The rules have changed, on this first day in August, and the waiver process greatly impacts the volume of deals that will occur this month.
For example: Woe to the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, who are at the mercy of Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers -- one of the most aggressive waiver-claim executives in baseball history -- because the Diamondbacks currently stand in front of San Francisco and Los Angeles in the waiver-claim pecking order. If the Giants and Dodgers suffer any significant injuries and look to deal for help, Towers can block them, like a great hockey goalie stoning shot attempts.
But teams have already started placing players on waivers, and the first August trade could happen in the next 48 hours. There will be deals this month, there will be players talked about, as they go through the waiver process.
Ten names to watch for possible trades this month:
1. Jed Lowrie, Houston Astros: He was having a good year when he got hurt, and when his name gets passed through waivers, some teams will take a serious look at him. Lowrie is making only $1.25 million, and the Astros have made it clear they'll trade everything, up to and including their last remaining Jimmy Wynn bobbleheads.
2. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies: He's owed about $97 million in his deal, and $87.5 million in the next three seasons, so it's possible -- in fact, almost certain -- that he will pass through waivers because nobody can take on a contract like that in the middle of the season. But if the Phillies choose to revisit any Lee trade talks later this month, they'll have the opportunity.
3. Josh Johnson, Miami Marlins: He's owed about $19 million, and despite questions about his health, somebody will probably put in a claim on Johnson. Miami will have to decide whether to make a deal now or hold onto the right-hander into the winter.
4. Jason Giambi, Colorado Rockies: He's a prototype of the players who usually get moved in August -- an inexpensive, experienced role player. Giambi is currently on the disabled list, but he might be interesting to NL contenders (like the Cincinnati Reds) as a pinch hitter and to AL contenders that need some DH help. Giambi has a .380 on-base percentage this year.
5. Juan Pierre, Phillies: See Giambi, Jason. Inexpensive. Experienced. Role player.
6. Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox: Beckett suffered a back spasm during his start Tuesday, and because of concerns about his health and the $36 million he is owed, he likely will clear waivers, giving Boston the chance to at least think about a trade.
7. Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks: Arizona talked to the Oakland Athletics and other teams about Drew, but there simply was not enough information about Drew's condition. He's played in only 25 games since coming off the disabled list with a severe ankle injury and has an OPS of just .518. Drew likely will clear waivers, and if he plays better, he'll draw some interest -- but Arizona may ultimately decide to keep him.
8. Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs: He's owed about $40 million, so he'll get through waivers, and the Cubs will continue to try to find a deal for him, while eating a whole lot of money. But Soriano said to me early this year he would not agree to go anyplace he doesn't want to go, which is his right. The Cubs might go into the winter, again, with Soriano on their roster.
9. Jeff Francoeur, Kansas City Royals: He'll get through waivers because he hasn't had a good year, hitting .238, and he's owed about $9.5 million for the rest of this year and for next year. Eventually, K.C. will install Wil Myers in their outfield, and maybe the Royals will be able to find a deal for Francoeur with a contender desperate for an experienced outfielder.
10. Placido Polanco, Phillies: He's on the disabled list, but if he gets off midway through the month and shows he's reasonably healthy, Polanco could be an acceptable short-term fix for a team looking to fill a hole created by injury. Polanco is hitting .255 this year, with little pop, but he's played in a lot of big games and does have the ability to put the ball in play. He'll clear waivers because of his $6.25 million salary and because of his injury history.