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.