Tuesday, August 3, 2010

An explanation of waivers

PHOENIX -- Buster Olney of ESPN reported earlier today that the Nationals placed Adam Dunn on waivers, a transaction that immediately left a lot of people out there flustered and wondering if that means the big slugger is about to wind up on another team's roster.

Well, let me give a quick response to that: No, he's almost certainly not going to be playing for anyone other than the Nats the rest of this season.

So what exactly happened and what does it all mean? If the Nats did place Dunn on waivers -- and that's not something easily confirmable because waivers are not public knowledge, even to most MLB employees -- it's simply a routine procedural move made with dozens of players every August.

You all know about the July 31 trade deadline. Well, there's also an August 31 trade deadline for players who first pass through waivers. If a player is placed on waivers during this month, every other team in baseball has 72 hours to claim him. At the end of the 72-hour period, the team with the worst record in that player's league to have claimed him gets rewarded the claim. If no team from that league (in this case the NL) claims him, then the worst team from the other league gets the claim. If no team from either league claims him, then that player is free to be traded before August 31.

Now, what happens after a team claims a player? This is the key point. The Nationals have three options: 1) allow the other team to take the player and his salary off their hands for no compensation, 2) work out a trade with the other team, or 3) pull the player back off waivers and keep him for themselves.

The third option is what almost always happens. General managers don't put a guy on waivers because they're trying to get rid of him. They do it just in case the guy clears and thus can be traded. That's how Ronnie Belliard was dealt last year in late-August.

Every August, a boatload of players across the majors get placed on waivers and no one ever finds out about it. In almost every single case, the player get claimed and the original teams pulls him back. That is almost certainly what will happen if Dunn gets claimed. I'm sure Mike Rizzo will ask the claiming team if they're willing to trade away their two best major-league-ready prospects in exchange for Dunn. But since no team was willing to do that three days ago, I sincerely doubt any is willing to do that now.

So how did this news get out there in the first place? Why would someone want to make a big deal out of Adam Dunn showing up on the waiver wire? Perhaps an executive from another team that was trying to acquire Dunn last week but couldn't pull the deal off is now trying to railroad the process and prevent any other team from acquiring Dunn for the stretch run. I have no knowledge that's what actually happened, but it's not implausible to think that was the case.

Either way, the bottom line remains this: Adam Dunn is still a National, Mike Rizzo has no intention of losing him and the likelihood of him playing for another team this season is remote at best.


JaneB said...

Thanks for explaining this. It seems so odd that this system even exists. I can't for the life of me figure out what advantage it offers to anybody.

rogieshan said...

No surprise that Dunn is on waivers to gauge the market, especially with the Howard injury situation in Philly. I suspect Pudge, Livo, Burnett and Willingham are on there as well.

JayB said...

Don't forget Harris and Kennedy too, but likely everyone but Zimm and Stras are going on waivers. Honestly who else is untouchable for the right deal?

rogieshan said...

"Don't forget Harris and Kennedy too..."

True. I should've clarified and said notable players. Harris and Kennedy would be depth guys traded for a nickel and a song.

Sec3MySofa said...

I seem to recall there being a limit to how many players a team can ask waivers on, but I'm too lazy to look it up, as usual.

Mark said...

Don't forget about Justin Maxwell as he is probably protected like Zim and Stras!

Soriano was placed on waivers in 2006 and nothing happened.

FOTB said...

One of the best aspects of this blog is the Zuck's clear explanation of these esoteric rules of the game and the players. Clearer and always accurate, unlike the posts by some of us.
Thanks, Mark.

Sam said...

I'm fairly certain that August 31st is not the "waiver trade deadline" as everyone calls it. You can make waiver trades in September, but those players cannot play on their new teams' playoff rosters. I could be wrong, of course. Did the Nats trade Mike Stanton in September a couple of years ago?

Richard said...

They wouldn't put anyone on waivers who is in their long term plans. Did they waive Zimmerman? Dunn and whoever else is waived isn't in their long-term plans regardless of what Rizzo throws out for fan consumption. So their real plan is not for us to know. It's for us to keep paying to see whatever they feel is best, which has been pretty awful the last three years.

Anonymous said...

Sam is correct; there is no Aug. 31st waiver deadline. A player can be traded after Aug. 31st but he then cannot be on his new team's playoff roster.

JaneB; the idea is this: If let's say The Giants claim Dunn then the Nats know that they are interested in him; they pull him off waivers and then Rizzo contacts the Giants to see what he can get back for Dunn. Trades used to happen this way in August all the time but these days it is harder because teams block other teams from doing it by placing a claim on a player another team wants.

There used to be an unwritten agreement that you don't do that but I think that in the last few years this has gone by the boards as the Red Sox refused to let the Yankees get stronger when they were battling them for 1st place; now it's common practice to block waiver trades.

Anonymous said...


The feeling around Baseball is that the Nats screwed up big time by playing hardball at the deadline because from a purely baseball standpoint it makes no sense to keep Dunn when you can get major league ready prospects for him and then use the money you were going to pay him to sign free agent(s) maybe even Dunn himself.

I wouldn't have minded having Dan Hudson in our rotation for the next 6 years under team control; if we had done that; I assure you we could have gotten Dunn back in the off season because I doubt that anyone is paying him $45 mil for 3 years and if they are then you sign someone else; for this kind of money you may be able to get someone who can hit and maybe even playing stronger defense.

As fans we can use our hearts but as a GM Rizzo has to put aside his feelings and make inteligent moves that will make us a consistent contender.

Anonymous said...

except Dan Hudson was traded to the Dbacks who would have no interest in Dunn. as for the white sox, they should have offered more. i would bet now that dunn will have NO trouble getting 3/45 in the offseason. i think he might even get a fourth year.

Anonymous said...

We could have had Hudson before The Sox traded him to the Dbacks; As for the White Sox you can't trade more than one major league ready prospect for a 3-3 month rental. I think that you are dead wrong about Dunn's off season value; remember he was a free agent 2 years and the best he could get was 2 for 20. He is now 2 years older and you think he gets 4 years?

Steve M. said...

Anon at 11:12, I think his value is more because he was seen as an outfielder and the Nats have now transitioned him to 1st base.

I think $13 million to $15 million a year for 3 years sounds right. Maybe you throw in a 4th year option.

Anonymous said...

Steve M.

He is still a lousy first baseman; he will really be looked at as a DH whether or not he likes it. His value is something like 5 games ORP which is significant for a contender but not so much for an also run.

Richard said...

Anon 1:45 calls Dunn a lousy first baseman without offering statistical support, and uses ORP to argue for a trade. IMHO ORP or VORP is a little theoretical. Fielding stats on the other hand are solid, and a quick look at them show Adam Dunn is at worst an average 1st baseman: 876 chances, 808 put outs, 63 assists, 5 errors, 9.42 range factor, .994 fielding percent. Not Pujols but better than, say, Ryan Howard, who has 11 errors BTW, and Derrick Lee.

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