The Red Sox’ possession of the worst record in the American League actually represents a potentially significant element, as the team will have the first crack at any players exposed to waivers by AL teams.
Waiver order is determined by a team’s record, with those clubs owning the worst record getting first crack at claims. However, teams in the same league as a player put on waivers have priority over teams in the opposite league in waiver claim, so the Red Sox and A’s would now have the first shot at any AL players put on waivers.
Because the Red Sox had a worse record than the A’s last year, they’d have the tiebreaker for players that both teams claim — meaning that, as of this moment, the Sox have the first opportunity to claim any player in the American League.
That’s significant not just for players on the fringes of 40-man rosters — players who are designated for assignment to clear 40-man roster spots for other clubs — but in August, it also means that the Red Sox can claim any top starting pitchers who are exposed to trade waivers, typically for the purposes of exploring their value on the market.
For any players claimed, even if the team that submits them to revocable waivers doesn’t deal them, the Sox will be able to enjoy an exclusive negotiating window to gain a better determination of what it might take to acquire that player in the offseason. Given that virtually every player in the majors gets placed on revocable waivers in August — with most getting pulled back rather than changing teams – the information-gathering advantage could be considerable.
Take Sonny Gray. If the A’s decide to expose him to revocable waivers, the Sox would have the first crack at claiming him so long as they have either the worst record in the AL or the worst record for any team besides the A’s. If the Sox do claim him, they would then have about two days to discuss what kind of return it would take for Oakland to consider moving the righthander – laying a framework for further discussions in the offseason.
In other words, the Sox have an opportunity to position themselves to hit the ground running on a number of this winter’s key trade candidates. Their struggles are now so extreme that there are potential competitive benefits to them.
Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal offers a thorough look at the pool of aces (and potential aces) to identify potential targets for the Red Sox, with two of the three most sensible trade candidates — Gray and Carlos Carrasco — being players whom the Sox have a strong opportunity to claim.