This time of year, it can get confusing when we constantly hear that players are being “waived.” I remember, not too long ago, hearing this and assuming that it meant that the player wouldn’t be around much longer. I learned that, while sometimes that’s true, sometimes it isn’t.
What fun would any of this be if there were direct answers?
Since I was the guy who essentially began a blog to describe the Rule 4 draft, I figured I would make it my duty to explain to my outstanding readership about waivers.
Basically, a “waiver” means that a player’s contract is available to be claimed by any of 29 Major League Baseball organizations. There are four types of waivers: Outright, Optional, Unconditional Release, and Trade.
Outright – If a team wants to remove a player from their 40-man roster and place him on a minor league team within their own organization, they must first send him through Outright waivers.
Optional – Occasionally, even a player with options can’t be optioned to the minors without being placed on waivers. If a team wants to move a player from their active roster to their minor leagues, but keep him on their 40-man roster, they must first place him on Optional waivers.
Unconditional Release – Pretty simple stuff here. If a team wants to release a player from their organization entirely, he is placed on Unconditional Release waivers.
Trade – Trade waivers are the most popular, I suppose. After the “non-waiver” trading deadline (July 31), players must be placed on Trade waivers before they can be sent from one team to another.
No matter the waiver type, when a club wants to place a player on waivers, they enter his name into a system called eBIS, which sends a notice to all 30 clubs once a day. Clubs then have until 2:00 PM on the second business day thereafter to place a claim for the player. During Spring Training, all days are considered business days.
If no one makes a claim, the waiver is considered “secured” and the club can make the roster move (trade, release, or demotion). They do not have to make the move (except on Unconditional Release Waivers), but they now have permission to make it.
If an organization makes, and is awarded, a claim (and they cannot be retracted), then the following occurs:
Outright – The player must be placed on the 25-man roster of the claiming club, if the claim was made in-season. If it’s the offseason, he must be placed on the 40-man roster of the claiming club. The player’s new team must pay his old team a sum of $20,000 ($25,000 for a Rule 5 pick.)
Optional – A player who is claimed from Optional waivers, he can’t be moved by his current club to the minor leagues. This kind of waiver claim is never made – I don’t know of a single example of it being exercised, and can’t really imagine a reason why it would be.
Trade – A player who is claimed off of Trade waivers must be traded to the team who made the claim. If they can’t work out a trade, he can be given back to his original club or given to the claiming club for a $20,000 waiver price.
In 2007, Oakland placed Esteban Loaiza on Trade waivers and the Dodgers claimed him. The two teams couldn’t reach a trade agreement, so the A’s decided to just send Loaiza and his albatross contract to the Dodgers, also getting some $20K in the process.
Bart Given, former Blue Jays Assistant General Manager, estimates that 75-80% of players are placed on Trade waivers in August or September, though most are pulled back immediately without any discussion between teams.
Unconditional Release – It costs a team $1.00 to claim a player off of URs, but most players clear these waivers easily. Take Gary Sheffield, for instance. Why would you claim him off of waivers, essentially telling the Tigers you’ll take his full salary, when you can wait for him to clear, at which point they’re on the hook for his full salary, and your club can sign him at the league minimum?