MLB’s July 31 Trade Deadline Isn’t Much of a Deadline

Didn’t we just have the trade deadline? Does the July 31 trade deadline mean nothing when teams are trading well into August? Not exactly, there are just a few more hoops to jump through once you get into the eighth month of the year.

Let’s say you want a player after the trade deadline. What do you do? These players have to go through something called revocable waivers. Let’s pretend that Miguel Montero didn’t get DFA’d back in June and the Cubs decided to trade him after the July 31 deadline because he’s been causing issues in the clubhouse that is affecting team chemistry and on-field play. All the cubs have to do is put him on waivers which allow any other team to claim him and work out a trade with the Cubs.

Because the Cubs are in the National League, the team with the worst record in the NL will have the chance to claim him, that team happens to be the Phillies. If the Phillies pass, the Giants would have a chance to make a deal for him. If no one in the NL claims him, this process would repeat in the American League starting with the last place White Sox.

If a claim is awarded, there are three options. The Cubs can simply take him back, they can trade him to the claiming team, or they can just let him go to the team that claimed him. Many teams try to get as many players as possible when doing a waiver trade so the second option is usually favorable.

Now let’s imagine a top caliber player, like Clayton Kershaw is put on waivers for the remainder of his contract, an average of $33MM for each of the next 4 years, most likely, everyone would pass on him. However, now that every team has passed on him, the Dodgers can negotiate with any team to strike a deal.

So, trades can still be made. In fact, trades can still be made after August 31, but that traded player won’t be eligible for the post-season. Moreover, we have been talking about revocable waivers, we also have irrevocable waivers where a player is put on waivers for the second time. This time around, once this player is claimed, he’s gone.

Let’s take a look at some of the July and August trades over the last 16 years:

July & August Trades Comparison


Since 2000, July trades have seen fairly consistent percentage changes year-over-year.  However, when you look at the percentage changes for August, we see that it varies rather drastically and that trades have become more frequent over the years. This could be due to a number of reasons: the change in the Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2006, the decision to eliminate direct compensation for free-agent signings or that Type C free agents were also eliminated. So if your team hasn’t made a move as of July 31, don’t worry, there is still a chance to make some roster adjustments.

So, the July 31 deadline? Not a true deadline, we just have a few obstacles along the way in order to trade a player. Even players you don’t think will ever be traded may be put on waivers in order to gauge trade interest or actually hide players the team actually wants to trade. Now that we have some more insight let’s keep an eye on how many trades will happen in the month of August.