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.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.