Thanks in part to Arte Moreno’s decision this week to turn the Angels into a very expensive pop-up shop, contending teams have been presented with an unexpected chance to bolster their rosters in time for the homestretch of the pennant race.
Now, with Wednesday’s games completed, we know which teams will have the best shot to help their chances. As we covered in our primer on Wednesday, waiver priority is determined by winning percentage, with the worst teams getting first crack.
By around 1 p.m. ET on Thursday, we should know if any players will be fitted for new uniforms.
So, which team gets the first priority?
It makes no sense for non-contenders to put in waiver claims because doing so would put them on the hook for that player’s prorated salary for the rest of the season. But because baseball is crazy — we’re looking at you, San Diego — let’s list the order of those teams beginning by highest priority: A’s, Royals, Rockies, White Sox, Cardinals, Tigers, Pirates, Mets, Nationals, Padres, Angels, Guardians, Yankees.
Now, the interesting part. Here’s the waiver order for those still in the hunt, beginning with highest priority:
Indeed, all three have identical records. But the first tiebreaker is 2022 winning percentage, with the worst getting priority. That’s why the Diamondbacks get the nod. However, the Red Sox and Twins have the same 2022 winning percentage. The next tiebreaker is 2021 winning percentage, and this is where Minnesota benefits from winning just 73 games that season. So, the Twins get priority over the Red Sox.
Which players could move?
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the following nine players were placed on outright waivers this week. If they’re claimed on Thursday, they’d be eligible for the postseason. All but one are rental players; they’re in their final year of team control. That means a claiming team is only on the hook for the prorated contract. Here are the players with their approximate remaining salaries, listed from least expensive to most expensive.
|Player||Approximate remaining salary|
Let’s highlight the one non-rental of the bunch: Clevinger. He’s owed $1.4 million on his 2023 salary. However, he’s under control via a $12 million mutual option that includes a $4 million buyout. That means the guarantee to Clevinger is his salary and buyout. That makes Clevinger by far the most expensive option, which could dampen interest. Also, the league investigated Clevinger after accusations surfaced of domestic violence and child abuse. Though he wasn’t disciplined, some teams may have makeup concerns.
Which team is best positioned to get better?
Let’s take our list of 17 teams and cut it down to those on the fringes of the race. These are the teams that presumably would be more motivated to act, thus blocking teams below them in the waiver order from doing the same. Here are the ones to watch:
The first question to ask is whether general manager Kim Ng thinks it’s worth augmenting a roster that has stumbled badly enough to watch its playoff odds dwindle. Though the Marlins remain just three games out of a wild card spot in a crowded NL race, they have dipped below .500. The bullpen was crying out for an upgrade before the trade deadline, but David Robertson has struggled badly since his arrival. So, will the Marlins roll the dice for a second time?
Thanks to the Angels, there are intriguing choices. The righty Lopez isn’t perfect — we know he’s going to walk some guys — but his stuff remains electric. He’s a legit back-end guy and he pitched well in his short stint with the Angels. From the left side, Moore has emerged as perhaps the most intriguing player on outright waivers. He has been perhaps the most steady presence in the Angels’ bullpen. Adding both would cost around $2 million.
It turns out that being a surprise contender is kinda exhausting. Though Cincinnati is just one game out of the wild card, its bullpen is gassed. Also, the rotation is young and talented and … pushing into uncharted territory. Clearly, both Lopez and Moore make sense. As does Giolito. The additions would give the Reds a do-over on a relatively quiet trade deadline.
Of course, the Reds are one of the teams ahead of the Marlins for a wild card. So, perhaps that’s even more motivation for the Fish to snag at least one of those bullpen arms. It would mean that the Reds don’t get one.
However, it’s worth noting that the Reds face the same fundamental problem as the Marlins. Cincinnati’s playoff odds have dipped to 10.7 percent. Not great.
A three-game sweep at the hands of the Dodgers means the Diamondbacks find themselves a half-game out of a wild-card spot. The area of upgrade here is fairly obvious. Arizona’s bullpen ranks 25th in both ERA and fWAR. Lopez and Moore would help — and it’s not unimaginable to think that both could be within reach. Arizona also passed on rotation upgrades at the trade deadline. This is their second chance to make a play for a starter. Though the Diamondbacks have the same winning percentage as the Red Sox and Twins, they get waiver priority here because they had a worse winning percentage in 2022.
Minnesota leads the AL Central by five games. They could use a righty bat in the outfield and Hunter Renfroe would make a lot of sense. And, stop if you’ve heard this before, the bullpen sure would get stronger with Moore and/or Lopez in the mix.
The Athletic’s Chad Jennings wrote that Boston has “done some internal digging” about putting in claims on Giolito and Lopez. Problem is that the Red Sox have done too much internal digging of themselves into a hole. They’re 6 1/2 games out of a wild-card spot. So, despite being in a good position to capitalize on Angels owner Arte Moreno’s Christmas In August Spectacular, that sweet place in line might be wasted on the Red Sox.
Moore and Lopez are the surest bets to move. Bullpen help this time of year is critical and the price is right. Both could be had for roughly $2 million, and there would be no strings attached aside from clearing 40-man roster space. Will the Marlins think it’s worth it for a bullpen do-over since the addition of Robertson hasn’t added much? I hope so. The franchise hasn’t made a full-season postseason appearance since Miguel Cabrera was a babyfaced rookie back in 2003. It’s time.
Of course, it’s easy to spend other people’s money. With playoff odds of 13 percent, the Marlins’ bid for October is a longshot. But claiming Moore and Lopez carries a double bonus. Not only would the Marlins make themselves better, but they’d also be keeping talent away from the D-Backs and Reds, two clubs in front of them in an already tight NL wild-card race.
-Stephen J. Nesbitt contributed to this story.
(Top photo of Matt Moore: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today)