How Braves overcame new trade rules to add players this month

Significant moves Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos made for 2019 season.

The change in baseball’s trading rules this year led to much conjecture that teams would have to get by the rest of the season with whatever talent they had in their organization when the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline passed. That seemed logical, considering that waiver trades in August no longer are permitted.

Yet, the Braves have gotten significant contributions in the past 10 days or so from three veteran players who were not in their organization July 31: catcher Francisco Cervelli, outfielder Billy Hamilton and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria.

So much for the theory that you no longer would be able to get help in August.

Turns out that while trades can’t be made in that month anymore, there are other ways to acquire players.

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos found ways to add Cervelli, Hamilton and Hechavarria as the Braves battled injuries at catcher, outfield and shortstop.

Braves injuries


“He never stops trying to make this team better and figuring out a way and looking at all the options,” manager Brian Snitker said of Anthopoulos. “He’s scouring baseball all the time trying to find pieces to help plug leaks for us. And it is not as easy as it used to be when you could make a trade and all (in August).”

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman called the series of acquisitions “pretty amazing,” considering the August trade ban.

Here are the moves made this month and the immediate results:

• On Saturday, the Braves signed Cervelli as a free agent after he was put on waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates, unclaimed and released. The Braves will pay him about $111,000 for the rest of the season (a prorated portion of the MLB minimum), while the Pirates will pay him about $11.4 million this year.

Cervelli is sharing the Braves’ catching job with Tyler Flowers while Brian McCann is on the injured list with a sprained knee. In his first two starts with the Braves, Cervelli went 5-for-9 (including four extra-base hits) with three RBIs and threw out a base runner attempting to steal second. Until joining the Braves, he hadn’t played in a big-league game since late May because of concussion issues.

• On Aug. 19, the Braves claimed Hamilton on waivers after the Kansas City Royals designated him for assignment to try to shed the $950,000 remaining on his contract this season and a $1 million buyout for next season. By claiming him, the Braves became responsible for those obligations, but they also jumped ahead of other teams that Hamilton said had made it known to his agent they'd be interested in signing him if he cleared waivers.

Hamilton, acquired mainly as a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch-runner, has shown value in those roles, but he also chipped in two hits in his first six at-bats with the Braves, including a game-winning 14th-inning single against the New York Mets.

• On Aug. 16, the Braves signed free agent Hechavarria, who had been designated for assignment by the Mets one day before he'd have been due a $1 million bonus if he'd remained on the roster. He cleared waivers and was released. The Braves will pay him about $135,000 for the rest of the season.

Hechavarria, signed by the Braves because of starting shortstop Dansby Swanson’s heel injury and backup Johan Camargo’s poor play, contributed eight hits (including four doubles and a home run), four RBIs and six runs scored in his first seven games with Atlanta, plus good defense. Swanson returned to the lineup Monday, but Hechavarria remains on the roster as a reserve.

All three additions came into play in the ninth inning Monday at Colorado: Cervelli tripled; Hamilton pinch-ran for him;  Hechavarria hit a sacrifice fly to score Hamilton. (Rafael Ortega, in the Braves' organization all season but at Triple-A Gwinnett until Aug. 13, also batted during the inning, drawing a walk.)

In the past, teams often would deal a prospect or two to fill a need that developed between the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline and the Aug. 31 deadline for postseason eligibility. The only catch under the former rules was that to be traded after July 31 a major league player first had to clear waivers (or be claimed by the team that would trade for him). While August trades no longer are permitted, teams still can waive players outright.

If someone claims the player on waivers, as the Braves did with Hamilton, they get the player and responsibility for whatever remains on his contract. If no one claims the player, as was the case with Hechavarria and Cervelli, he becomes a free agent who can be signed by any team.

The Braves’ moves this month underscore the fluidity of major league rosters. For all the emphasis each year on which 25 players make the club out of spring training, that is only a starting point. The Braves have used 48 players in games this season, the seventh most they have ever used in a season. (Last year’s total was 58.)

Thanks in no small part to the recent moves, the Braves are 16-8 in August despite being without Nick Markakis all month, Swanson all month until Monday, Austin Riley since Aug. 7, Ender Inciarte since Aug. 16 and McCann since Aug. 20.

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