With just under two weeks remaining before the postseason, there’s not as much of an incentive for teams to make additions, as newly acquired players will not be eligible for postseason play. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a little bit of fringe movement still going on. When looking at waiver claims this time of year, there are two major things to look at: 1.) When was this player drafted/signed, and 2.) How many minor-league options will they have next year. In many cases, teams claim guys as depth to slip back through and stash in the minor leagues, but this time of year that isn’t practical.
If a player who was drafted/signed during 2013 or before passes through waivers, they can elect free agency after the World Series. With this in mind, teams in the postseason may claim fringe guys to allow them to rest their stars, while non-competitors could look to add prospect-type players who could potentially be diamonds in the rough. A lot of guys in the first category, however, typically find themselves changing teams frequently throughout the offseason. A major reason for this is their lack of minor-league options for the coming season.
A player of that status would have had his contract purchased and has either been up-and-down between the minors and the majors for some period over the preceding three years, or is a slowly developing prospect who may or may not be ready for the bigs but are too talented to clear waivers. Teams claim players like this, as they offer some level of intrigue, but the lack of flexibility puts them low on the totem poll, often resulting in the player hitting waivers once again only to go through the cycle up to four-to-five times throughout the winter.
In an example of the “prospect adding” type of claim, the Detroit Tigers claimed 23-year-old right-handed pitcher Marcos Diplan from the Minnesota Twins. Diplan spent the 2019 season in Double-A posting mediocre numbers across the Milwaukee Brewers and Twins organizations, including a 4.85 ERA and a 5.8 BB/9. He also brought with him a 9.6 K/9 and his standard 95 mph fastball. Overall, he has not been able to master his secondaries, which have looked excellent in flashes, but he struggles mightily with his control. Based on his remaining minor-league option for 2020, I would consider Diplan to be a candidate to remain on the roster through the offseason, as the Tigers have a considerable amount of players who carry less potential upside and flexibility on their 40-man roster.
He’s also an example of a player who would be able to declare free agency if sent outright. My projections have Diplan at a 5.07 ERA with a 10.45 K/9, a 6.22 BB/9, and a 0.91 HR/9. I would consider him likely to begin the season in Double-A working mostly as a reliever. With any success, he could make his major-league debut late in 2020. I’d call his best-case scenario a strong, late inning reliever (most likely seventh or eighth inning) with his most likely range as an emergency call-up to a taxi-squad reliever.
The Baltimore Orioles claimed 25-year-old right-handed pitcher Eric Hanhold off waivers from the New York Mets. Hanhold was actually drafted in 2015, meaning that if sent through waivers, he could remain in the Orioles organization through 2021 — although he could be selected in the Rule 5 Draft while off the 40-man roster. He struggled in his first taste of PCL action with a 4.62 ERA and a 5.02 FIP in the Mets organization. Hanhold doesn’t offer much of a ceiling, as I would anticipate his best-case, realistic outcome would be that of a reliable middle inning reliever.
My projections have him posting results similar to his past minor-league season with a 4.52 ERA, a 3.57 BB/9, and an 8.68 K/9. I see Hanhold as a guy who could very well change hands at least one more time through the offseason. Seeing as how he can be controlled if sent outright, the Orioles have more incentive to try to slip him through, as it would free a 40-man roster spot while giving them a reasonably high-floor reliever who could be stashed in Triple-A and utilized when necessary. Furthermore, the fact that he will not join the Orioles for the last two weeks of the 2019 season could serve as an indication as to how he is viewed, initially, by the organization.
That being said, however, the high floor, his remaining minor-league options, and his team control as both a minor and major leaguer could be enticing enough for another team to try to claim him and proceed to attempt to slide him through waivers. Last season left-handed reliever Jerry Vasto was put in a similar situation as an older rookie reliever with two years of outright control, a low ceiling, and a high floor. He was claimed by the Chicago Cubs from the Kansas City Royals and was sent outright roughly a month later. This will be a minor situation to monitor.
To make room for Hanhold on the 40-man roster, 29-year-old left-handed pitcher Ty Blach was designated for assignment. My projections have him posting a 5.19 ERA with a 5.56 K/9 and a 3.23 BB/9. Blach was a top prospect in the San Francisco Giants system for a long time but has never been able to gain any footing in the majors — or in Triple-A, for that matter. Blach will be out of options for the 2020 season and could very well clear waivers. He was always a soft tosser who relied on his control for his success.
Unfortunately, his major-league walk rate in 2019 was at 5.67 per nine innings. Blach is no longer a prospect, and teams pretty much know what they have with him. Furthermore, he will be arbitration eligible this offseason, which leads me to believe that even if he’s claimed now, he will be non-tendered and most likely re-signed to a minor-league contract in the following days. This is a practice that the Cincinnati Reds have used over the past few seasons with Juan Graterol, Jordan Patterson, and Kyle Crockett serving as recent examples. Blach probably becomes a free agent and links on with another team to serve as Triple-A rotation depth or finds a lucrative offer overseas.
Another guy who changed uniforms this week spent the 2018 season with the Orioles. The 30-year-old Corban Joseph was claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Giants. Joseph is an infielder who has always hit very well in Triple A but has never been able to translate success to the majors. The 2019 season was an especially successful year for Joseph, as he posted an insane .371/.421/.585 (1.006 OPS) batting line with 13 home runs in Triple A through 2019. My projections were rather favorable despite him being a 30-year-old infielder who has logged 84 career major-league plate appearances since debuting in 2013. I have him slashing .253/.294/.390 next season with a 162-game home run rate of 12.
Personally, I believe that the Pirates will cut him loose at season’s end based on his lack of minor-league options and how he will become a minor-league free agent. That being said, however, I would keep an eye on where he ends up through minor-league free agency. I don’t think he’s a slam-dunk to be a late-career breakout player, but if he’s put in the right situation, he’s at least a name worth paying some mind to. I’d consider the most likely scenario for Joseph to be signing with a rebuilding club over the offseason and serving in a similar capacity as Jace Peterson has with the Orioles in recent seasons.
Joseph’s original organization, the New York Yankees, cut a pair of players loose in reliever Ryan Dull and utility player Breyvic Valera. Dull was claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday. This is a very interesting claim, as Dull will be arbitration eligible this winter, and the Blue Jays aren’t currently competing for the playoffs. The nearly 30-year-old reliever broke out in a big way during the 2016 season but has been plagued by injuries and poor performance since. He struggled throughout 2019 in both the major leagues and Triple-A due to very high home run rates.
In his defense, the Pacific Coast League isn’t a hospitable environment for pitchers, let alone fly ball pitchers, and he suffered some horrible luck including a 59.7 LOB percentage and a .356 BABIP. But even still, as an arbitration eligible player already on an $850K contract, I don’t see how Toronto’s goal could be anything other than non-tender and re-sign as a non-roster invite to stash as depth. My projections have him posting a 4.98 ERA over 34.2 innings. This includes a 9.26 K/9, a 3.09 BB/9. and a 1.59 HR/9 — which could turn out to be higher if he remains in the American League East.
As for Valera, he has not yet found a home (as of 12:19 p.m EST on Sept 19) but looks to be a strong candidate to exemplify the first category of players that I mentioned earlier in this article. Valera will be out of minor-league options next season and seems likely to be viewed as a fringe roster player despite reasonably solid results on both sides of the ball. I would compare his position this offseason to Hanser Alberto‘s.
Valera is essentially an older version of Alberto with better plate discipline. He brings the ability to hit for consistent average while walking just as much as he strikes out (each roughly 10 percent of the time) to the table. Furthermore, he can play almost every position on the diamond and do so reasonably well. My projections have him slashing .277/.352/.396 (.748 OPS) with a 9.61 BB percent and an 11.938 strikeout percentage. His counting stat projections at a 162-game rate include nine home runs and 11 stolen bases. I fully expect him to be claimed, and while he may be passed around a bit, I think he sticks with a major-league club through the season.