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5 waiver claims that could help Diamondbacks' postseason chase

Jesse Friedman Avatar
August 30, 2023
After reportedly trying to acquire right-hander Lucas Giolito at the trade deadline, the Diamondbacks now may be able to acquire him on waivers.

LOS ANGELES — When the trade deadline passed, the window for the Diamondbacks to add frontline talent seemingly closed. Due to recent developments, that window appears to have opened again.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Angels surprised the baseball world — including Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo — by reportedly placing six active players on waivers, including recently acquired starting pitcher Lucas Giolito; relievers Matt Moore, Reynaldo López and Dominic Leone; and outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Randal Grichuk.

The Angels were not the only team to waive players. The New York Yankees reportedly waived outfielder Harrison Bader, and the New York Mets waived starter Carlos Carrasco. Chicago White Sox starter Mike Clevinger, Colorado Rockies infielder Jurickson Profar and Detroit Tigers reliever Jose Cisneros were reportedly placed on waivers as well.

In Tuesday’s edition of the PHNX Diamondbacks Podcast, we discussed the MLB waiver claim process.

Teams can place claims on players that interest them up until Thursday, when results will be unveiled. Any player that is claimed by more than one team — there will likely be several — will go to the team with the worst record.

Teams do not have to send any assets in return, but they are responsible for paying the player’s salary through the end of the season. Because claimed players will be added to their new roster by MLB’s Aug. 31 deadline, they will be postseason eligible.

Non-contending teams are not likely to place claims on top players, so teams that are still in the race but have worse records than others have a distinct advantage. The Miami Marlins, for example, could place claims on five different players and land all of them. Of course, the Marlins would need to ensure that they are prepared to pay those players’ salaries for the remainder of the year as well as clear space for them on their 40-man roster.

Not all of the players are attractive assets. Some will likely go unclaimed and be returned to their teams. However, the level of talent available on waivers is unprecedented compared to past seasons.

Of the players who were waived, five stand out as potential fits for the Diamondbacks.

Angels relief pitcher Matt Moore pitches against the Mariners at T-Mobile Park. (Michael Thomas Shroyer/USA TODAY Sports)

1. LHP Matt Moore, Angels

With a team bullpen ERA of 5.20 from July 14 through the start of play on Wednesday, the Diamondbacks arguably have more to gain by adding left-handed reliever Matt Moore than any other contending team in the league.

In 43 innings with the Angels, Moore is 3-1 with a 2.30 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 27.8 percent strikeout rate and 7.1 percent walk rate. Last year with the Texas Rangers, Moore was similarly dominant, posting a 1.95 ERA in 74 innings.

While Moore’s 3.57 FIP this year suggests some degree of over-performance, he would instantly slot in as one of the Diamondbacks’ best relievers.

From the left side, the Diamondbacks currently have Joe Mantiply and Kyle Nelson in their bullpen. Mantiply was an All-Star last year and has had success against lefties this year, but righties have a .265/.308/.653 slash line against him, significantly limiting his overall effectiveness.

Nelson has had a strong year with a 3.19 ERA, but he has struggled late in games. In innings 7-9, opposing hitters are slashing .300/.354/.550 against him.

It should be noted that Moore has significant reverse splits. Lefties have an .841 OPS against Moore this year compared to a .538 mark for righties. If the Diamondbacks acquire him, they would still lack an ideal counterattack for left-handed hitters late in close games.

Nonetheless, Moore is a proven backend reliever, and the Diamondbacks need more of those. Any team that successfully claims Moore will owe him roughly $1.3 million for the remainder of the season. He will be a free agent at season’s end.

Angels relief pitcher Reynaldo Lopez pitches against the Mariners at Angel Stadium. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

2. RHP Reynaldo López, Angels

Just over a month ago, the Angels traded two of their top prospects in catcher Edgar Quero and left-handed pitcher Ky Bush to the White Sox for Reynaldo López and Lucas Giolito. Now, both López and Giolito are effectively available for free.

In 2023, the 29-year-old López has a 3.86 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 53.2 innings. Since being dealt the Angels, his ERA is just 2.31.

López’s 12.1 percent walk rate this year is the second-worst mark of his career, but his 30.7 percent strikeout rate is his best ever in a single season. Should the Diamondbacks acquire him, López’s season strikeout rate would rank second on their team, trailing only that of closer Paul Sewald.

López has not been an elite backend reliever in 2023, but he would give the Diamondbacks another viable option for high-leverage situations.

Like Moore, López will be a free agent at the end of the year. He is due roughly $630,000 the rest of the way.

Angels starting pitcher Lucas Giolito reacts after pitching the fifth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Angel Stadium. (Kiyoshi Mio/USA TODAY Sports)

3. RHP Lucas Giolito, Angels

One month after reportedly showing interest in right-hander Lucas Giolito at the trade deadline, the Diamondbacks might be able to to get him without expending any assets.

Since being acquired by the Angels on July 26 as part of the aforementioned trade with the White Sox, Giolito has struggled. In six starts with the Halos, he is 1-5 with a 6.89 ERA and 1.47 WHIP.

Giolito’s primary issue in that stretch has been the long ball. He has allowed 10 in 32.1 innings pitched. Homers have always been something of an issue for Giolito with a rate of 1.4 per nine innings in his career.

Ironically, Giolito’s fly ball rate has actually dropped since being traded to the Angels. Nearly a quarter of fly balls against him in that stretch have gone over the fence. That is not likely to continue.

If the Diamondbacks were to successfully claim Giolito, it seems likely that he would join the starting rotation, pushing out either Zach Davies or Slade Cecconi.

Davies tossed five-plus innings of one-run ball against the Cincinnati Reds in his first outing back off the injured list over the weekend, and Cecconi has pitched to a 2.57 ERA since being called up from the minors on Aug. 2.

Even so, there is some degree of uncertainty with each. Davies had a 7.38 ERA in 12 starts prior to this most recent injury stint. Cecconi has only 21 major league innings under his belt, and he has benefitted from an unsustainably low .217 BABIP.

There are no guarantees that Giolito would be an upgrade over what the Diamondbacks already have, but he would provide added depth and he has a long track record of success.

Giolito will be a free agent at the end of the year and is due to make about $1.8 million for the rest of the season.

White Sox starting pitcher Mike Clevinger delivers a pitch against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. (Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

4. RHP Mike Clevinger, White Sox

On paper, the best player on this list is Mike Clevinger. In 18 starts, Clevinger has a 3.32 ERA and 1.23 WHIP over 97.2 innings.

He has pitched especially well lately, logging a 2.16 ERA and 0.96 WHIP over his past four starts.

For as great as his numbers are, there is considerable evidence that Clevinger has over-performed this year. Both his FIP (4.34) and xFIP (5.31) are significantly higher than his ERA. His 20.8 percent strikeout rate and 9.3 percent walk rate are both pedestrian.

Even so, Clevinger would instantly become a fixture of a Diamondbacks rotation that, as discussed earlier, has some uncertainties.

Complicating matters is the fact that Clevinger is not a clear-cut free agent at the end of the year like the others on this list. He has a $12 million mutual option for 2024 that carries a $4 million buyout.

If the Diamondbacks were to successfully claim him, they would owe him about $2.1 million for the rest of the year. In addition, they would need to decide whether or not to exercise their end of Clevinger’s 2024 option. If they chose not to, they would also be on the hook for a $4 million buyout. That is a high price tag for one month of a mid-rotation starter.

Also adding complexity is the fact that Clevinger called out Diamondbacks color broadcaster Bob Brenly after a start at Chase Field in June of 2022. Clevinger took issue with comments Brenly made about Clevinger’s slow pace on the mound.

Clevinger was also accused of domestic abuse over the offseason.

Yankees center fielder Harrison Bader singles against the Washington Nationals at Yankee Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)

5. OF Harrison Bader, Yankees

The Diamondbacks are often seen as having too many outfielders, but the New York Yankees’ Harrison Bader could make sense as a platoon partner for center fielder Alek Thomas.

The 30-year-old Bader has had a down year offensively, slashing just .239/.275/.365, including an abysmal .100/.151/.120 line over his past 16 games. Nonetheless, he is batting .349/.389/.697 against lefties.

Like Thomas, Bader is an excellent center fielder. He has logged 5 defensive runs saved and 8 outs above average this year, similar to Thomas’ 8 DRS and 4 OAA.

Generally, Thomas has sat out against lefties, pushing Corbin Carroll from right field to center field. Carroll has been adequate at the position, but he does not grade out as well at the position as either Thomas or Bader.

Bader is due to make $1.8 million the rest of the year and will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Follow Jesse Friedman on X

Top photo: Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports

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