Waiver Basics (Updated)

UPDATE: Josh Willingham was claimed on waivers by the Baltimore Orioles. The Twins have 48 hours to make a deal, let Willingham go for the waiver price or withdraw the waiver request.UPDATE: The teams could not make a deal. Willingham remains a Twin, waiver request withdrawn.

This is the time of the season when teams try to make deals for players who have cleared waivers. This is a basic waiver primer for the sports fan.
Waivers are a mechanism used in MLB to control the movement of players, especialy late in the season. The process has teams request waivers, and there are three sorts, to see if other teams will pass on a waiver claim and they may be able to trade the player. There are trade waiver, for deals at this time, outright assignment waivers to move a player with three years experience to the minors, and unconditional release waivers to remove a player from the roster.

The purpose behind this process is an effort to improve competitive balance by giving teams with low winning percentages a first crack at acquiring a player for the $20,000 waiver price. It is beneficial to the league to have the poorer teams improve, so this is one of the ways that is done. The problem is that if a team gets a player on waivers, it also gets the contract, and many low ranked teams don’t want that burden.

A team that asks for trade waivers is often trying to move a player to a team it already has a deal with. However, life in the big leagues is always complicated. Say you have a deal with the second ranked team in a division for an outfielder. If you get waivers on that player, a deal can be made. However, the third ranking team, maybe one game behind, suspects this is the case, so it claims the player. Now, either that player goes to the third ranked team or the asking team withdraws its waiver request.  In this sort of deal, it is understood that the second place team will claim the player so a trade of a the player can occur within 48 hours.

Here in Minnesota, the rumor is that the Twins have waivers on Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham. I am sure deals are being discussed, but Morneau is a free agent, so an acquiring team must resign him to keep him. Willingham has a $7,000,000 contract for next year, and this may be the reason he cleared waivers. He is hitting. 217 today.  Similar scenarios are being played out everywhere in the Majors today. Remember, waiver claims are often made to block a player from going to a competitor, and teams claim on waivers so that can get the player by trade within the 48 hour window, or not claim so that a deal can be made based an the assignors having waivers, and teams withdraw waiver requests if the wrong team gets the player.  Is this clear, I thought so.

This information is intended to explain something about waivers, but also to show the complexity of deals at this time of the year.

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