The Orioles announced that they have designated left-handed reliever C.J. Riefenhauser for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne, who was acquired from the Padres in a trade.
Riefenhauser has had an active offseason, initially going from the Rays to the Mariners in the Nate Karns/Brad Miller swap but spending less than a month as a member of the Rays before heading to the Orioles alongside Mark Trumbo in a trade that netted Seattle catcher Steve Clevenger (and saved about $9MM). He’ll now hit DFA limbo for the first time this offseason, during which time Baltimore can explore trades for the still-promising left-hander or attempt to sneak him through outright waivers (although there’s certainly a chance that Riefenhauser would be claimed by another organization).
The 26-year-old Riefenhauser has struggled in his brief exposure to the Majors, to be sure, having logged a 6.30 ERA in a limited sample of 20 innings. However, he’s also excelled at the minor league level, where he’s authored an outstanding 2.15 ERA with 8.7 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 in parts of three seasons, totaling 113 innings of relief. Riefenhauser doesn’t light up the radar gun by any means, sitting around 89 mph, but that’s passable velocity for a southpaw, and there’s no denying that he dominated lefties between Triple-A and the Majors before a rocky 2015 season, holding them to a .430 OPS in what was a strong season. Scouting reports from Fangraphs, MLB.com and Baseball America have given Riefenhauser credit for at least an average fastball and average slider with a slightly below-average third offering in the form of his changeup. If he’s a two-pitch reliever, he could still carve out a role as a lefty specialist, one would think, though as MLB.com’s most recent scouting report on him indicated, he could take on a bigger bullpen role with some improvement in his changeup. Prior to the 2014 season, BA credited him with a plus heater/slider combo, though his velocity in the Majors has sat below the 91-93 mph mentioned in that scouting report.