With the news that Alex Rios was claimed off waivers, it seems a good time to explain the actual procedure for how a player is claimed. The process is a bit confusing. I’ll use Rios as the example:
* The Jays decide to place Rios on revocable waivers. Most players will be placed on this list at some point this month. The controlling team (Jays in this case) may do one of three things if the player is claimed: (1) pull him back, (2) work out a trade within 48 hours with the claiming team, or (3) allow the claiming team to take the player’s contract.
* Once claimed, the claiming team is “on the hook.” They can’t pull it back, so even if a team wants to work out a trade and doesn’t, they could still use option (3) above.
* When a player is waived, his name goes onto a list maintained by MLB. It’s on a computer system that goes out to all 30 teams. The claim procedure is nothing more than hitting a button. While all 30 teams must not claim, there’s no actual “pass” procedure. “Passing” is merely not claiming and is an absence of action. A player clears when no one claims for the 48 hour period.
* While the winning claim is decided by league, then record, teams do not wait for other teams to claim. They just say “yep, I want him.” Once there are multiple teams claiming a player, they’ll go by league, worst current record to best, to decide who wins the claim. In Rios’ case, all AL teams would have a shot before the Nats (worst NL record) would be awarded the claim.
* If a player clears waivers, he can be traded during the waiver period (which goes through the end of the World Series) without again going through waivers. There is not a deadline at any point. There is a “playoff roster” deadline of September 1, but there’s an injury loophole that has been exploited in the past.