NEW YORK – Even with the elimination of August trades, Marlins infielder Neil Walker understood it might not mean much for a certain class of players.
Those individuals who in previous seasons would have been moved in August after clearing waivers were not suddenly going to become a point of emphasis.
“There’s a pecking order as far as it applies to the July 31 deadline and what was once the August deadline, and certainly guys like myself that not necessarily are a high-priority trade deadline pieces but are more depth pieces for teams,” Walker told Yahoo Sports on Monday afternoon at Citi Field. “We saw this year there weren’t as many teams that were maybe prepared or ready to kind of add those pieces for the full month of August and into September, whether it was roster crunches or not having guys banged up or whatever the case may be.
“You saw guys. ... whether they may be platoon guys or depth pieces per se, that was kind of the fallout of this hard July 31` deadline.”
Players like Walker and his teammate, Curtis Granderson, are those who are affected most by the creation of a universal trade deadline, and they will learn over the next month how the change affects their chances of joining a contender.
It’s still possible for players on non-contending teams to land elsewhere, but they first have to be removed from the roster. Trades are no longer allowed.
“I don’t fully understand it,” said Walker, who was traded in August of 2017. “I’m sure agents are up to speed with it. You assume there are not many moves that are going to be made unless significant injuries across the board, and teams don’t have enough roster space that guys get (designated for assignment) or released.”
The old August trade period was a complicated time, but it still played a valuable role in how teams constructed their rosters for the postseason.
For players to be traded under the old rules, they need to placed on waivers, and then either be claimed or clear waivers. Teams could pull back players who were claimed or allow the claiming team to inherit that player’s contract.
Most August trades were not all that significant, but the Astros’ acquisition of Justin Verlander in 2017 helped them win the World Series.
Teams mostly used the August trades to address an injury that arose or beef up a certain facet of their team such as their bench or bullpen.
The old rules would be beneficial to the Yankees, who recently placed Edwin Encarnacion and Aaron Hicks on the injured list. It will be much more difficult for the Yankees to address those needs due to the singular deadline.
“The thing that is going to come out afterward is two months from the deadline a lot can happen for a team. Guys get hurt, a team may need a piece they didn’t think they needed where they were able to pick up that piece in that month prior to the end of the season,” Granderson said before a doubleheader at Citi Field. “Now, you got to go two months and hope everything you have maintains to get you through or do it internally through your 40-man roster or create a spot for someone on your 40-man roster. It remains to be seen. Some situations you can’t predict.”
Neither Granderson or Walker have a complete understanding of how players can move to new teams under the new rule, but there are avenues.
Players can still be placed on either outright waivers or release waivers, and then be claimed or become a free agent. A player can always be designated for assignment first if the team wants to have more time to pursue options.
Teams could always take a shot on a salary dump by placing a player on waivers and hoping he is claimed. A team with a notable hole due to injury could be desperate enough to make a claim to avoid letting him become a free agent.
There have already been some notable transactions via this methods.
The Reds added pitcher Kevin Gausman on Monday by claiming him from Atlanta on outright waivers, and the Nationals reportedly are adding veteran infielder Asdrubal Cabrera after the Rangers designated him for assignment last week.
Players who become free agents, like Cabrera, will have the chance to sign with any contending team for the prorated minimum salary.
Walker – who landed on the injured list Monday with a right index finger sprain – and Granderson could be options to be ousted from the Marlins rosters since the team is already transitioning to younger players, and they both are not owed much.
Both players complimented the Marlins for being upfront with them about reductions in playing time moving forward.
Marlins infielder Starlin Castro is another candidate although there may not be any claims due to his salary, which would leave Miami on the hook for his contract.
Walker said there would be no negative stigma attached to being released or designated for assignment from a team compared to just being traded.
“You’re well aware of the situation you’re in when you come into a team on a one-year deal, especially a rebuilding type of situation,” said Walker, who is making $2 million. “You’re kind of prepared for anything when you decide to go that route.”
Granderson still remembers when he first learned of the old August waivers process during his first few years in Detroit.
He didn’t know what it all meant. He wasn’t aware that many of the game’s best players were placed on waivers as a procedural move.
Now, young players and vets alike don’t have to worry about that.
Instead, it’s the older players who are left trying to figure out just how much the new singular deadline will affect their ability to land on a title-chasing team.
“You’ll learn a little more as something happens,” Granderson said of the new August period. “If something does happen, I’m sure I’ll learn about it at that point.”
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