When Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan tweeted earlier Thursday that Cliff Lee had been placed on waivers, there was – to put it mildly – a visceral reaction. After all, when you hear the word “waive,” you assume the worst, because it usually sounds like someone just lost their job or was sent to the minors.
And with rumors swirling around about how Lee might be traded, it was understandable that some would think the absolute worst had happened. That was not the case, however, as it was more-or-less expected and, in fact, standard operating procedure. As I wrote on Wednesday, utilizing waivers is the only way that a team can make a trade after the July deadline.
Does that mean that Cliff Lee is getting traded? Goodness, no. He could, sure, but that is still a long ways away from happening unless Ruben Amaro gets an offer that he can't refuse.
“Well, why put him on waivers?” you might ask. Good question. Putting someone on waivers is one of those things that carries almost no risk, but could potentially result in a very high reward. When someone is put on waivers, every other team has a chance to claim him based on whatever spot in the order that they fall. If no team claims him, the player passes through waivers, and he can then be traded to any team, no questions asked.
If a team does claim him, they can try to work out a trade with the team that put him on waivers. The waiving team can also pull him back off of waivers if they do not wish to trade him, as well.
But what could happen – and what has happened – is that a team can claim him, and if the waiving team chooses to do nothing, that would result in the player (salary and all) going to the claiming team, which would completely take him off the hands of the waiving team.
And if you have an aging team with a bloated payroll, it does make sense to put an expensive player on waivers, in hopes that a team would claim him. In Amaro's case, it would take Lee and his salary off his hands. There'd be no return, but there'd also be a lot of payroll flexibility to go along with it.
Now, the odds of anyone claiming Lee are very low, and even if they did, Amaro would be hard pressed to let him walk, unless, as I mentioned earlier, some enterprising team was willing to give up the moon to trade for him.
In all actuality, Lee is probably one of many big named players that will be put on waivers by the Phillies. We will never know for sure, but Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Chase Utley and Jonathan Papelbon could all find their way onto the waiver wire. And like Lee, nothing is likely to happen, because this process is normal and very rarely results in anything substantive.
Likely, the guys who get placed on waivers and get some heat are the guys like Joe Blanton and Juan Pierre – players who actually have some interest from contending teams. Those are the ones that you should care about, because they stand to actually help the Phillies.
So even though Cliff found himself on waivers, I wouldn't get too worried about it. Ruben Amaro might be have a unique way of doing things, but this is about as normal as it gets.