With August's wacky waiver season about to play out, there remains a fuse or two to be lit, and there are some who believe there could be a significant deal or two this coming month.
"August represents another opportunity," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said recently, "and maybe even a better opportunity for teams to acquire players. At that point, teams begin to separate themselves a little bit more, and more teams may be willing to part with some players once their competitive position becomes more clear. So I do think there will be additional opportunities in August to find ways to improve."
One year removed from perhaps the biggest August blockbuster ever, there is a reasonable assumption more action is on the horizon. Last August, the Dodgers and Red Sox both reshaped their organizations -- and it's hard to argue with the results a year later -- with an off-the-rails deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto and a huge chunk of salary obligations to the Dodgers, all of it making it through the waivers system.
Who knows? This August, waiver season could be more bullish than July, with activity brisk and intriguing, or it could simply continue a trend of midseason fits being increasingly hard to find.
As usual, some of the key veterans who didn't get traded before Wednesday's non-waiver Deadline could be involved in August waiver activity. That includes players with All-Star credentials like Phillies infielder Michael Young, White Sox outfielder Alex Rios, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, Mets catcher John Buck and Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who's making progress from knee woes. Several Marlins players whose names were out there in July, such as outfielder Justin Ruggiano and tumblin' reliever Chad Qualls, could move in August, too.
Morneau might have breathed a sigh of relief at the Deadline that he's still with the organization that drafted him, but he knows the other shoe really hasn't dropped yet.
"It's not done yet. We still have until the end of August," he said.
No doubt, there are teams still after what they were seeking before the non-waiver Deadline passed, like the Rangers and that elusive bat. And there are needs and fits for teams that haven't even become evident yet.
The caveat, by rule as of Aug. 1, is that a player must be placed on waivers in order to be traded, with any claims settled in reverse order of the standings. Trades are only possible with a claiming club after that, and a player who clears waivers becomes up for grabs for any trading partner. For example, if the Red Sox were interested a player but the Yankees didn't want Boston to get him and/or wanted him for themselves, the Yankees could put in a claim for that player and win it over the Red Sox because they're currently behind them in the standings. The player's current team can pull him back off waivers or work out a trade with whatever team put in the claim, or just let that team have the player.
That doesn't necessarily sound like an easy process, but teams go through it every year.
"You control the situation less because of the nature of the system," Rangers GM Jon Daniels said. "You never want to count on an August deal, but we've made them before and they have had an impact."
Daniels and the Rangers reportedly remain on the lookout for an offensive upgrade with Lance Berkman's health issues and uncertainty about Nelson Cruz's availability pending the Biogenesis investigation. They're not the only ones who might need an upgrade before August is through, however, and the market has yet to fully evolve.
The advent of the second Wild Card in each league has expanded the list of teams still looking for that little extra something. Also, the trend of teams locking up young stars for the long term into free-agency years has helped shrink the traditional market of available players before the non-waiver Deadline.
Perhaps the list of available veteran pitchers and middle-of-the-order hitters simply isn't as thick as it used to be.
"I'm not sure how much the market has changed structurally based on things like the [Collective] Bargaining Agreement and a greater willingness of clubs to sign players, younger players to long-term contracts," said Mets GM Sandy Alderson. "There's probably some of that in play. I think it's also a function of the breakdown between buyers and sellers at this point with the extra Wild Card. But it's also maybe just a function of the players who happened to be available. This may be that this was an anomaly."
That doesn't mean players who can help a team get over the hump in September won't be available in August. They will.
"Sure, some players clearly will get through, others obviously won't," said Yankees GM Brian Cashman, whose team could be among those on the lookout for help. "We'll have a chance to work through the August trade period now that's more complicated with the waivers, but certainly not impossible, especially with where we're sitting."
The way the non-waiver Trade Deadline played out this time around, there are some who have suggested that it be pushed a little deeper into the season, when the buyers and sellers in the new era of 10 available postseason spots might have sorted themselves out a little more.
In the here and now, somewhere between that loud hissing sound of the deflated market prior the non-waiver Trade Deadline and the calls for moving it deeper into the season, the reality remains it's a whole new ballgame.
August and its wacky waiver season are here.