How waivers work

DMZ · August 14, 2008 at 5:21 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Getting a waiver
A team must receive a waiver in order to do some things with a player’s contract. Like:
– assign it to a minor league team, if a player meets some conditions
– trade it to another major league team, under some conditions
– give a player his unconditional release (we saw this with Sexson and Vidro, for instance). We’re not going to discuss this one as we walk through this.

To get a waiver, a team notifies MLB. Waivers are batched up by the day they’re received (days run from 2pm-2pm eastern time). A team can only request waivers on seven players in any day.

Making waiver claims
Then other teams can enter waiver claims. They essentially have two business days to make the claim.

So if tomorrow I request a waiver for Carlos Silva and get that in before 2pm Eastern, other teams have until 1pm Eastern on Tuesday to notify the league they’d like to make a waiver claim.

If no one claims the player, the team requesting waivers gets them and can do whatever it was they wanted to do in the first place. They get a nice waiver notice which presumably is emailed to them.

Who gets a claim
One team claims, they get the waiver claim
More than one team claims, the precedence order goes worst record in the same league to best record in same league and then the other league. This is a dumb rule. The way the precedence is determined is also complicated, and not “record at time of claim”.

Then MLB sends a nice note to the requesting team that tells them what claims were made. The rule is “any claims”.

The requesting team now has a couple of options:
Let the claiming team take the contract
If no action is taken, the player’s assigned to the claiming team. The team losing the player gets a token amount of cash.

This seems to be frequently overlooked. If someone puts on a claim on Carlos Silva in the previous example, and when I call them up they tell me they want an extra player, or they’re just blocking a trade, or they made a mistake and meant to claim another player, well, it really sucks to be them, because in a month I’m going to sympathize with them about how hard it is to get sour cream out of the clubhouse carpeting.

Make a deal
Work out a means of compensation, either in prospects who don’t have to go through waivers, cash, or gift certificates to the Body Shop. There’s a time limit on this.

Withdraw the waiver request
This is the only leverage the requesting team has: threatening to keep the guy.

If the team requesting a waiver on a player can’t work out a deal with the claiming team, they can withdraw their request. The player stays on their team, and if they were requesting waivers for purpose of a transaction, they’re stuck unable to make that move.

If they do that, they can still try this trick again, but with an added twist:

Requesting waivers again
If a player’s pulled back, a team can request a waiver on the same player again (this is kind of confusing in the rules, by the way, which says “no you can’t request waivers twice” and then “requesting waivers twice in the same period…”)

In this case, the waivers are irrevocable: the requesting team can’t pull the player back. So if you request again post-August 1st, the second time whoever wins the claim war automatically gets them. They don’t have to make a deal or anything.

That doesn’t mean that if the player clears, they have to release him.


37 Responses to “How waivers work”

  1. JMHawkins on August 14th, 2008 5:32 pm

    How does a no-trade clause effect things? If you put Silva on waivers and I claim him, but he has a no-trade clause which he refuses to waive (since he thinks your clubhouse chef is much, much better than mine), do I still get him?

  2. Dave on August 14th, 2008 5:37 pm

    Nope – no trade clauses block the assignment of the contract to another team without consent. A waiver claim not revoked is, for all intents and purposes, a trade where the original team just gets nothing back. No-trade clauses can prevent waiver claims.

    Most recent example: Brian Giles used his no trade to block a waiver claim by the Red Sox last week.

  3. DMZ on August 14th, 2008 5:38 pm

    Dave, that would then mean that Washburn’s no-trade would prevent the M’s from putting him on irrevocable waivers, since that would result in a transaction w/o his consent

  4. Mike Snow on August 14th, 2008 5:46 pm

    Geoff Baker has some kind of complicated scenario in which, if I understand it right, Washburn can still be traded to the Twins on the second round of waivers. “Traded” meaning the Mariners get a player in return, not just salary relief.

    With the no-trade clause in play as well, it’s beginning to get complicated enough that I’m not sure of the ramifications anymore. But with the convoluted explanations we’re getting, I also have less confidence the Mariners have mastered all the angles. They already totally blew this kind of detail with not offering Guillen arbitration.

  5. JMHawkins on August 14th, 2008 5:51 pm

    So, maybe Washburn blocked the deal? Well, even so, it’s still a failure on the M’s part. Paying him $1M to waive his no-trade and complete the deal would’ve been a bargain. Hell, they’ll save far more than that over the rest of this season, and, even if you think Washburn is good, he’s not doing anything worthwhile in Seattle between now and the end of September.

    KOMO is incompetent cutting salary too early, the M’s incompetent cutting it too late. We are cursed.

  6. Salty Dog on August 14th, 2008 5:52 pm

    If I understand the rules right, [deleted for extreme wrongness]

  7. DMZ on August 14th, 2008 5:55 pm

    That’s not correct.

  8. Salty Dog on August 14th, 2008 5:55 pm

    Actually, Washburn would probably waive his NTC for the Twins, since he’s from that area. So I think Baker’s probably correct to hypothesize that pulling him back off waivers has more to do with seeing whether they can agree to a trade than on Washburn’s NTC. He’d be going to a better team, closer to his home state, for the same money.

  9. DMZ on August 14th, 2008 5:56 pm

    Can we possibly not turn this general, useful-for-all-time post into another Washburn discussion?

  10. isaac on August 14th, 2008 5:57 pm

    It looks like the second pass through waivers can, under some circumstances, give leverage to the potential claiming team. If the Twins actually wanted Washburn (as opposed to wanting to block a claim) but were on the fence because of the salary, then on the second pass through, couldn’t they say to the Mariners, “we will make a claim if you pay X% of Washburn’s 2009 salary; otherwise, he’s yours and we’ll fleece you this winter”? At that point if there had been only one claim on Washburn (which the Mariners would know because of the rule that the requesting team is notified of “any claims”), the Mariners would have to recalculate the value of the salary dump.

    In any event, it seems like the Mariners are a great example of supposed professional businessmen suffering from the endowment effect, a behavioral economics concept that basically theorizes that people tend to overvalue things that they already own.

  11. DMZ on August 14th, 2008 5:59 pm

    They could have made that same offer the first time through, though. I don’t think it makes that much of a difference.

  12. Dave on August 14th, 2008 6:02 pm

    Teams are allowed to place players with NTCs on waivers, and teams are allowed to claim players that have NTCs off waivers, but the player has the final say on whether he’ll authorize the claim or not.

    The M’s can put Washburn on irrevocable waivers if they want. If someone claims him, and Washburn has an NTC to that team in his contract, he doesn’t have to go. It’s up to him.

  13. DMZ on August 14th, 2008 6:06 pm

    So a team would be able to request irrevocable waivers on a player’s contract, see that contract claimed and assigned to another team, and then have the player block the assignment itself.

    There’s nothing in the waiver rules about this, unfortunately.

  14. Mike Snow on August 14th, 2008 6:11 pm

    Isn’t that why Ibanez and Washburn are being keep abreast of the status of their waiver claims? Unless it’s an unusual show of courtesy, I haven’t heard of teams letting all of their guys know, “Hey, we put you on waivers but nobody wanted you.” Seems like a strange motivational strategy.

  15. Dave on August 14th, 2008 6:30 pm

    Basically, yes. An NTC is baseball’s version of veto power – it doesn’t come into affect until there is something to veto. Washburn can’t veto going on waivers (revocable or irrevocable), but he can veto the assignment of his contract to certain teams. So, if the Twins were on his no-trade list (very doubtful), and they claimed him off irrevocable waivers, Washburn could just say veto and he’d remain a Mariner.

  16. Malicious_Draconian on August 14th, 2008 6:41 pm

    These waiver rules are so messed up you would think that the Mariners FO came up with them…on the other hand, if I were Washburn, I’m not sure that I would want to veto any trade if the Mariners put him on waivers again, based on the fact that we have tried to get rid of him 2 times this year and have failed miserably both times…but this is The Bus we are talking about.

  17. G-Man on August 14th, 2008 9:48 pm

    So, I’m still not sure on this, so let me ask.

    If the player is pulled back and the teams cannot work oiut a trade, can the waiving team (Mariners) change there minds and say “you can have him for nothing”?

  18. DMZ on August 14th, 2008 9:57 pm

    Once a player’s waived and pulled back, they have to be put on waivers again (irrevocable this time) and go through the process again.

  19. enazario on August 14th, 2008 10:17 pm

    Does a 10-5 player have the same veto power on a waiver claim as a player with an NTC?

  20. Dave on August 14th, 2008 10:18 pm

    10-5 rights give you an NTC, so yes.

  21. enazario on August 14th, 2008 10:31 pm

    Can a team turn around and put the same player they just claimed on waivers?

    Thanks for this awesome, geeky, thread. What else can we say about the Mariners?

  22. pgaur82 on August 14th, 2008 11:40 pm

    So… if Washburn was placed on irrevocable waivers, and then he blocked the claim of whatever team picked him up, could he be placed on waivers again? Or could he then be traded to anyone? Or if he rejects the claim on irrevocable waivers, is it essentially the same as him being released?

  23. DMZ on August 14th, 2008 11:42 pm

    No. You get two tries before August 1st, two afterwards, the second of which is not revocable.

  24. BaltimoreDave on August 15th, 2008 6:39 am

    To be clear – or what I think is clear – 10-and-5 rights are essentially a blanket NTC in which the player has veto power over any assignment of his contract, while *most* negotiated NTC limit veto power to a select number of teams. According to Cot’s, Boston was one of 8 teams to which Giles negotiated the ability to block assignment of his contract. For some reason I thought he was a 10-and-5 guy.

    Which brings up a question – is it common for the teams named in a player’s NTC to be publicized?

  25. JMHawkins on August 15th, 2008 8:01 am

    Does anyone have any history on why or how the waiver rule came about?

    A quick google turned up this headline and opening paragraph from the Feb 22, 1915 NY Times:

    “WAIVER RULE VICIOUS.”; So Says President Dave Fultz in Discussing Reulbach’s Case.
    That “Big Ed” Reulbach, the pitcher recently released by Brooklyn, was the victim of the waiver rule of organized baseball was the charge made yesterday by David L. Fultz, President of the Baseball Players’ Fraternity. Reulbach is also one of the officials of the organization

    By “victim”, it seems that Fultz means Big Ed was released by the Robins instead of being sent a contract. Reulbach pitched in the Federal League in 1915, and then returned to MLB with the Braves in 1916 and 17. At any rate, some form of “waivers” have been around a long time.

  26. lonestarball on August 15th, 2008 8:52 am

    I was under the impression that, a few years ago, the rules were changed so that waiver claims no longer were prioritized by league.

  27. DMZ on August 15th, 2008 9:03 am

    I thought that too, but I don’t believe that’s the case.

  28. Jay R. on August 15th, 2008 9:07 am

    I am curious about the mechanics of how the teams are notified about waiver requests. Does the league office send out a memo/fax/email/teletype/smoke signal to all teams each time a request is made, or do they send summary report at the end of the day? Or do they just release the information to the wire services and let the teams find out themselves?

    I am sure all teams are aware somehow or another; I am just interested in how it actually works, and whether the onus is on the league or the individual teams.

  29. Mousse on August 15th, 2008 9:14 am

    Is there an unwritten rule of sorts which says that it is really bad etiquette to stick the requesting team with a player’s contract if a trade cannot be worked out? In other words, is it possible that the Mariners FO was concerned about appearances with their peers in deciding not to simply dump Washburn’s contract on Minnesota? I don’t have a good sense of how frequently this sort of thing happens.

  30. lonestarball on August 15th, 2008 9:16 am

    I think it is considered to be bad etiquette to place claims on players you don’t want, just to block them from going elsewhere. I think if someone gets stuck with a player they don’t want, it would be viewed as the team getting what was coming to them.

    Up until about 10-15 years ago, there was sort of a gentleman’s agreement that no one would put in claims, but that has sort of gone out the window.

  31. DMZ on August 15th, 2008 9:20 am

    The league sends out the day’s list to the teams. The media’s not cut in on it at all, which is why you see contradictory and wrong information out there.

  32. Mousse on August 15th, 2008 9:34 am


    I see your point and agree. However, I’m really talking about situations where the waiver claim was not intended as a block. If the claiming team truly wanted the waived player but is unable to work out a mutually agreeable trade with the owning team, is it “bad form” for the owning team to say “well, too bad, he’s yours.”?

  33. notanangrygradstudent on August 15th, 2008 9:56 am

    I echo pguar82’s question: If a player with a NTC is placed on irrevocable waivers, is claimed, but the player then blocks the contract assignment, is the waiving team obliged to release him? Or does the team have the choice of simply keeping him, but they are blocked from releasing him later in the season (because they can’t request waivers a third time)? The former makes the most sense to me. Can anyone shed any light on how NTC’s work with the waiver rules?

  34. notanangrygradstudent on August 15th, 2008 9:58 am

    Mousse: Your question answers itself. If I trade can’t be worked out that is agreeable to the owning team, the owning team can always change their mind and decide that it is fine to just let the player go with nothing at all in return. That’s pretty much what it means to waive a player.

  35. DMZ on August 15th, 2008 10:03 am

    If a player with a NTC is placed on irrevocable waivers, is claimed, but the player then blocks the contract assignment, is the waiving team obliged to release him?


    Or does the team have the choice of simply keeping him,

    No, they have to keep them.

    they are blocked from releasing him later in the season (because they can’t request waivers a third time)?

    They could still release them — though I’d have to go bone up on that set of rules to be able to quote them at you.

  36. notanangrygradstudent on August 15th, 2008 10:24 am

    Thanks, Derek. Where is that set of rules? If I knew where to look, I could just read them myself.

  37. BaltimoreDave on August 15th, 2008 10:33 am

    Cot’s has a great transaction glossary with concise definitions to most of this stuff, as well as links to the current and previous Basic Agreements. There’s also links to relevant articles on BPro, ESPN, etc., for whatever that’s worth.

    Cot’s Transaction Glossary Page

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.