After reading a particularly uniformed column criticizing the Astros for putting Chad Qualls and Scott Feldman through waivers, it's time to do a quick question and answer session about this whole process.
First off, what are "revokable waivers"?
During August, teams may place any player on waivers while retaining the option to pull the player back. Almost every player in the league gets placed on revokable waivers during August, just so teams can get a gauge of the trade value this month.
Some players clear waivers easily due to their contracts. Others get claimed by teams trying to block rivals, as theYankees are rumored to be doing with relievers.
Teams are not obligated to give up said player if he is claimed or passes through without being claimed and it does not affect the player's presence on the roster. In essence, it's just a designation until another move is made.
This waiver period is mainly for trades. Teams may still need to add talent after the July 31 trade deadline, but have to jump through hoops to get there. Both the Jeff Bagwell-for-Larry Anderson and John Smoltz-for-Doyle Alexander deals were August deals.
Are there any other special rules?
A player must go through his own league's reverse standings order before going through the opposite league in this situation only. That means Detroit got a chance to claim Qualls before any other team in the National League and that the Angels passed on Feldman before the Dodgers got a chance to pass on him.
If a player is claimed, what happens then?
The claiming team is the only one who can negotiate for said player. If no deal can be reached, nothing else happens. Players sent back in any trade must not be on the 40-man roster, unless those players also cleared waivers.
What if a player isn't claimed?
At that point, the player can be successfully dealt to any team in the league. The same rules apply to the trade return, in that it can't be anyone on a 40-man roster, but there are no restrictions on which team the player goes to. Thus, Scott Feldman can now be dealt to any team, which raises the likelihood of a deal happening.
In essence, claiming a player is both a good and bad sign for a potential deal. Putting in a claim gives a team exclusive negotiating rights for a set period of time. In this case, that's two days after the claim has been made. It also shows that the team has interest in acquiring the player.
However, that doesn't mean the claiming team has enough pieces to interest the receiving team to make a deal happen. With players who clear waivers, the market opens up, meaning the return can be more to a receiving team's liking. It also means, though, that teams don't have the same level of interest in the player or his contract and, thus, less motivation to get a deal done.
What would motivate a team to make a deal now?
Well, in the situation of the Angels, who just lost an ace starting pitcher, it's self-preservation. In order to make a run at the playoffs viable, they may have self-evaluated and realized they need to add another starting pitcher. So, they can grab one now and still have that player be eligible for the playoffs.
What, what's that?
Right, one last wonky roster rule. To be eligible for the postseason with a given team, a player must be added to the 25-man roster by Aug. 31. Any players added in September, when rosters expand, are not eligible for the playoffs.
Does it mean the Astros are giving up on Feldman or Qualls?
Not at all. As mentioned above, this happens with most of the league. Cole Hamels was put on waivers by Philadelphia and was claimed by the Cubs. There was less than a 1 percent chance that deal happens, but it was reported because it's "news" and because that's what happens this time of year.
The Astros still value both players, but are simply doing their due diligence in respect to each's value. There are probably other players on the roster who already cleared waivers earlier in the month but were never reported. These are big names who actually could move, so national media types have run with the story.
That said, will either get traded?
From one perspective, there's a good chance Qualls goes to Detroit. The Tigers could always use bullpen help, were said to have interest in Qualls earlier this season and could have gotten the framework of a deal with Houston done then.
Now, the two teams would simply need to work out the details and get it done. For all of Qualls' benefits to Houston, he's still a 35-year-old reliever who hasn't been "lockdown" in his career. He's a nice player, but if Houston can extract more value in younger pieces for him, they probably do it.
It's less likely that Feldman gets dealt, unless the Dodgers or Angels get desperate. Even then, L.A. doesn't have the talent on the non-40-man to make a deal happen that could overwhelm the Astros.
Neither scenario seems likely, meaning both players will likely still be Astros on Thursday.
Hey, but at least we got to learn about August waivers.