July 31 in baseball is all too often referred to as the “trade deadline.” That’s kind of a misnomer.
The official term — the non-waiver trade deadline — doesn’t mislead in the same way.
As Thursday’s deadline passed, another active time on the transactional front began. This August, Major League Baseball teams will remain active — whether trying to bolster their rosters for a postseason run or capitalize on the urgency felt in the season’s final days by swapping commodities.
Things are just far more complex in the days ahead, as teams have to abide by a waiver system to complete trades.
In laymen terms, here’s how the system works:
• Nearly every player in baseball — whether his team wants to part with him or not — is placed on waivers in the coming weeks.
• If a player goes unclaimed, clearing waivers, his team can freely negotiate with other teams in an attempt to trade him. This is the first step in how the majority of August trades go down.
• If a player is claimed on waivers, his team can either pull him back and keep him on the roster, trade him to the claiming organization within two business days, or release him on waivers to the claiming club, which would be responsible for the player’s contract.
• And if more than one team claims a player off of waivers, teams in the same league as the club of the claimed player get first dibs before priority is given to the team with the worse record.
When the Diamondbacks acquired Aaron Hill and John McDonald in 2011, the move came through waivers, on Aug. 24.
Though the club is in a much different position this August, on Thursday, general manager Kevin Towers used the Hill acquisition as an example of how he intended to remain active on the trade front over the next 30 days.
“Most clubs after now, probably for the next week, will probably run their players through trade waivers,” he explained to reporters.
“And I would imagine we’ll probably have several of our players claimed.”
Hill, himself, could well be involved in a move in August, given his relative value at second base, a position that lacks depth across the major league landscape.
Also, as teams look to ante up for postseason runs, Diamondbacks relief pitchers — such as left-hander Oliver Perez and right-hander Brad Ziegler — could be sought-after commodities.
“You’ve got to stay busy,” Towers went on. “You don’t just quit after today. I’ll be watching those trade waivers and seeing if any deals make sense. And there will probably be dialogue with other teams.”
Strategies are sundry this time of year, too, just as they were in July. Some general managers, Towers said, try to “sneak” players through waivers, hoping they will get lost in the vast sea of names and clear the other side, so they can be traded freely. Alternatively, some just run all their players through “right off the bat,” he said.
“A lot of that is timing, though,” he said, perhaps offering insight to his thinking.
Towers floated the strategy of waiting for a certain team to perhaps suffer an injury at a key position — say second base or in the bullpen, in the case of the aforementioned scenarios. It’s at that time, Towers said, that a GM may run a player through waivers, hoping the team that suffered the injury bites or that the player clears waivers altogether so negotiations can officially begin.
Whatever the strategy this August, the Diamondbacks GM had one guarantee.
“We’re going to be active.”