Thursday, November 26, 2015

Some Phillies went through waivers, and none of it matters

It is time to provide context to irresponsible headlines about Phillies players on waivers.

Some Phillies went through waivers, and none of it matters

Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)
Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)

This is the time of year when the most irresponsible baseball reporting transpires. There are 750 active players in Major League Baseball, and a large sum of those players are placed on what is called "revocable waivers." Why? Because there is no harm. A claimed player can be pulled from waivers, and his status is unchanged.

So, here is context to irresponsible headlines provided by

"News Item" No. 1: Cole Hamels is claimed by unknown team.
This unknown team has 48 hours to negotiate a possible trade with the Phillies. No, Hamels will not be traded. The Phillies did not market Hamels prior to the July 31 trade deadline, when they had an opportunity to discuss deals with 29 teams.

Now, they have zero leverage. There is one team that can offer the Phillies a prospect package. There is no reason for said team to outbid itself when there is no competition for Hamels' services.

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The Phillies are no threat to just surrender Hamels and his remaining $96 million to the claiming. There is no mandate from ownership to trim payroll. Hamels is one of the best pitchers in baseball. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last month he wanted talent, not financial flexibility.

"Money wasn't going to be an impediment for us, it was trying to get the right baseball deal," Amaro said July 31. "We weren't going to let money impede that. My feeling is if we had an opportunity to improve the club with the type of talent we wanted to get back, then we would have made a move."

So what can be gained from this procedural move? Well, for one, the Phillies discovered a team that has interest in Hamels and could engage them in cursory discussions for future moves. Other than that? Not much.

"News Item" No. 2: Marlon Byrd is claimed by unknown team.
Byrd was not a strong candidate to be traded in July because the limited money owed to him would not detract a team from placing a claim. Amaro said he was unimpressed by the offers for Byrd in July. And that was when he could negotiate with all 29 teams. So why would the offer improve when the pool is diluted to one team? The Phillies have no incentive to rid themselves of Byrd's remaining $10 million without a decent return. They can trade him this winter.

The team that claimed Byrd on revocable waivers likely did it to block him from falling to a team ahead of them in the standings. For example, Cincinnati may have claimed Byrd to prevent him from going to Pittsburgh, which lost Andrew McCutchen to injury and could need another outfielder.

"News Item" No. 3: Jonathan Papelbon cleared waivers.
This should come as zero surprise. The Phillies have attempted to move Papelbon for more than a year and are willing to eat money in a trade. Papelbon made public his desire to leave. There was little interest. A team that claimed Papelbon on revocable waivers risked the Phillies dumping his contract on them.

Have a question? Tweet @MattGelb for possible use in a future mailbag.

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