Working the Waiver Wire

With most drafts done, owners will now be looking to the waiver wire to replace players demoted to the minors or on the disabled list. Here are a few guidelines I like to follow when looking to pick up available players.

Be ready for waiver wire bargains.

If there ever was a time of year to actively track the players being released by owners, it is the first couple weeks of the season. Owners will be trying to get daily production from every spot on their team and will be dropping talented players that start the season with limited playing time. Also, they might quickly lose patience with a player that is struggling in his first couple dozen at bats of the season. For example, over at, an owner is looking to pick up Mike Napoli who was dropped when another owner decided Anibal Sanchez was more valuable.

Always have a player on your team you are will to part with if an opportunity arises.

At all times, a player on each team needs to be expendable. I usually have this player be an extra outfielder on my bench or a middle reliever I am using to pad my pitching rate stats.

An owner may not specifically need the available player, but the new player could definitely be used in a trade to make a positional upgrade.

Using the above example with Napoli, the owner already has Posada, so a catcher is not really needed. They could use some help in the outfield though. Packaging Napoli and one of your current outfielders to a owner needing Napoli to get a better outfielder. Once the trade is done look over the waiver wire for the player you dropped for the trade. There is a decent chance the player is still available or if not, look for another player to flip.

Have an idea of your waiver wire position, but don’t let it dictate picking up players.

Every owner should be given a waiver wire position after they have finished their draft. What this position means is that if two owners are after the same player, the person highest on the waiver wire will get the player. This time of year, positioning can be important in case someone really valuable hits the waiver wire.

I really feel that unless you are in the first waiver wire position, feel free to pick up whoever you need. Don’t be afraid to go back to the bottom of the priority list. In most instances, I have found that I make it back to the top half of the priority list in just a few days as owners scramble to upgrade their team. If you do have a high position and don’t want to give it up, wait to see if the player passes trough waivers and then try to pick him up. By using this method, you will not lose your waiver wire position and hopefully get the player. Personally, I give up the position and get the player I need.

Well, there were a few strategies I use when dealing with the waiver wire and hopefully you can improve your team with them.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

10 Responses to “Working the Waiver Wire”

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  1. Dan says:

    The use of waiver has changed dramatically in yahoo leagues , since they now have so many prospects in their system. One year I saved my # 1 waiver almost all year because I was waiting for Justin Upton to be added to the system. Another year it was King Felix.
    But now most of the top prospects are already in the system, thus the change in waiver strategy. Now waiver claims will be made to get a player who gets dropped by an owner . Or right after the draft , when looking to improve on who you drafted.
    Last year in one league I had # 1 waiver and never used it . I will be quicker to pull the trigger on waiver claims this year.
    Usually in late May impatient owners will drop good players due to a slow start. That is when I’ll be looking to use my waiver.

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    • sean says:

      i think waiver position is almost completely useless in Yahoo–at least in my 12-team mixed league with five bench spots. Only on rare occasions have i found it necessary to make a waiver claim on a guy of any value during the season. on the other hand, in the past two years i’ve gotten all kinds of rookies–including Buster Posey on the night of his 2010 debut–as free agents.
      The only time when it is truly important is right after the draft, when free agents are entered in on waivers. as a result, i used my no. 2 waiver position this year to pick up a temp closer because why should i wait for the unlikely waiving of someone good by my competitors?

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  2. glenstein says:

    I find it is sometimes worth it to over 2-for-1 trades where you overpay for the privilege of condensing more talent into a single player, and then fill a roster spot with a good waiver wire pickup.

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  3. ridley25 says:

    Pointless to complain about it here, but it’s silly that Yahoo sets waiver priority on the reverse order of nominations in auction drafts.

    If you nominated first your waiver priority is last. As if having the right to nominate first was a competitive advantage…

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    • Max says:

      Well if the nomination order was random, then the waiver order would also be random so why shouldn’t they be the same? It’s still random.

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  4. John K says:

    ^ so the next best option is to make it random (like espn), and if the nomination order is random……

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  5. Randy says:

    If you have an auction draft, you should have an monetary waiver system.

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  6. Skip says:

    I think your statement of the value of waiver position needs to be re-examined for the many thousands of us in NL-only and AL-only leagues. I find that top 4 position guarantees a real stud in most years from cross-league trades. What do you think?

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  7. cs3 says:

    “i think waiver position is almost completely useless in Yahoo–at least in my 12-team mixed league with five bench spots. Only on rare occasions have i found it necessary to make a waiver claim on a guy of any value during the season. on the other hand, in the past two years i’ve gotten all kinds of rookies–including Buster Posey on the night of his 2010 debut–as free agents.”
    even if nobody makes a single claim all season it IS a vey useful tool in daily roster move leagues to eliminate the drop/add/re-drop exploit.

    lets say for Thurs your team is going to have to 2 empty starting positions, bc your SS and 3B dont have a game that day and your backups are on an offday as well.
    if you dont have waivers then just before midnight (11:59pm) on Wed you can add any FA SS and 3B, drop any 2 bench playesr you want, wait 30 seconds til 12:00am, then add both your bench players back to teh team, and drop teh guys you just picked up.
    So your team remains intact but you can have every roster position filled everyday, and only risk the very unlikely chance that someon else
    1) happens to be online
    2)adds your bench player in that 30 second window
    3) has someone worse they are willing to drop and not play the next day, bc its now Thurs and the new day has started

    also i was under the impression that if a league is set up with waivers turned on, that when new players enter the pool they are intially placed on waivers, and only hit FA if nobody claims them…
    or do they go directly to the FA pool?

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    • Max says:

      Yes, they go to waivers first. But the point that a previous commenter was making is that Yahoo has already put many of the better prospects in the player pool, even though they have yet to play a major league game.

      And yes, I agree that the waiver system is at least good for keeping people from pulling off that scenario you detailed.

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