The Cliff Lee Waiver Claim FREAKOUT!!!!!!

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The truth about MLB waiver claims is always presented at the bottom of a splashy and intentionally overblown headline and equally worse article like it’s the Terms and Conditions when signing up for a credit card, website or service. The devil is in the details but that devil isn’t a concern until after the fact. I may be overestimating those who are writing the pieces implying that Cliff Lee might somehow wind up with the Dodgers following their waiver claim—some suggesting that the Phillies let him go for nothing—by thinking that they’re simply following the edicts of editors who want them to write stories that are designed for webhits and to spur conversation rather than disseminate accurate information, but overestimating those who don’t know much of anything to begin with tends to be a mistake.

Here are the MLB waiver rules posted on the B-R Bullpen.

Since the Dodgers’ waiver claim on Lee is being misinterpreted as Lee going to the Dodgers and spurring the concept that the Phillies are going to trade Lee, I’m wondering what’s going to happen when Robinson Cano, Mike Trout, Felix Hernandez, David Wright, Justin Verlander and any other star you could name is placed on waivers. Is it going to be a frenzy of ridiculous writing that a trade or the decision to let them go is imminent?


The waiver rules can lead to drastic mistakes made by GMs. In 1998, then Padres’ GM Kevin Towers claimed Randy Myers of the Blue Jays because he was worried about Myers winding up with the Braves. The Blue Jays let the Padres have Myers and stuck them the remaining money on his contract for 1999-2000 plus whatever he was owed for 1998. It presumably came to over $14 million. Towers almost lost his job over it and, to make matters worse, the insurance company refused to pay the Padres’ claim in spite of Myers’s inability to pitch. The case was settled out of court.

Oh, and the Braves had no interest in Myers anyway.

Another case in which the GM made a mistake was in 1990 when Pirates’ GM Larry Doughty placed minor leaguers (and then top prospects) Wes Chamberlain and Julio Peguero on waivers and, without realizing he couldn’t pull them back, was forced to trade them for Carmelo Martinez. This wasn’t as egregious an error as the one made by Towers. The waiver rules had been changed earlier that season and Doughty was a baseball guy, not a legal expert; the Pirates didn’t have an in-house legal mind to navigate the rules because they wanted to save a few bucks. In retrospect, neither of the Pirates’ “top minor league prospects” Chamberlain and Peguero did anything in the big leagues to make it a regrettable deal, but since they were well-regarded at the time, the Pirates could’ve gotten more for them them the fading veteran Martinez.

This reaction to the Lee waiver claim is a non-story. Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro Jr. placed Lee on waivers and because he was willing to listen to offers for the much-traveled lefty and there’s speculation that he’s going to be dealt, but they’re not giving him away and if the Dodgers want him, they’ll have to give up several prospects to do it. In theory, the Phillies could let Lee go and use the available money to sign a replacement arm for next season such as Zack Greinke or try to trade for Hernandez or some other big name, but Amaro said they’re not letting Lee go, so the point is moot. And even if it happens, it will be as much of a shock to those who are playing up Lee being placed on waivers as a big news story. The stoking of this fire is worse because that fire is being fanned in a crowded theater with people who don’t know any better as the inhabitants.



MLB Waiver Claims 8.25.2011

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Carlos Pena

The Yankees claimed Pena on waivers and it’s now being said that a deal isn’t going to happen; the Yankees never engaged with the Cubs and the Cubs told Pena they’re pulling him back.

A complete absence of dialogue doesn’t make any sense. Shouldn’t either club have contacted the other to see what the offer was or what could be extracted? The Yankees probably wouldn’t have given anything flashy, but why not ask?

Pena’s contract with the Cubs calls for him to be paid $5 million by the Cubs in January; they might want to bring him back next season; and if they offer him arbitration, he’ll probably take it. You know what you’re getting with Pena: good defense; a good guy; home runs; walks; and a .200 batting average.

But there are reasons to trade him too. The Cubs are going nowhere this season and if they can get a power arm; a limited bat; or a defensively minded infielder/outfielder from the Yankees system, hey, take it.

There are worse things in the world than having Pena as your everyday first baseman, but the market is going to be flush with first baseman this winter and I’m not only talking about Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder; I’m talking someone more viable, cheaper and who’d take a shorter-term contract than the big fish—Lance Berkman.

Berkman’s super-productive and the Cubs have a chance to be pretty good next year. There are others like Derrek Lee and James Loney who will or should be available.

Non-exploration is just stupid.

Heath Bell

Bell’s reputation is taking a beating. It seems he’s not happy with crossing a bridge or detonating it after the fact, but he has to blow the thing up while standing on it.

The Giants claimed Bell and it’s being said that it was a block to keep him from the Giants’ competitors or a contingency in case Brian Wilson‘s elbow issue—that’s sent him to the disabled list—is a lingering problem.

For years, Bell has whined about his treatment by the Mets because he was on the Norfolk shuttle back-and-forth to Triple A; that pitching coach Rick Peterson didn’t like him; and that he never really got a chance.

The first two are accurate; the third isn’t.

Does it matter now?

With the Padres, was it necessary for Bell to publicly announce that he was going to accept arbitration from the Padres this winter as he enters free agency? Did he have to hamstring the organization while they were considering their options of trading Bell, signing him or whatever?

He’s self-destructive.

Now he’s singing the praises of the Giants:

”I feel pretty honored. They’re the world champs, they want me to be part of their organization,” he said. ”But nothing has happened right now. I’m a Padre, and I’m pretty happy about that.”

If I were a member of the Padres organization, I wouldn’t want to hear this flapping; from an outsider’s perspective, I’m getting the idea they’ve had just about enough of Bell but don’t want to lose him for nothing.

I’d pull him back from waivers; call his bluff that he’s going to accept arbitration this winter (he might, he might not); if he doesn’t, let him sign elsewhere; if he does, trade him. If he accepts arbitration, they could trade him immediately after and the trading club would have him for the year; let him be someone else’s problem a year from now with his mouth and pending free agency. You can always find another closer in the same way the Padres found Bell.