How do waivers work?

August 30th, 2023

A number of players were reportedly placed on waivers Tuesday, including six Angels (Lucas Giolito, Dominic Leone, Reynaldo López, Matt Moore, Hunter Renfroe and Randal Grichuk), Yankees outfielder Harrison Bader, Mets starter Carlos Carrasco, White Sox starter Mike Clevinger and Tigers reliever José Cisnero.

Here’s a primer on outright waivers and what this might mean for postseason races around baseball.

How do outright waivers work?

When a player is placed on outright waivers, the other 29 teams have an opportunity to submit a claim for him. The claiming club assumes responsibility for the remaining money owed to the claimed player, who is placed on his new club's 40-man roster.

Outright waivers are irrevocable, meaning if a player is claimed, he can’t be pulled back off waivers.

How is waiver priority determined?

Claiming priority is based on reverse winning percentage. So, if a player is placed on outright waivers and claimed by more than one team, the team with the worse winning percentage gets priority.

If two or more claiming clubs are tied with the lowest percentage of games won, the priority goes to the club with the lowest percentage of games won in the previous season.

Could one team claim every player?

Yes. Making a successful waiver claim doesn’t impact a club’s claiming priority, so one club could theoretically claim every available player, though it would need to clear 40-man roster spots for all of them and take on the remaining money owed to each player.

What happens if players go unclaimed?

Players who go unclaimed after being placed on outright waivers simply remain with the team that waived them.

Note that this is different than being designated for assignment. Designating a player for assignment immediately removes that player from the 40-man roster. Within seven days of being designated, the player can either be traded (if the DFA is made before the Trade Deadline) or placed on outright or unconditional release waivers. If the player clears outright waivers, he may be assigned outright to the Minor Leagues. However, players with more than five years of Major League service time can reject an assignment to the Minor Leagues, and players with more than three years of Major League service time, or who have been previously outrighted, may elect free agency in lieu of the assignment. If the player clears unconditional release waivers, he is unconditionally released.

How does this situation differ from the previous post-Deadline trade waiver rules?

Before 2019, players could be traded following the Trade Deadline if they first cleared revocable trade waivers. Under the old system, the player's original club had three options when a trade waiver claim was placed: It could either work out a standard trade with the claiming club (the two sides had 48 hours to agree to a deal), allow the player -- and all money remaining on his contract -- to go to the claiming club with no return or pull the player back off waivers.

Under the current system, trade waivers are no longer a thing. Players may still be placed and claimed on outright waivers, but trades will no longer be permitted after the Trade Deadline.

Unlike trade waivers, outright waivers are irrevocable, meaning if a player is claimed, he can’t be pulled back off waivers.

Will these players be postseason eligible with their new teams if they’re claimed?

Yes. Any player who is on the 40-man roster or 60-day injured list as of 11:59 p.m. ET on Aug. 31 is eligible for the postseason. A player who doesn't meet said criteria for postseason eligibility can still be added to a team's roster in the postseason via petition to the Commissioner's Office if the player was in the organization on Aug. 31 and is replacing someone who is on the injured list and has served the minimum amount of time required for activation. (For example, a player on the 10-day injured list who has been on it for at least 10 days, or a player who has been on the 60-day injured list for at least 60 days.)

Players who are acquired after Aug. 31 are ineligible.