I have a beef. This time of year you always hear or read about a player being exposed to waivers. Suddenly, it becomes a big story because people misunderstand the waivers process. Following the non-waiver trade deadline, the waivers process changes some. Most people think of waivers as irrevocable waivers. You put a player on waivers, someone claims them, and then that player becomes property of the claiming team.
We see this process throughout the year with smaller names. So, when a big name gets put on waivers in August, people in blogosphere suddenly start going nuts. However, the waiver process in August is something we would call revocable waivers. Every team puts everyone of their players through waivers eventually, so when Cliff Lee was put on waivers, no one should have gone nuts like they did.
We have found out that someone claimed him. That doesn’t mean the claiming team gets him. It means that team now has 72 hours to work a trade with the Phillies. Everyone involved thinks that is highly unlikely, so someone needs to poke me when a deal is done. If that window closes without a deal, he is pulled off of waivers and remains with his team for the remainder of the season.
There is a lot of strategy that goes into this particular waiver process. Rules prevent you from putting all of your players on waivers at the same time. So, each team will put a small group through waivers. When that group clears they will put in the next group. Most teams put their most marketable guys up first because it allows them the full month of August to make any deal they can once those players pass through. If a player gets claimed then they pull them back most of the time. Occasionally a deal is done or a team simply allows the claiming team to have him. When that happens, it’s news.
While Lee likely isn’t going anywhere, the Dodgers claimed Joe Blanton and the two clubs were able to work out a deal. The Phillies will either get a player to be named later or cash considerations. Blanton is owed 2.8 million for the remainder of the season and the Dodgers will pick up that entire contract. Blanton becomes a free agent at the end of the season. The Phillies were not going to re-sign him, so they decided to get as much as they could. Teams they were negotiating with before the deadline wanted the Phillies to pick up some of the contract. Obviously, the Phillies are trying to cut as much payroll as possible to be able to afford Cole Hamels’ contract moving forward.
With Ted Lilly on the disabled list, the Dodgers had only four experienced starters. Blanton gives them an experienced innings eater who might flourish in Los Angeles. He had a 4.59 ERA in Philadelphia, but he also had hurled more than 120 innings. However, he has a 3.39 xFIP this season in Philadelphia. Fangraphs came up with xFIP to calculate what a pitcher’s ERA would be with league average fielding behind him and an average home run rate. That is particular telling as he moves into more of a pitcher’s park.
The Dodgers will have to make a tough decision on who to demote when Ted Lilly comes off the disabled list. Still, these are the kinds of tough decisions that managers and general managers crave this time of year. Most teams are scrambling to find quality guys that can make starts. If Blanton continues to pitch well he might stay in the rotation and someone like Aaron Harang will be demoted to long relief. Before the deadline, their inability to acquire a starter was the only thing keeping prognosticators from making them the prohibitive favorites in the NL West. Now, they are the prohibitive favorites.