Sunday, August 3, 2014

MLB Waiver Trade Deadline - Okay, Now What?

The MLB Non-Waiver Trade Deadline has come and gone, yet there are still a few faces on the Cubs who many expected (and hoped) to get shipped out within the last week. However, just because the Non-Waiver deadline has passed, that doesn't mean that Cubs fans are stuck watching the brilliance of Edwin Jackson and Nate Schierholtz for another 2 months. Luckily for Cubs' fans, we have the MLB Waiver Trade Deadline.

Within the week that follows the passing of the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline, teams put most of their rosters on revocable waivers. This means that the decision to place players on waivers can be revoked; the player can remain with his original team; however, it gets more interesting than that.

If a player is placed on revocable waivers after July 31st but not claimed by any other team, that player's team is allowed to negotiate and trade that player to another team. If that player is claimed by another team, the player's original team can choose to allow the team with the highest priority claim to take that player and the rest of his salary, or the player's original team can try to work out a trade for that player within two days with the team who has the highest priority claim on that player.

Because of these rules that govern trades in the month of August, the following three types of players typically change teams:

1. Players who are traded after passing through waivers that are extremely overpaid and have struggled this year. A potential candidate for this kind of transaction is the Cubs' very own Edwin Jackson.
2. Players who were claimed by a team and released by their original team for whatever reason (bad contract, bad attitude, overall suckiness). A recent example of this for Chicagoans is when Alex Rios was placed on waivers in 2009 by the Toronto Blue Jays and claimed by the Chicago White Sox.
3. Players who were claimed by a team and traded to the team with the highest waiver priority.

The Cubs still have a few candidates for an August departure on the major league roster, so here's a run-down on some of the Cubs' players to potentially be traded.

Nate Schierholtz - RF
Nate Schierholtz has struggled this year for the Cubs

After a solid 2013 campaign where he slashed .251/.301/.470 with 21 home runs, Schierholtz has struggled mightily and dropped below the Mendoza line, slashing a pathetic /.195/.242/.305 (Fangraphs). With such a poor offensive season, the hopeful candidate to be flipped at the trade deadline still sits on the pine at Wrigley Field on an almost daily basis. The silver lining, however, is that Schierholtz is significantly under performing his career numbers.

Schierholtz's 2013 numbers were much more on-par with his career line of .254/.303/.407 than his putrid showing in 2014. A potential reason for this is Schierholtz's career low BABIP of .232. A BABIP of .232 is a sign of an incredibly unlucky year, so Schierholtz's numbers aren't necessarily a good indicator of how he has actually been performing. While he hasn't been playing well in any sense of the word, the grotesque, Milton Bradley-esque numbers of Schierholtz's 2014 are also indicative of his pure unluckiness.

A contender in need of a 4th or 5th outfielder, especially one to be used as a platoon against right handing pitching, should take a serious look at Schierholtz. I wouldn't be surprised if a team lacking outfield depth like the Blue Jays tries to work for a trade with the Cubs later in August. Don't expect much back, but hey, whatever it is, it's most likely better than Schierholtz.

Luis Valbuena - 3B/IF
Luis has had his best season as pro, slashing .250/.331/.435

Valbuena is having a breakout year (by his standards), but he still has significantly more value to a team in contention with the need for a back up 3B/IF than he has with the Cubs. Despite playing the role of a steady veteran of the Cubs this year, there are plenty of top infield prospects at AAA pawing and sniffing the ground, getting ready to jump in and claim their roles as starters on the big league team. Valbuena is in their way.

Valbuena has a lot of value to any team looking for a left-handed bat off the bench or a solid defensive replacement at 3B or 2B. If and when Valbuena is put on waivers, expect him to be claimed by multiple teams. He has a team friendly contract at $1.7m/1 year, so don't expect the Cubs to just get rid of him. Because multiple teams will most likely claim him, the Cubs will only be able to work out a trade to the team with the highest priority waiver claim on him. The priority of waivers is determined by record, so the worst team in the league has the first right to claim a player. Because of this, if Valbuena gets traded, it likely won't be to a contender.

Of all the players on this list, Valbuena is most likely to be traded, but if he is, a team like the Cardinals seem to fit the bill. They don't have much infield depth and are barely above .500, yet they are still looking to contend. While Valbuena probably won't be traded, it's nice to envision the prospects that could come up and take his place.

Ryan Sweeney - LF/OF
Unfortunately, we don't see this from Sweeney too often

Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz seem to have the same baseball-related disease (must be contagious with Cubs outfielders). They both had one really decent year, then proceeded to hop on the Milton Bradley-Corey Patterson-Felix Pie-Jason Dubois train of ineptitude. Needless to say, Sweeney's .236/.282./.333 line this year is pretty poor, coming in at about .50 points below his career averages.

To me, Ryan Sweeney is an enigma. He looks like he's more ripped than Josh Hamilton, but he can't hit home runs. He should be this big, lumbering fellow, but he's a relatively quick defender who likes to play small ball offensively. I don't get it. Whatever the case may be, he's another under performing outfielder who would be better suited as the 4th or 5th outfielder on a contender. Similarly to Schierholtz, expect Sweeney to end up on a team that needs a left-handed 4th or 5th outfielder like the Blue Jays.

Edwin Jackson - SP
"Chicago killed E. Jackson's right arm" - Buggles

Edwin Jackson.

Oh, Edwin Jackson.

Now I really want to rag on him for just being bad. And he's really bad. But he did just finish throwing a quality start against the team with the best record in the national league, the Dodgers, so I can't be too mean to him. However, you know what they say: one good start does not a good pitcher make.

Or something like that.

Anyway, it says something that the Cubs weren't able to trade him during the entire month of July. All rumors were that they were trying incredibly hard to trade him, but that there were no takers. Edwin Jackson has been a historic kind of bad. His 5.66 ERA is leading the majors by .56 points - over the Cubs' Travis Wood. Edwin Jackson is getting paid way too much money to have a 5.66 ERA, which is why the Cubs have tried so hard to ship him out, and why no body has come close to biting.

I really don't know who would want to obtain Jackson. If he continues his month of August like he started it against the Dodgers, he might start to bring some value to a contender. If he keeps up his 5.66 ERA... well, let's just hope he doesn't keep that up.
Unfortunately, trading away any of these players won't be likely to add anything more than middle-of-the-road farm system depth, but a player's departure from the MLB team also opens up a spot for one of the Cubs' AAA studs to get a shot at the big league level before the end of the season.

If the Cubs are lucky enough to find a safe, loving home for Edwin Jackson, that opens up a spot for Kyuji Fujikawa, Felix Doubront, or another arm. If Schierholtz or Sweeney get traded, look for Jorge Soler to get an early call up to the big leagues. If it's Valbuena who is sent away, get ready...

It's Javy Baez time.

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