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Phillips: How the post-trade deadline waiver process works

Steve Phillips
8/9/2013 12:50:58 PM
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Each week, TSN Baseball Analyst Steve Phillips breaks down all the big stories and issues around Major League Baseball on TSN.ca. In this edition, he explains the post-trade deadline waiver process and how it applies to Toronto's Mark DeRosa and addresses Major League Baseball's credibility issues.

1) The Toronto Blue Jays apparently put Mark DeRosa on waivers and he was claimed. The Jays then pulled him back, perhaps to work out a deal. Can you explain this post-deadline waiver process and how GMs work this into trades? Is there much concern about upsetting players whom you might end up keeping (or the team in general) with this relatively public process?

There's much confusion around Major League Baseball's July 31 trade deadline. It's not really a deadline after all, as players can still be traded after July 31 but have to be put through the waiver process first. 

The reason this process is in place is to give teams with a lesser record a better chance to improve themselves than teams with a better record. It aims to level the playing field over the last couple of months of the season.

It also prohibits a team from making a secret pact with another to help it win. 

Waivers. The word itself evokes a rapid heartbeat and beads of sweat on my forehead. As a young executive in baseball I would hear others talk about waivers and I would wonder what the heck they were. 

Once when I was broadcasting a game on national television, a 12-year-old kid asked a question on the air about waivers and how players get traded this time of year. I bravely started to answer and as I talked over about five pitches I looked at my colleagues in the broadcast booth and they had the most bewildered look on their face. They had no clue what I was saying (neither did the 12 year-old kid) and needless to say, neither did I.

Let's give this a shot.

There are three different types of waivers: outright waivers, release waivers and Major League waivers.

In order to be traded after the July 31 deadline, players must be placed on Major League Waivers. Major League waivers are revocable, meaning if a player gets claimed and a team decides they don't want to trade him they can pull him back and he will remain with his original team.

So here is what you need to know:

Players can be traded two ways:

i) If a player is not claimed by anyone on waivers his team is free to trade him to any suitor or;

ii) If a team is awarded a waiver claim on a player that team has 48 hours to make a trade with the players original team. If no deal is made within the 48 hours the original team has the right to pull the player back off waivers at which point he stays with his original team. 

Let's see if I can better explain waivers by creating an image for you:

Picture all 30 general managers seated around a runway. You know - the kind that models walk up and down during fashion shows. The AL executives are seated on one side of the runway, while the NL execs are on the other side. Those teams with the worst records are seated closest to the area where the players enter the runway, while those with the best records are seated the furthest away. Seated behind the general managers are their scouts and executive assistants with computers. 

Each day, clubs can place up to seven players on waivers (They don't have to send any if they prefer not to do so). So in effect, they send them down the runway. The AL players walk in front of the AL teams first and then it's the NL teams, vice versa for NL players. 

As the players walk down the proverbial runway, the general managers study them from top to bottom. They discuss what they see with their staff. They evaluate their stats and their contracts and decide whether they have interest in them.

Players are on waivers for two days so they just keep walking around the runway for that period of time while being gawked at by front office executives who are deciding whether to make a waiver claim. 

Waiver claims are submitted by general managers during this baseball fashion show for two reasons:

i) To acquire a player - If a club really wants a player then they are best served to claim the player on waivers. One has to assume that interest in a player is likely shared by other teams as well. Hoping that a player clears waivers completely without getting claimed by anyone is risky because it may mean that a club will lose out on the player they want. 

ii) To block someone else from getting a player - If a team knows that a club they are chasing in the standings wants to trade for a certain player then they may make a claim to keep that deal from happening. Remember, teams that have lesser records get awarded the claim. These sorts of waiver claims that are made with the intention of blocking can be dangerous. They are especially dangerous if the claim is made on a player with a significant salary. Sometimes, clubs get stuck with a contract they don't really want when they were just trying to block. 

At the end of two-day waiver period, imagine that all of the players go out to the runway for a final viewing. Each player has either gone unclaimed, claimed by one team or claimed by multiple teams. 

The players that went unclaimed are free to leave the runway and can now be traded to any team for the remainder of the season.

Players claimed by one team must stand on the runway for another couple of days. During that time, his current general manager and the claiming general manager discuss possible trade scenarios. Ultimately, his current club can do one of the following:

i) Make a trade with the claiming team.
 
ii) Reject the waiver claim and pull the player back keeping the player on its major league roster.

iii) Let the claiming team have the player without getting anything in return.

Players claimed by multiple teams when walking the runway must hang around for a couple of days as well. The pecking order for awarding the claim is that the club with the worst record in a player's league gets awarded the claim. If no team in his own league claims a player, then the club with the worst record in the other league is awarded the claim.  Once the claimant is determined then one of the three outcomes mentioned above can occur. 

Blue Jays utility man Mark DeRosa has been rumoured to have been claimed by the Atlanta Braves on waivers. If that's accurate, then no AL team put a claim on DeRosa and no one other than the Braves (second best NL record) or possibly the Pirates (best record in NL). This meant that the Braves and Jays had a 48-hour window to try and work out a deal.  It seems that they were unable to make a deal and the Jays pulled DeRosa back off of waivers. They revoked their waivers. This means that DeRosa can't be traded during this waiver period. 

Almost every player in the major leagues will be placed on waivers and walk down the runway whether his team has interest in trading him or not.  Even though the process is supposed to be confidential there always seem to be rumors about which players were claimed by which teams.  I always told players not to worry about rumors during this time of year as I put every player through waivers as a practice even if I had no interest in trading them.  It allowed me to gauge the interest from other teams in my players for possible trade discussions in the off-season. 

See that wasn't so painful was it?

2. Which players currently not with the big club are most likely to help the jays in 2014? Hutchison? Drabek? Romero? Are there any youngsters in the system ready to step in and make an impact?

Generally speaking, I believe prospects get general managers fired. For every top prospect that has fulfilled his potential, there are dozens that never lived up to expectations. I never consider a rookie or young player to be the answer to a need going into the season.

I believe that no matter how good a young pitcher may be, it's only fair to expect him to be a fifth starter with a .500 record. For a position player, it's only fair to expect him to be a seventh hitter in their lineup. Any production you get over that is icing on the cake.

Young players may have the same tools and talent that veterans do, but consistency is the challenge for prospects. Often times great performances are followed by clunkers. It is the nature of being a young player.

So next year Drew Hutchison and/or Kyle Drabek may be considerations for the roster returning from injuries, but they're not predictable upgrades over any pitchers this year.

When Alex Anthopoulos puts his roster together for next year and wants to sell an improved team to the fans, he will need predictable veterans to sell not rookies.

As far as Ricky Romero is concernec, he may be a competitor for a spot in the rotation but he's as unpredictable as any young player the Jays have.

In order to sell a different result to the fans next year, the Jays need experience not youth.

3. A year after the Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg, teams in the race are wondering what to do with their young aces. Gerrit Cole (Pirates), Shelby Miller (Cards) and Julio Terehan (Braves) are among those who will be facing pitch counts down the stretch. Should teams limit the innings these guys throw to preserve long term careers, or let them loose for short term gain?
 
Last season, I completely agreed with the Nats shutting down Stephen Strasburg. He is such a valuable commodity to their franchise and they need to protect him from any major injury. He has horrible throwing mechanics and he was returning from Tommy John surgery. It didn't matter that they were heading to the playoffs. If they overpitched Strasburg with his poor mechanics and he broke down, it would have had serious financial implications for their franchise. 

Injuries are more likely to occur when players have poor mechanics or they reach a point of fatigue.  Teams have to manage their young pitchers innings in order to avoid fatigue.  Pitchers with poor mechanics get fatigued more quickly and are more at risk to break down because of their mechanics.  Significant increase in innings from one year to the next makes a pitcher vulnerable as well to injury. 

As I said, I'm in complete agreement with limiting young pitchers' innings. Where the Nats went wrong with Strasburg is that they didn't manage him in a way to be available when the games meant the most late in the season or for the playoffs.  The Atlanta Braves had the same 160 innings pitched limit on Kris Medlen in 2012, but he finished the season as a starter and was available for the playoffs. The Braves used Medlen as a reliever for the first few months of the season, leaving ample innings for him to start late in the season. 

Gerrit Cole threw 132 innings last season and he is at 130 innings so far this year.  I would skip a few starts over the next several weeks if I were the Pirates. It may impact Cole's consistency a bit but his health is more important than his performance.  The Pirates have some margin for error in the standings as they have the best record in baseball.  There is no margin for error when it comes to a pitcher's health.

Shelby Miller threw just over 150 innings in 2012. He is at 121 right now. He was hit by a line drive in his last start and may need some time off. I would place him on the DL and legislate a break to his season even if he feels like he can pitch through the bruise and pain he feels.  Placing Miller on the DL would take away any temptation for him to come back too quickly.  It would also help limit his innings and keep him fresh for the stretch run.

Julio Tehran already has thrown 137 innings this year. The most he has thrown previously in a season is 163 innings. The Braves need to protect him in September. They will have an ample lead in the standings to skip a couple starts for Tehran and make sure he doesn't end up with close to 200 innings pitched. 

I think the team with the toughest decision is the New York Mets.  Matt Harvey is a legitimate NL Cy Young candidate.  He is second in ERA and first in strikeouts and WHIP.  But the Mets' games for the rest of the year don't mean anything. They are not a playoff contender. 

If the Mets are going to win over the next several years, Harvey will have to be the ace of their staff.  The Mets need to save Harvey's bullets for when the games mean something.  They have said that they will likely shut him down after 31 games started. That's waiting too long.

Harvey threw 169 innings a year ago and is already at 159 this year.  He is on pace for well over 200 innings pitched.  There is way too much to lose to let Harvey keep pitching in September.  The Cy Young Award would be a nice achievement for Harvey but at what price.  The Nats said going to the World Series last year wasn't worth risking Stephen Strasburg for the long term.  I think the same applies to the Harvey.  It's just not worth getting hurt. 

When in doubt, take the pitcher out!

Fair And Foul

NBC announced that the NFL's Hall of Fame game between the Cowboys and Dolphins averaged 10.1 million viewers. And according to profootballtalk,com the 3.8 rating in the men's 18-49 demographic for that football game beat the 3.2 rating for the MLB All Star game. That's a difference of 19 per cent. 

Yes, a preseason football game beat baseball's All-Star game in ratings.

Baseball has a problem - a major credibility problem. Fans don't believe in the game anymore. 

Steroids have hurt baseball in a way that they don't hurt the NFL. More players test positive for performance-enhancing drugs in the NFL than they do for baseball. Every time a baseball player tests positive, people are critical of the game yet we hardly notice when football players test positive.

Baseball has the strongest drug testing program among the four major sports. Baseball tests for HGH and football doesn't. Baseball's penalties are the most substantial for violating the drug policy. Yet baseball has a credibility problem when it comes to whether the game is clean or not. 
                                                                                                    
Some of baseball's biggest stars have been tied to PEDs. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez are commensurate with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson. Football's superstars seem to live their life on and off the field the proper way. 

Baseball's records have long been considered sacred. These most important numbers have been compromised by the cheaters though. The game's highest achievements lack legitimacy. The baseball writers are keeping players out of the Hall of Fame because of ties to PEDs.           

Baseball is becoming professional wrestling. Fans watch it and they aren't sure what is real and what is fake. 

Major League Baseball needs to give the fans something to believe in - Superstars to trust. 

Bud Selig needs to introduce a new crop of stars to his fans.  Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Stephen Strasburg, Giancarlo Stanton and Matt Harvey need to be the fresh start for baseball. Selig needs a commitment from these young studs that they will be responsible for the game. They need to be perfect in their decision making on and off of the field.

Create a promotional campaign: "Out with the old, in with the new!" They need to show pictures of Clemens, McGuire, Sosa, Bonds and ARod with a big X through them. And then really let the fans get to know the personalities of these young kids. This is the new game of baseball. Give the fans hope in real players. 

In the meantime, I will keep my fingers crossed that none of these young players are cheating. 

Steve Phillips was general manager of the New York Mets from 1997 through 2003, helping lead the club to a National League championship in 2000 and its first World Series appearance in 14 years.



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