MLB: what purpose is the trade deadline?

Trades are done after a “deadline”.

What is the point?

The point is that a player has to clear waivers first before being traded after the deadline.

All the four sports leagues in the US have trade deadlines ; I’m thinking if you didn’t have any and you knew who your first round playoff opponent was, you could suddenly make last minute deals to gain an uncompetitive advantage.
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It’s probably also there to prevent teams that have done poorly from doing even more salary /contract dumping than they might already do via trading up until the deadline.

As ScarletNinny notes, at least in MLB, you can still make trades after the deadline, but the involved players have to go through waivers first, which makes it much harder to execute a trade with a valuable player.

There are a couple trade deadlines in MLB. The one that usually draws the most action is the non-waiver deadline, which is July 31st. There is another deadline August 31st. Any players traded after this date won’t be eligible for post-season play. So around this time next month, you may see a flurry of smaller deals as playoff teams round out their rosters.

The purpose is to ensure that you don’t have teams loading up to a preposterous degree in the playoffs with teams that don’t even look like what they did in the regular season.

Suppose you had no trade deadline, and the season ended Oct. 1. On September 30, why WOULDN’T every team out of the playoffs - which will be at least 18 of them, and maybe 20 - trade away every single player they have who isn’t signed for next year? They have nothing to lose at all, literally no downside whatsoever. At least with the deadline, the Orioles have to face two plus months of convincing fans to buy tickets without seeing Manny Machado. Indeed, a no-deadline system would mean the Orioles could trade Machado even if they planned to re-sign him and essentially never be without him, while fleecing the Dodgers of several prospects for Machado’s services in a postseason the Orioles aren’t in anyway. You’d have sixty to a hundred guys all traded on September 30.

Thanks troops for your insights.

A little more help, please. What is waivers? Clear waivers?

Waivers are usually used when a team wants to reassign or release a player; in the waiver process, every other team gets a chance to claim the player. If more than one team puts a claim in on that player, generally speaking, weaker teams get priority (though how this is determined varies over the course of the season).

Usually, the fact that a player is “on the waiver wire” isn’t public information (i.e., all of the teams know about it, but it’s not released to the press). There’s a three-day period in which other teams can put in claims, and after that period, the team with current control of the player has to decide what to do.

If a claim is put in, the controlling team’s options are:
a) Rescind the waiver, and keep the player on the major league roster
b) Arrange a trade of the player to the claiming team (it looks like they have a limited amount of time to do that – two days, it appears)
c) Transfer the player, and his remaining contract, to the claiming team

“Clearing waivers” means that no team put in a claim on the player within the waiver period. At that point, if it had been the original team’s intent to reassign or release the player, their options are:
a) Reassign the player to a minor league team
b) Trade the player to any team
c) Release the player outright (you sometimes see the phrase “has cleared waivers and been granted his unconditional release”), making him a free agent.

When two teams attempt to make a trade after the July 31st trade deadline, they have to go through the same process for the players which they want to trade. What can happen is that some other team will put in a claim on one of the players (possibly to block a trade that would benefit a division rival), which would have the net effect of making the trade impossible.

More info on how MLB waivers works here:

Here is are how trades occur after the July 31st deadline (from

Also, if a team puts in a claim, they have to pick up the entire remainder of the player’s contract, not just the minimum-wage portion they would assume if they sign a released player (the releasing team is still on the hook for the rest; all MLB contracts are guaranteed). That rule is a deterrent against a team interfering with a post-deadline trade by a rival by simply filing a claim on a waived player, but it sometimes happens that the waiving team is happy to be rid of the expense and makes the claiming team take him. Teams also routinely put players on waivers at times when they think nobody is watching, or in batches, to clear them for late-season trades just in case.

This is a remnant from when the leagues were separate entities.

Also, for an example of a team getting burned by putting in a waiver claim, in 2000 the Tampa Bay Devil Rays attempted to trade Jose Canseco but the Yankess put in a claim to block the trade. The Devil Rays said fine, you could have him. The Yankees were then stuck with him.

The reality is almost every player is put on waivers— who is put on the waiver wire is not released to the public so there’s no blowback on management for putting a popular player up for trade; the team that places the player on waivers has the option to ultimately reject a trade proposal from the claiming team. It’s basically a good way to test the market for your players for future reference if a deal isn’t made. Don’t be shocked to find out in September for instance Aaron Judge was put on waivers, the Padres claimed him and offered A handful of minor league prospects for him, and of course the Yankees said no.

The Padres got stuck with Randy Myers’ contract in 1998 the same way.