Recent MLB Roster Shuffles

With the World Series over, Major League Baseball teams have begun to shave their 40-man rosters in preparation for the offseason. Here is all of the player movement from the MLB period, which I call “The Purge Period.”

The San Francisco Giants have far and away been the most active organization on the waiver wire in the earliest stage of the offseason, as they brought four new players in via waiver claims, while re-signing two as minor-league free agents. The familiar faces returning to the organization are infielders Cristhian Adames and Zach Green. The Giants got very lucky here. Both of these guys are, without a doubt, talented enough to be major leaguers. Green, who was one of the best minor-league signings from last offseason, received a cup of coffee in the major leagues last season after hitting .282/.380/.659 (1.039 OPS) with 25 home runs in the Pacific Coast League.

While the league itself, as well as a .351 BABIP, were certainly contributors to his success, Green walked 13.1 percent of the time in 2019, which was almost double how much he walked in 2018 (7.1 percent). I’m genuinely surprised that he cleared waivers, as he’s just 26 years old, has six years of team control remaining, and still brings three minor-league options with him. As it stands, Green is slated to begin the season as the everyday third baseman in Triple A, but he should see some time in the major leagues by the time the season is over.

Adames is also coming off a rather successful season in Triple A, as he slashed .283/.364/.517 (.881) in the Pacific Coast League. He also managed to increase his walk rate by a very large margin from 7.6 percent in 2018 to 11.5 percent in 2019. Furthermore, he posted that batting average with a sustainable .324 BABIP. While I’m not as surprised that he cleared waivers as I am with Green, I still consider Adames to have a strong chance to contribute to the Giants in 2020. I would attribute him clearing waivers to his lack of minor-league options.

He’s an excellent defensive infielder who the Giants could potentially control via arbitration through 2023. Adames will compete for a bench spot with the Giants in spring training, with his main competition coming from Abiatal Avelino and another recent waiver claim, Kean Wong. As of now, I would consider Adames to be a bit behind those two based on his lack of a 40-man roster spot and would anticipate him opening the season as a middle infield starter in Triple A, with his position depending on who claimed the final spot. Assuming Wong earned the final spot, he would likely start at second base while playing shortstop if Avelino began the season in the majors.

You can read my full profile on Kean Wong here, as I recently did a write-up on him following the Los Angeles Angels claiming him off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays about a month ago. I’m very surprised that he was exposed to waivers again, as he has the makings of an everyday player. I compare him to Tommy La Stella in that he’s exceptionally versatile and makes strong, consistent contact. As of now, I would consider him the favorite to begin the 2020 season as a reserve infielder in San Francisco, and he could play himself into a starting role rather easily.

Another prospect-type heading to San Francisco via the waiver wire is right-handed pitcher Trevor Oaks. Oaks, now 26, had once been a fairly promising prospect for the Los Angeles Dodgers and was traded to the Kansas City Royals in the Scott Alexander trade of 2018. He missed the 2019 season due to injury but carries promise, as he had been coming off a season in which he posted a 3.23 ERA over 128.1 innings in the Pacific Coast League. While his peripherals suggest he was a bit lucky, as his HR/FB rate was just 3.7 percent and his FIP was 4.28, the fact that he managed a 50.2 percent ground-ball rate in Omaha is exceptionally impressive. He profiles as a backend starter based on a wide arsenal of pitches, but he could eventually wind up in a relief role.

As a starter, Oaks could be very solid, but as a reliever, the sky is the limit. While he doesn’t necessarily have great strikeout stuff, nor does he boast much velocity, he has the ability to throw five pitches, two of which are above-average including a lethal sinker. With that kind of variety over shorter stints, he’d be able to keep hitters guessing, which could result in even more weak contact than he already induces. As it stands, I’d peg him as the number two starter in Triple A behind Conner Menez.

Another name likely to wind up in the same rotation is Rico Garcia, a nearly 26-year-old righty who was claimed by the Colorado Rockies. Garcia was drafted in 2016 and therefore, if sent outright, can be retained by the Giants through 2022. While Garcia’s numbers in both of his initial stints in Triple A and the major leagues were rough, he absolutely dominated over his first 13 starts in Double-A, posting a 1.85 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP. Throughout his career, he has added seven miles per hour on his fastball, now topping out at 97 mph. He has a decent curveball, which works as a nice second offering, and an average-to-fringe changeup.

I believe the changeup will improve with experience, as he has only been a pro for a little under three seasons. I would begin the 2020 season assigning him to Triple A as a starter and monitoring his performance with a contingency plan to move him into a relief role. Garcia shouldn’t begin the season in the major leagues, as he has yet to master Triple A. Based on his size and velocity, I think the bullpen is probably his most likely outcome. With that said, if he can improve the consistency on his changeup, there’s no reason that he can’t stick in the rotation.

Garcia wasn’t the only Rockies pitcher to wind up in San Francisco, as left-hander Tyler Anderson was brought in off waivers as well. Anderson was the Rockies’ first-round draft pick in 2011 and simply never panned out. Now nearly 30, he has the opportunity for a fresh start in San Francisco. As it stands, he’s currently slated to begin the season as the Giants number five starter, but after posting a 5.16 ERA and a 4.82 FIP over 282.2 innings since his strong rookie season, it seems unlikely that he’s just given the role.

Moving from the hitters’ paradise in Denver to San Francisco should serve as a boon for the lefty, as Oracle Park is a notoriously pitcher-friendly park. Anderson, who is a fly-ball pitcher through and through, could certainly benefit from the change in environment and surprise some people. He’ll have to get through the arbitration period first, however, as he’s a non-tender candidate and could very well have been signed with the intention of being re-signed on a minor-league contract.

The Rockies saw heavy casualties on the waiver wire, as two other players departed for other 40-man rosters, as Pat Valaika went to the Baltimore Orioles and Sam Howard went to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Valaika was a day two selection for the Rockies back in 2013 and made his major-league debut in 2016. He previously served as a taxi-squad infielder over the past few seasons, but he has now exhausted his minor-league options. The Orioles are a very good landing spot for Valaika, as they have plenty of room for him and he brings strong versatility to the table. As it currently stands, he’s slated to compete with Stevie Wilkerson and Richie Martin for the final two spots. Based on his lack of minor-league options, I would consider him a good bet to wind up on the opening day roster, assuming he remains in the organization.

Sam Howard, who’s headed for Pittsburgh, was a third-round pick by the Rockies in 2014 and had served as a taxi-squad reliever during the 2019 season. He struggled to the tune of a 6.63 ERA and 6.27 FIP over 19 innings but also pitched 50.2 innings of 3.91 ERA, 4.11 FIP, and 11.01 K/9 ball in the Pacific Coast League. He gives the Pittsburgh Pirates some much-needed left-handed relief depth. As it currently stands, Williams Jerez is the only other left-handed reliever on the 40-man roster, but he’s out of options. Howard still has an option remaining, so assuming he stays on the 40-man roster, he’s likely to ride the taxi-squad initially, but he could earn a more stable role with solid performance.

The Pirates traded right-handed reliever Parker Markel to the Los Angeles Angels as a part of their roster purge earlier this past week. In return for Markel, the Pirates brought in cash considerations, likely of similar value to a waiver claim fee ($50,000). Markel made his major-league debut in 2019 at 29 years old but struggled to the tune of a 7.77 ERA and a 7.30 FIP over 22 innings. He fared much better in Triple A, albeit with some good fortune. Over 27.2 innings pitched he posted a 2.60 ERA that came with a 14.31 K/9. Unfortunately, it also came with a 6.83 BB/9, a .204 BABIP, and a 4.52 FIP. If he remains with the Angels through the offseason, I would imagine that serves as a high-octane, taxi-squad reliever.

Markel wasn’t the only reliever brought in by the Angels, as Mike Mayers was claimed from the St. Louis Cardinals. Based on the fact that Mayers is out of minor-league options, if retained, he’d have a slight advantage to make the opening day roster. This, however, is no guarantee, as Mayers struggled mightily in St. Louis during the 2019 season. Over 19 innings he posted a 6.63 ERA and a 5.48 FIP. His Triple-A numbers were better, as he threw 20 innings of 3.15 ERA ball. While he had a 5.05 FIP, it’s a bit inflated due to a very high 28.6 percent HR/FB rate.

Sticking in the NL Central division, the Cincinnati Reds acquired Travis Jankowski from the San Diego Padres for international bonus space. Jankowski is a superb defender in the outfield and is lauded for his baserunning ability but isn’t of much help with the bat, as he has posted a career line of .241/.317/.318 (.635 OPS) over 977 plate appearances. There’s a reasonable chance that Jankowski, who’s eligible for arbitration, will be non-tendered and re-signed to a minor-league contract. In that case, he’d probably wind up as a midseason injury replacement.

Also leaving San Diego is right-hander Robert Stock, who was claimed by the Philadelphia Phillies. Stock has had an interesting career path. After being drafted as a catcher in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Cardinals, he struggled offensively in the minor leagues and only reached Class A Advanced before the Cardinals gave up on him. He bounced around a lot, even spending time in Indy Ball, as he worked on transitioning to a pitcher.

At 28 years old, Stock reached the major leagues for the first time with the Padres, pitching 39.2 innings of 2.50 ERA ball with a 2.71 FIP. Unfortunately, that success didn’t carry over to 2019, as he struggled to the tune of a 10.13 ERA with a 5.37 FIP over 10.2 innings in the majors. His Triple-A numbers weren’t much better, as he posted a 4.13 ERA with a 6.06 FIP. The issue is that Stock seems to have lost his control. If he’s able to find it, and returns to 2018 form, the Phillies will have found a very nice reliever. Otherwise, it’s likely that he rides the taxi-squad, assuming he even remains with the organization.

The Boston Red Sox claimed 31-year-old left-handed pitcher Josh Osich off waivers from the Chicago White Sox. Osich was used a lot by the White Sox, pitching 57 games across 67.2 innings in 2019. But he struggled throughout the season, posting a 4.66 ERA and a 4.96 FIP. His biggest issue was the long ball, as he allowed 2.0 HR/9, good for a 21.1 percent HR/FB ratio, which isn’t very far from his career mark of 18.8 percent.

The most concerning thing about Osich is the fact that his average fastball velocity dropped 1.0 mph, which has been a trend throughout his career. During his rookie season, Osich averaged 96.5 mph on his fastball. He never saw his average touch those numbers again, as it steadily declined. There’s a chance that the Red Sox could choose to non-tender Osich, who’s eligible for arbitration this season. If the Red Sox simply decide to tender Osich a contract, he wouldn’t be in line for much of a raise and would probably come in somewhere around $750k-$900k.

The White Sox weren’t done with their roster pruning, though, as they traded Welington Castillo and $250,000 in international bonus money for outfield prospect Jonah McReynolds. This is a great deal for the White Sox, as they got out from under Castillo’s $500,000 buyout from his contract, while also grabbing a lottery ticket minor leaguer. McReynolds is a 23-year-old outfielder who’s still in Class A Short Season. He’s looking like a depth player at this point of his respective career.

The Seattle Mariners claimed right-handed pitcher Phillips Valdez off waivers from the Texas Rangers. Valdez made his major-league debut in 2019, posting a 3.94 ERA and a 5.46 FIP over 16 innings. His minor-league numbers weren’t very promising either, as he posted a 4.92 ERA with a 5.59 FIP. Knowing how general manager Jerry Dipoto operates, Valdez could be traded in the near future, but if he sticks in Seattle, it seems likely that he would be used as a taxi-squad reliever, as he has two minor-league options remaining. The Mariners would be a great landing spot for Valdez, as they used a record-breaking 36 relief pitchers during the 2019 season.

Two of those pitchers landed elsewhere, as Anthony Bass was claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays and Matt Wisler was claimed by the Minnesota Twins.

If you take anything away from this article, it should be this: Anthony Bass is going to find continued success in Toronto, as long as he remains on the 40-man roster. Here’s what I had to say about Bass after he was signed by the Cincinnati Reds last offseason.

I will cover the massive trade with the Dodgers in its own section. That wasn’t the only move made by the Reds prior to New Years’ Day, as righty reliever Anthony Bass joined the Reds on a minor league deal. While many would consider this to be a depth signing, I believe it could be a lot more promising. I had Bass ranked among my top 25 minor league free agents. First of all, he threw his fastball 20.6% more in 2018 than in 2017 while adding a full 1.4 mph on it. Furthermore, while he decreased the usage of his sinker by 16%, its velocity peaked at 94.7 mph, which is a full 2.4 mph up from 2017. These changes led to legitimate success in the Pacific Coast League, and could translate to the NL Central.

That trend of increasing velocity continued once again in 2019, as he brought his average up a full 1.4 mph more to 95.8, which was certainly a significant factor in his success during the 2019 season. After being signed by the Mariners in May, Bass posted a 3.56 ERA and a 3.90 FIP over 48 innings pitched including a 51.6 percent ground-ball percentage. Seeing as how he will be arbitration eligible, the Blue Jays could non-tender Bass and attempt to re-sign him. But, in this case, Bass could generate enough interest to earn a better contract on the free agent market. If he remains on the roster, he seems likely to slot in a set-up capacity right out of the gate.

Another pitcher joining the Blue Jays is right-hander Chase Anderson, who was acquired via trade from the Milwaukee Brewers for first base prospect Chad Spanberger. Anderson will make $8.5 million next season, all paid by the Blue Jays, and have a $9.5 million club option for the 2021 season. Anderson wasn’t bad in 2019, as he posted a 4.21 ERA, but he really struggled with the long ball. I’m concerned about this issue, seeing as how he’s moving to the American League East, which is filled with notoriously hitter-friendly ballparks, but regardless, he’s currently projected as the Blue Jays number one starter by rosterresource.com.

Both Anderson and Bass could potentially serve as very solid trade chips if the Blue Jays struggle in the first half of 2020, as neither one comes with much in terms of guaranteed money, and Anderson is controllable for 2021 as well.

The other player lost by the Mariners was right-handed pitcher Matt Wisler. Once a top prospect for the Padres, Wisler was involved in the mega-deal that sent Craig Kimbrel and Justin Upton from the Atlanta Braves to the San Diego Padres. Wisler was one of the earlier pitching prospects from the Braves’ rebuild to reach the major leagues. Unfortunately, he was unable to carve a role out for himself in Atlanta and changed teams a number of teams throughout the season, spending time with the Reds, Padres and Mariners.

Wisler is out of minor-league options and, therefore, has a slight advantage on making the opening day roster. He struggled in 2019, as he pitched 51.1 innings of 5.61 ERA ball. His 4.23 FIP suggests that he had pitched better than the ERA suggests. The Minnesota Twins also managed to re-sign a pair of minor leaguers who had recently elected free agency.

Both catcher Tomas Telis and right-handed pitcher Jonathan Cheshire were given minor-league contracts. Telis didn’t reach the majors during the 2019 season, but he handled International League pitching, slashing .330/.364/.490 (.854 OPS) and striking out just 10 percent of the time. Unfortunately, it would be fair to expect some regression, as he rode a .347 BABIP last season and walked just 4.9 percent of the time. I would imagine that he spends the majority of the season in Triple A, barring injuries to other players.

As for the lesser-known Cheshire, he’s a 24-year-old reliever acquired by the Twins during the 2019 season. While he had reached Triple A with his former organization, the Blue Jays, he only pitched in Double-A following the trade and responded with 13.2 innings of shutout ball, posting a 2.35 FIP. I would imagine that he’s assigned to Triple A right out of the gate and could get a shot to ride the taxi-squad at some point throughout the season.

The Twins lost former top prospect, left-handed pitcher Stephen Gonsalves, who was claimed off waivers by the New York Mets. The fact that Gonsalves was cut loose was certainly a bit of a surprise to me, seeing as how he has a minor-league option remaining. He was injured for the majority of the 2019 season but had been great in the minors as recently as 2018, when he pitched 120 innings of 2.76 ERA ball/4.04 FIP ball.

He’s not a particularly hard-thrower and has struggled with his control throughout his career, which could limit his ceiling. That being said, as a left-handed pitcher who has shown the potential to eat innings effectively, he’s an intriguing option. I would imagine that he begins the season in the Mets Triple-A rotation and could reach the majors by the end of the year.

The Oakland Athletics brought in left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland off the waiver wire. McFarland is arbitration eligible this offseason and, therefore, could theoretically be a non-tender candidate. Last season he made $1.45 million with the Arizona Diamondbacks and posted a rather mediocre 4.82 ERA and 4.48 FIP, but he also induced groundballs at a 61.1 percent rate. While amazing, that rate is slightly worse than his career standards, as he carries a career 63 percent rate over 380.1 innings pitched. He should serve as the A’s second lefty out of the pen, assuming he remains in the organization through the offseason.

The Detroit Tigers re-signed five players who recently elected minor-league free agency: left-handed pitcher Nick Ramirez, right-handed pitchers Anthony Castro and Tim Adleman, outfielder Jose Azocar, and first baseman Frank Schwindel.

Ramirez is the most familiar name of the group, as he threw a whopping 79.2 innings of relief for Detroit in 2019, posting a reasonably solid 4.07 ERA. While his 4.51 FIP suggests that he was the recipient of some good luck, he still managed to maintain a K/9 rate of 8.39, with a proportional 3.95 BB/9. As it currently stands, many projections have Ramirez set to begin the season in Triple-A Toledo, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was able to beat out John Schreiber for the last spot. He’s not going to blow anybody away, but he’s a very solid left-handed option for a rebuilding team. He eats innings at an efficient rate, comes with minor-league options, and could be traded at some point to bring back some help for the long run. Innings-eating lefties are always in demand.

Castro is a right-handed starting pitching prospect with strikeout stuff but control issues. While he struggled a bit in his first crack at Double-A, posting a 4.40 ERA with a 4.13 FIP, he has posted very strong numbers in the lower minor leagues and has an intriguing skill set. Castro’s fastball has been recorded as fast as 99 mph when pitching out of the bullpen, and his slider is excellent. It has been graded as a present value 55 and a future value 60. He’s likely to begin the year in Double-A.

The nearly 32-year-old Adleman hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since the 2017 season, when he pitched 122.1 innings for the Reds, posting a poor 5.52 ERA and 5.87 FIP. He has spent the past two seasons in the Tigers organization, pitching in Double-A during the 2018 season and Triple-A during the 2019 season. Over 103 innings in Triple A, his 3.32 ERA was the product of some good fortune, as he recorded a 4.35 FIP. There’s a chance that he sees some major-league time with reasonably solid performance, but there are a lot of younger guys who I think the Tigers are more interested in seeing, as the talent acquired throughout the rebuild continues to graduate to the majors.

The 27-year-old Schwindel was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 2013 and reached the major leagues for a very brief, six-game cup of coffee in 2019. He was released mid-way through the 2019 season and picked up by Detroit. Schwindel played very well in the Tigers organization, posting a .327/.361/.628 (.989 OPS) line over 119 plate appearances. While he’s not a very versatile player, he brings some reasonable power and the potential to make solid contact to the table. As it stands, he’s currently slated to begin the 2020 season as the starting first baseman in Triple A.

As for Azocar, the 23-year-old outfielder has been rated among the Tigers’ better prospects over the years due to a strong contact ability, reasonable speed, and an exceptional arm in the outfield. While he probably deserves an immediate promotion to Triple A after slashing .286/.317/.399 over 538 plate appearances in Double-A, that’s not a given seeing as how Travis Demeritte, Troy Stokes Jr., and Daz Cameron are all slated to begin the season in Triple A and are right-handed hitters.

This could put Azocar behind guys like Chad Sedio, Cam Gibson, Jacob Robson, and Danny Woodrow. I would imagine that he begins the season as the stating right fielder in Double-A and is promoted to Triple A as soon as one of Stokes, Demeritte, or Cameron is called up. Long term, Azocar is the type of player who would be a very solid fourth outfielder on a competitive team and a two-hitter on a rebuilding one. Detroit made a nice move bringing him back for another season.

Finally, the Milwaukee Brewers brought in a pair of very intriguing minor-league free agents, outfielder Alexander Palma and first baseman Luis Castro. Both seem likely to begin their tenures in the Brewers system in Double-A Biloxi.

Palma is a 24-year-old outfielder who had spent his entire minor-league career with the New York Yankees. He spent the majority of the 2019 season in Class A Advanced, where he slashed a solid .260/.313/.462 (.775 OPS) with six home runs. His biggest issue has been staying healthy, but he has the ability to become a major-league starter based on an above-average hit tool, very solid speed, and the potential to hit for at least average power.

Castro is a 24-year-old corner infielder who slashed .317/.425/.584 (1.010 OPS) over 475 plate appearances in Class A Advanced in the Houston Astros system. He also managed to hit 25 home runs and steal 14 bases in the process, while walking 12.8 percent of the time. He got a taste of Double-A, where he struggled a bit, slashing .220/.382/.339 (.721 OPS) but still managed to walk 15.8 percent of the time, compared to a 21.1 percent strikeout rate.

I’m optimistic about Castro’s ceiling, as I see no reason why he can’t start at either first or third base long term. He has the necessary power and plate discipline and could be a very reasonable middle-of-the-order hitter. Regardless of potential, I’d say he’s more likely to serve as a platoon corner infielder similar to Jason Rogers and even seems to be the type of player that would excel overseas.

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