The Washington Times - August 3, 2012, 10:24AM

There was a bit of a firestorm in the Philadelphia Phillies’ circle on Thursday when it came out that left-hander Cliff Lee was placed on waivers. The unfortunate reality for those who got overexcited about it, though, is that it means fairly little.

The Nationals will have an eye on the waiver wire this month. And they do plan to claim players that are to their liking. Whether any of their claims will ever reach the public knowledge or result in anything, however, is unknown at this point. The Nationals still have a few areas they could upgrade their depth in and if an attractive player for that need was placed on waivers, they might make a move — but that also guarantees little.

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During August, almost every player on every team’s roster is put on waivers. Players who clear give their team flexibility to be traded. Players who are claimed can easily be pulled back if the team doesn’t intend or want to trade them.

It’s a complicated process, but the best way I’ve seen it explained is in an article by ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark, so I’m going to pass some of his bullet points along here.

– Virtually every player in the major leagues will be placed on waivers this month, whether a team intends to trade that player or not. If nothing else, the sheer volume of names can at least disguise players whom clubs do want to sneak through so they can be dealt. 

– If a player isn’t claimed by any team in either league, he can be traded until the end of the month to anyone. 

– If a player is claimed, but only by one team, the player can be traded only to the team that claims him.

– If a player is claimed by more than one team, the club with the worst record in that player’s league gets priority — and the player can be traded only to that team. 

– If a player is claimed only by teams in the other league, the club with the worst record in the other league gets priority — and the player can be traded just to that team.

– If a deal can’t be worked out or the team doesn’t want to trade that player, he can be pulled back off waivers once in August. If he is placed on waivers again before September, he can’t be recalled a second time. 

– If a team is just hoping to dump a player’s salary, it can simply allow a team which claimed that player to have him for a small waiver fee. If that happens, the team that gets the player has to pay his entire salary. That’s how the Yankees were stuck with Jose Canseco and the Padres were stuck with Randy Myers (It happened with Alex Rios more recently, too when the Blue Jays unloaded his contract on the White Sox): They claimed those players, thinking they were just blocking other teams from getting them. Instead, their old clubs said: “You claimed him. You got him.”

– In the past, many teams (who were ahead of their competition in the waiver order) claimed players just to keep them from being traded to contenders with a better record.

As more and more word will leak out each day about which players have been placed on waivers, hopefully this provides some clarity to the process so that each report of “Player X” on waivers does not produce too much angst or excitement.