What the offseason is like for fringe major leaguers

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For fringe major leaguers Richie Shaffer and David Rollins, their offseason has been anything but time off. After ending the season with the Rays, Shaffer ended up being traded to the Mariners on November 18 as part of a five-player trade involving mostly minor leaguers. Just a few weeks later, on December 7, the Mariners designated him for assignment. The Phillies claimed him off waivers on the 14th, then DFA’d him on the 20th. The Reds claimed him on the 23rd. On January 26, the Indians claimed him off waivers. On the 30th — you guessed it — he was DFA’d again.

For Rollins, it’s a similar story. He finished the year with the Mariners, but the Cubs claimed him off waivers on November 18. The Rangers then claimed him off waivers on the 22nd, the Phillies claimed him on December 2, and DFA’d him on the 14th. The Rangers claimed him on the 21st, then the Cubs claimed him on the 23rd.

At Sports Illustrated, Jon Tayler provides a glimpse into what it’s like to be one of those fringe major league players. Of his whirlwind winter, Rollins said, “I just laugh at it now. It’s happened so many times that it feels like a bad joke.”

Shaffer said, “Every call I get from a number I don’t know, I’m always like, ‘What is this.’ My wife panics every time I’m talking on the phone.”

Shaffer also described what it was like attending an office Christmas party with his wife Danielle. As Tayler tells it, Shaffer had been claimed by the Phillies off waivers from the Mariners on that day. Danielle told Richie to just pretend that he was still with the Mariners. The two had bought $600 worth in Mariners merchandise as holiday gifts, all of which needed to be returned (except for a personalized jersey). When Danielle asked if she should buy Phillies stuff, Richie told her not to, and he ended up being DFA’d shortly thereafter.

Ryan Lavarnway, who spent last season in the Blue Jays’ and Braves’ minor league systems, shared what his offseason was like three years ago. He put a despoit down on a home for spring training in Arizona after the Dodgers claimed him off waivers from the Red Sox. However, he ended up being claimed by the Cubs, then the Orioles, so his actual spring training home ended up being in Florida. “I didn’t get my money back,” Lavarnway says of the deposit he put down on that Arizona home.

We tend not to think much about what life is like for these fringe minor leaguers, but it can certainly be stressful. Remember, these are the guys that survived the unholy conditions of the minor leagues, which for many of them included being paid below minimum wage.

Tayler’s whole article is worth a read. Go check it out at Sports Illustrated.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.