Chicago Cubs Waiver Primer

Just because the July 31st trading deadline has passed, MLB teams are not done making deals. The July 31st deadline is simply the non-waiver deadline, meaning players do not have to pass through waivers in order to be moved. Starting August 1st, and going through August 31st, any player that passes though waivers can be traded to any team. Players can be traded after August 31st, but they are not eligible to participate in the playoffs should their new team qualify.

July 24, 2010..  Carlos Zambrano  of the Iowa Cubs (Chicago Cubs AAA) vs the Round Rock Express( Houston Astro's AAA) at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock Texas... Iowa defeats the Express 4-2.

Should a player be placed on waivers, and subsequently claimed by another team, his original team has three options. The first option is to pull the player back off waivers and keep him. The second option is to work out a deal with the team that made the waiver claim (should multiple teams make a claim, it is the team with the worst record that is allowed to make the deal). The third and final option is to simply allow the player and his contract to move to the team that claimed him (this happened last year with Alex Rios).

Speculation is that the waiver wire will be very busy this season, with multiple contending teams looking to bolster their roster as more teams fall out of contention. For a team like the Cubs, this provides an extra month to try and move some players they could not move at the non-waiver deadline. Below is a look at a number of players the Cubs will most likely place on waivers, keep in mind just because a player is placed on waivers that does not mean he is leaving the team.

Carlos Zambrano, SP- Zambrano’s massive contract (2 months of this year, ’11,’12 for a total of $41.77 million), and his difficult season (4.16 FIP, multiple trips between starting rotation and bullpen, plus his anger management suspension) will make him the easiest Cubs’ player to pass through waivers. Should a team claim Zambrano, I would imagine Jim Hendry would simply let him go. Even with the assumption Zambrano passes through waivers, it is not believed that any team would make a deal for him until this winter.

Kosuke Fukudome, RF– Fukudome’s contract is slightly more manageable than Zambrano’s (2 months this season, ’11 for $17.5 million), but there still is not likely to be a team that is willing to claim him on waivers and take on his entire deal. Should he clear waivers, the market for him will be dependent on how much of that deal Jim Hendry is willing to pay. Fukudome’s strengths (high walk rate, solid RF defense) do not justify his salary, should Hendry agree to pay a good portion of next season’s deal, there could possibly be a taker.

Alfonso Soriano, LF– There are many reasons why Soriano should not be expected to be claimed. First he still has four years and $72 million left on his deal after this season ($77.94 million total including the rest of this season), second he’s an aging outfielder with a history of leg problems, and probably won’t be able to play the field for much longer. There is also the little fact that Soriano is having a solid season for the Cubs, and if they plan on building a winning team in 2011 his bat would be difficult to replace.

Xavier Nady, OF/1B– Jim Hendry hinted at there being some interest in Nady towards the end of the deadline on Saturday, and he would be an easy player to let go. He has no real use on this current Cubs team (He’s the fifth outfielder and third first baseman), and when he plays the results are almost always sub-par. Should a team claim him on waivers, Hendry would be smart to simply let him go. The small amount of money saved in the deal would be far more beneficial than anything Nady could provide on the field.

Mike Fontenot, IF– With Darwin Barney probably ready to take the utility infielder role next season, Fontenot is a prime candidate to be non-tendered this offseason. With that in mind Jim Hendry has been open to dealing him, at one point the Red Sox showed some interest.  Since his power surge from 2008 (.210 ISO) has not returned (just .110 ISO this year), and his fielding has gotten bad (his -7.3 UZR/150 this season at second base is the worst of his career), I would imagine there is little interest in him now.

I would not put it past Hendry to look at acquiring a player or two as well, should the right opportunity present itself. The Cubs clearly have a desire to contend again in 2011, but that task will be extremely difficult given both the current roster and the upcoming weak free agent class. Finding the right player on waivers could be just what the Cubs need.

In years past the waiver deadline has been a rather quiet time, but this year looks like it will be a bit different. Financially strapped teams will be hoping for an Alex Rios like miracle (remember the Blue Jays cleared a $60 million contract, though they would probably want Rios back now), and opportunistic general managers will be looking to take advantage of one of his peer’s salary dumps. It promises to be a very interesting month.

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