made. This period is the only time that teams in the same league have waiver priority.

So, let’s say that the Tigers put Mike Fiers on special waivers after August 1st. What happens next?

If no claims are made, he can then be traded to any team for the rest of the season.

If one team claims him the Tigers can either let him go to that team, letting them assume his full contract, or they can recall him. If he is recalled, he can then be traded only to that team within two business days, or the Tigers can keep him. In the case of Martinez or Cabrera, they can also use their five and ten rights to veto a waiver claim to any team.

If multiple teams put in a claim, only one team can have the priority claim. That would go to the team with the lowest wining percentage at the time, with preference going to teams in the same league. So, if the Boston Red Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers both made a claim, Boston would have priority, being in the same league. If Boston and the Oakland A’s both put in a claim, Oakland would have priority.

When a team claims a player on waivers and the original team lets the player go, the claiming team assumes the remaining contract for that player.

If a player is recalled after being claimed, he can be put on waivers again, but the waivers are not recallable the second time around during the same season.

Delmon Young in 2011, Aubrey Huff in 2009, Randy Wolf in 2015, and Erick Aybar in 2016 were all acquired by the Tigers after the July 31 deadline in previous seasons.

Teams may make a claim to block a trade to a rival team, but that is the exception. More often, teams let players pass through waivers as a courtesy, unless they are legitimately interested in trading for them. When a team makes a waiver claim on a player, blocking his team from trading him to another team, they can probably expect retaliation in the future, when they might want to get a player through special waivers. The Yankees and Red Sox have been notorious for blocking trades to each other.

So the Tigers may still attempt to make trades before the season is over, but the process just became much more complicated.