Trade Deadlines and Other Rules

Trades are not forbidden after trading deadlines. Rather, all players involved must first clear waivers in order to be traded.

In the early years of Major League Baseball, there was no provision for trading or selling player contracts.  The first rule allowing trades or sales was in the American Association in 1889. Even then, teams had to release the player in question and request that other teams not involved in the trade refrain from trying to sign him.

In 1901, to attempt to curb defections to the American League, the NL required player approval of trades.  The AL had the same rule. This right was eliminated in 1903.

The first trade deadline was established in the National League in 1917. After August 20 of each year, players had to clear waivers within the league before they could be sold or traded to another team (of either league). The AL established a similar rule in 1920, with a deadline of July 1. In 1921, both leagues agreed on a trade deadline of August 1. Following the 1922 season, the deadline was changed to June 15, where it remained for decades.

The next change in trading rules came in 1934, when a year-round requirement was established for intraleague waivers before any interleague trade. In 1953, this rule was amended to additionally require interleague waivers between June 15 and the end of the season before a player could be traded or sold from one major league to the other.

For the 1959 post-season, a period from November 21 to December 15 known as the interleague trading period was created. During this time, interleague trades and sales could be made without waivers. This held until 1970, when the interleague trading period ran from 5 days after the end of the World Series until December 15 (later it ran until the next-to-last day of the winter meetings.) Another such period was added in 1977, from February 15 to March 15, which in 1981 was extended to April 1. In 1986, the distinction between intraleague and interleague trades was eliminated, and the waivers were required for trades only from August 1 to the end of the season.

In 1968, trades without fixed consideration, or "Player to be named later" trades, were banned during the season. As of  August 1971, they were permitted, but were required to be settled within six months and the player designated to complete the deal could not have played in the league that the club he is traded to is in after the trade was made.

Starting in 1973, players who had been in the major leagues at least 10 years, the last five with his current club, could not be traded without their consent. In addition, in 1976, a player with at least five years in the majors could demand a trade if he was in the final year of their contract, or had been traded while signed to a multi-year contract. However, in doing so, he waived his right to free agency for a period of five years and could not demand another trade for three years. Also, he could be traded to any team except six clubs he specified. If his team did not honor his demand by March 15, he would become a free agent.

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