Much is made of the importance of getting a deal done before the non-waiver trading deadline, but front offices around baseball are well aware that the waiver deadline, spanning the entire month of August, can be just as fruitful.
It's not always about trying to acquire talent, however. For some teams, this period can be used as an attempt to rid themselves of a cumbersome contract, in hopes of some desperate team picking up some or all of the tab. In 2016 there are several teams that find themselves in this situation.
Before we get into that, though, a quick primer on the waiver deadline: Players put on waivers can either be traded, pulled off of waivers (once), or sent outright to a claiming team for a minor transaction fee. Claims operate in order of the worst record by the claimed player's league to the best record in said league, and then jumps to the other league, worst record to best. So, for example, if Yasiel Puig is on waivers, teams in the National League get first crack before anyone in the American League would have a shot.
I'm not making an attempt here at a comprehensive look at every single player available right now; rather, just highlighting a select few with decent sized contracts who stand out as obvious candidates with at least a slight chance of moving (hence, why you wont see Albert Pujols listed here). That being said, let's take a look at five players in particular whose departure would spark some celebratory river dancing among the members of their respective front offices.
RF Nick Markakis - Atlanta Braves
The Braves would love to move Markakis who is slated to make 10.5 million in 2017 and 2018, respectively. His departure would clear the way for Mallex Smith and/or Ender Inciarte to get full playing time. Or, just as likely, an as of yet unknown player acquired via trade or free agency.
To say that Markakis is a bit light on the power side of things for an outfielder is probably being generous, as he has yet to tally double digit home runs between this year and last. He did hit 38 doubles in 2015, though, and continues to look like a competent if not particularly potent stick up at the dish, so Atlanta must retain hope that they can pawn him off on a contender looking to fortify their outfield depth.
RF Yasiel Puig - Los Angeles Dodgers
The mercurial and undoubtedly talented outfielder's time with the Los Angeles Dodgers appears to be up, as he was told by the team not to accompany them on their road trip earlier this month and instead report to AAA Oklahoma City. With the acquisition of Josh Reddick and the eventual return of Andre Ethier, Puig has no place with the Dodgers in the present, and he may not have much of one in the future.
To be sure, Puig hasn't performed like the superstar he seemed to be in his breakout rookie season of 2013 and by most measures has been in steady decline ever since. The exact reasons for this are open for speculation, but what seems to be clear is that the Dodgers have grown tired of waiting for Puig to become a consistent offensive force.
By moving Puig now, the Dodgers would stand to save 14 million over the remaining two years of his initial deal, but we all know this isn't about the money with an organization like Los Angeles. Rather it's about the value the Dodgers could obtain by parting with an outfielder who is still only 25 years old and whose problems many around the majors likely view as fixable. The Dodgers absolutely do not have to trade him now, but if the right offer comes along, one that is acceptable to their vision of his value, expect them to bite.
DH/1B Billy Butler - Oakland Athletics
Billy Beane and company have made a lot of fine, under the radar acquisitions over the years, squeezing value out of underrated players or aging stars. It doesn't always work out, though, and Billy Butler presently falls under the latter category.
Brought in to be a steady presence in the middle of Oakland's order, Butler has under-performed to the tune of a 97 wRC+ in 2014 and a 99 wRC+ in 2015. In a part time role this season he has rebounded enough (110 wRC+ in 219 PA) to make him only a slightly below replacement level player. A first base type that doesn't hit for power predictably doesn't have much of a market, but with the slight uptick in fortune you can be assured that Oakland has at least tried to peddle him. He's slated to make ten million next season, not entirely unreasonable but let's not pretend that Oakland couldn't use that money elsewhere.
LF Ryan Braun - Milwaukee Brewers
The Brew crew would be undoubtedly ecstatic to get out from under Braun's contract. Although he's been quite productive for them this season (.328/.391/.571 triple slash line), at 19 million dollars this season Braun is taking up almost a third of the Brewer's payroll by himself. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs mentioned in this article back in early May that the idea of moving Braun has become more feasible as the money and years begin to draw down on the deal. It also doesn't hurt that we're now three seasons removed from his PED suspension and he's continued to be a productive player.
Why should a team take on an investment for a guy on the wrong side of 30? I'll let MLB.com's Curt Hogg do the explaining:
Ryan Braun is second among NL outfielders in wRC+, wOBA, OBP and OPS; he's first among all OF in batting average. #Brewers— Curt Hogg (@CyrtHogg) August 12, 2016
There is definitely a market for middle of the order, power hitting outfielders, the question is more whether there is a good fit for Braun's contract amongst larger market teams...that remains to be seen.
CL David Robertson - Chicago White Sox
The south side's 46 million dollar closer has blown four of his last nine saves and sits at a 4.07 ERA/3.91 FIP for the season. He is owed 25 million over the next two years and the White Sox have to seriously question if they're going to need an expensive closer during this period.
It's doubtful that Robertson is bad all of the sudden. Nothing is down for him velocity wise and Robin Ventura has stated that the leg injury that was bothering him earlier in the season is not a factor in his recent struggles. Maybe the White Sox can convince some other team that it's just the normal ebb and flow that occurs with reliever performance from time to time. Otherwise, they'll have to convince themselves.
Contract information courtesy of Baseball Prospectus, Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.
Thomas Bennett is a contributor at Beyond the Box Score. He is also an editor at Fish Stripes and co-host of the Fish Bites podcast. You can follow him on twitter @Thomasmanynames.