Are the Blue Jays abusing the waiver system?

34 Comments

Charlie Wilmoth of MLB Trade Rumors has a very good, thought-provoking article up today looking at how Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has utilized baseball’s waiver system lately. Wilmoth points out that, since mid-March, the Jays have claimed Guillermo Moscoso, Todd Redmond, Alex Burnett, Clint Robinson, Edgar Gonzalez, Mauro Gomez, and Casper Wells. Of the seven, only Gonzalez has seen time at the Major League level with the Jays. Wilmoth also looks back to 2011, when the Pirates claimed Brian Jeroloman, then designated him for assignment three days later. The Jays claimed him two days later, then DFA’d him just the same after two weeks.

Wilmoth really hits the nail on the head here:

None of this qualifies as a tragedy, but it’s still an issue that should be corrected. For one thing, players are subjected to unnecessary periods of waiver limbo, in which they aren’t playing and aren’t sure where they’ll be headed next. Of course, these periods of time are part of being a ballplayer, but they should be limited whenever possible.

Take the case of Casper Wells. Wells isn’t a great player, but he posted 1.2 wins above replacement in 2012. He should be a Major Leaguer. But thanks to the waiver claims process, he has yet to appear in a professional game this season. The Mariners designated him for assignment March 31, and the Jays’ claim didn’t come through until ten days later. Then, five days after that, the Jays dropped Wells from their roster without him having appeared in a game for them, and he hasn’t yet resurfaced. The waiver wire has effectively kept Wells out of professional baseball for the better part of a month.

Wilmoth goes on to suggest that an easy fix would be to require teams keep a claimed player on its 40-man roster for 30 days. Sounds like a common-sense solution that would fix an issue before it becomes widespread. It is interesting that no other teams have utilized the waiver system in the way the Jays have lately.

Major League Baseball limits mound visits, puts off pitch clock until 2019

Getty Images
3 Comments

Major League Baseball just announced its much awaited pace-of-play initiative for 2018. The big news: no pitch clock, with Rob Manfred deciding, in the words of the league’s press release “to defer the implementation of a pitch timer and a between-batter timer in 2018 in order to provide players with an opportunity to speed up the game without the use of those timers.”

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes. In rules changes which were reached with the cooperation of the Players’ Union, teams will now be limited to six non-pitching change mound visits per team per game, and one extra visit if the game goes into extra innings. Also, a new rule is being introduced that is designed to reduce the time required for inning breaks and pitching changes.

The mound visit rule is NOT limited to coach or manager mound visits. It also includes position players, including catchers, visiting the mound to confer about signals and the like. It will not count the normal conversations which take place between plays, such as when a pitcher says something to a fielder as they throw the ball around the horn. It likewise does not include things like a first baseman coming to the mound to clean his spikes off with the pitcher’s gear on the back of the mound. Mound visits to check on injuries will not count either.

While six visits may seem like a lot, it really isn’t once you realize that a pitching coach may go out two or three times in a close game and that a catcher, especially in close games, may come out to talk about signs and things seemingly countless times. Heck, they could re-name this the Jorge Posada or Gary Sanchez rule.

There will be one big exception to the rule, which relates to catchers and pitchers truly being crossed up on signals after they have exhausted mound visits. It reads thusly:

3) Cross-Up in Signs. In the event a team has exhausted its allotment of mound visits in a game (or extra inning) and the home plate umpire determines that the catcher and pitcher did not have a shared understanding of the location or type of pitch that had been signaled by the catcher (otherwise referred to as a “cross-up”), the home plate umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the catcher to make a brief mound visit. Any mound visit resulting from a cross-up prior to a team exhausting its allotted number of visits shall count against a team’s total number of allotted mound visits.

This makes sense as a matter of safety, if nothing else, as you don’t want a catcher truly not knowing where a pitch is going. It’s also notable as one of the few rules changes in recent years that actually adds in an umpire’s judgment rather than takes a judgment call away from an umpire. It’ll be worth watching, however, to see how easy a touch umpires are about this. Again: if we have a tense September game between Boston and New York and everyone has used up their mound visits, I wonder if the umps will truly enforce the rule.

The big problem here is that there is nothing in the new rule which talks about the penalty for trying to make a seventh mound visit. To that end:

This is gonna lead, at some point, to a pretty big argument. Should be amazing.

As for innings breaks, There will be a timer that counts down from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised regular season games, from 2:25 for breaks in nationally televised regular season games, and from 2:55 for postseason games. The timer shall start on the last out of an inning for an inning break. 

There are set things the players must be doing at certain points on the clock. To wit:

  • When there are 25 seconds left, the umpire will signal to the pitcher to complete his last warm-up pitch;
  • When there are 20 seconds left, the batter will be announced and must leave on-deck circle, his walk-up music shall begin, and the pitcher shall complete last warm-up pitch;
  • When the clock gets to zero, the pitcher must begin his motion for his first pitch of the inning.

There will be “special circumstance” exceptions, such as when other random things are happening on the field that prevents this, such as in-between inning events going too long or something, and an umpire can determine that a pitcher or batter needs more time for safety purposes.

Enforcement of the clock will be handled by umpires directing players to comply. Players who consistently or flagrantly violate the time limits will be subject to progressive discipline by the league. Put differently, no one is issuing automatic balls or strikes here. It’ll be handled by fines.