Baseball fans became a strange and not coincidental mix of excited, nervous and ready-to-reprimand yesterday when news broke that CLIFF LEE HAD BEEN PUT ON WAIVERS, which is most likely better expressed as … cliff lee had been put on waivers.

For those whose fanship in baseball has recently increased to a level to which a team’s front office transactions is important, it’s likely worth mentioning that almost everyone gets put on waivers at some point after the non-waiver trade deadline. “Non-waiver” isn’t the corporate sponsor of the league’s trade deadline. It means that a player doesn’t have to pass through waivers to be traded. However, since 4:00 PM ET, on July 31st, any player on a 40 man roster would have to pass through waivers for a team to be able to trade him to any other team they’d like.

It’s not like fantasy baseball, Smokey. There are rules here.

The trade waivers, as the waiver wire is often referred to at this time of the season, are revocable. So, let’s think about Cliff Lee. Let’s say that the Washington Nationals are the only team to put a claim in on Lee. If multiple teams put a claim on a player, the winning claim is given to the team with the worst record in the same league of whichever team is placing the player on waivers. To stay with the Cliff Lee example, the Nationals’ claim on him would win out over the Oakland Athletics or the Seattle Mariners, even though their record is better.

If Washington, with one of the best records in the league, won their claim, the Phillies would then most likely try to work out a deal with the Nationals to trade Lee to their team, or else they would simply revoke Washington’s claim, and pull him back off the wire and keep him on their roster like nothing happened.

If no one claims Lee, which given the expensive remainder of his contract would not be a surprise, the pitcher will be said to have passed through trade waivers, and therefore eligible to be traded to any team in baseball, with the caveat that no trade rights given to the player are just as relevant now as they were before the non-waiver trade deadline.

Occasionally, a team will allow their player to go to the claiming team without negotiating a trade in a strict salary dump. Such was the case when the Chicago White Sox picked up Alex Rios off of waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. With more than $60 million remaining on his contract, the Blue Jays wisely let him go without receiving anything from the White Sox in return. Rumors at the time suggested that this caught Chicago off guard, as they were expecting to be able to negotiate some sort of talent exchange in which Toronto would pick up some of the salary owed to Rios.

In a similarly tricky vein, teams will sometimes make a claim on a player simply to block him from going to a rival. This was rumored to be the case in 2010, when the San Francisco Giants, in second place in the National League West claimed Cody Ross so that the first place San Diego Padres couldn’t acquire him. Of course, Ross went on to provide heroics to the team during the National League Championship Series that year, and the Giants ended up winning the World Series.

The bottom line is that, although the term waivers usually signifies the departure of a player, there’s no risk involved for a team putting a player on waivers at this time of year. Anything that happens afterwards is all entirely at their discretion.

Here are some other rules that govern waivers:

  • Teams can place up to seven players per day on waivers.
  • Players on waivers remain there for two business days.
  • Waiver claims are put in via a computer network with no other team knowing who is putting in a claim.
  • Teams can only pull their players off of waivers once before losing their revocable rights. So, if the Phillies pull Lee back from waivers, they can’t wait two days and try it again with the same right to pull him back if he’s claimed.

And The Rest

Seven August moves that mattered. [Baseball Prospectus]

Several Major League Baseball teams and Major League Baseball itself had their Facebook pages messed with yesterday. [Daily Pitch]

The work wasn’t that of a hacker’s, but merely a disgruntled MLB employee. [Deadspin]

Joey Votto isn’t quite ready to return to the lineup. When asked about the possibility, Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker said, “Oh, hell no.” []

Mike Olt and the Youkilising of Michael Young. [Baseball Nation]