First, the trade deadline is a misnomer. The only thing 31 July represents is the last day a team can trade a player away without having to subject him to the waiver process. Teams do still make trades after 31 July. It is harder to do, but it happens. So to expect no more trades in a baseball season starting 1 August is kind of silly.
Second, it is standard practice for clubs to put their players on waivers. In many years, WHOLE TEAMS are placed on waivers. Does this mean a fire sale is in the offing? No, it means the GM is keeping his options open. He can't trade someone away unless he clears waivers. It also gives him some intel on who is interested in guys on his roster (a tactically savvy move, in my opinion).
So Heath Bell being placed on waivers is not at all unusual. I'll bet he was not the only Padre placed on waivers; he's perhaps the most interesting because most folks in the industry expected him to be traded away before the deadline.
Now he's on waivers. What's that mean? A couple of things. Any team can put a claim in for him, but the priority of who gets the claim is in reverse order of record. So the Houston Astros would have the highest priority if they wanted Bell, then Baltimore, then the Royals, and so on. Only one team will be awarded the waiver claim, and if there's no deal struck, the next team in the list does not get a second chance to pick the player up.
In Bell's case, the Giants were the worst record team to make a claim on him, which is why reports have stated the Giants claimed Heath Bell on waivers.
Once a team is awarded a claim,
Assuming the Padres would want a player on the Giants 40-man roster, that guy would either have to have already cleared waivers, or have been put on waivers at roughly the same time as Bell in order to make a trade work. Or, the Padres would have to accept a lesser player, a low minor-leaguer, a guy not protected on the 40-man roster - and the chances of them trading Heath Bell for a low level prospect are virtually nil.
Everybody got that? No? Let's sum up:
- Placing players on waivers post-trade deadline is standard operating procedure in baseball;
- Claiming a player placed on waivers is no guarantee that player will join the claiming team;
- Heath Bell is not going anywhere.