Earlier today, it was reported that Will Rhymes cleared waivers and will remain in the Rays organization. It's not uncommon on MLBTR to see lists of players who have cleared waivers en route to Triple-A, where they'll wait for another crack at the Major Leagues. Teams are constantly shuffling their 40-man rosters, and while oftentimes waiver claims don't produce much value, there are occasions in which teams strike gold.
MLBTR's Transaction Tracker shows 92 waiver claims dating back to one year ago today. A handful of these reclamation projects have yielded legitimate Major League value, and it's possible that several more will when it's all said and done. Here's a look at some of the best so far, according to FanGraphs' WAR:
- Darin Mastroianni, OF, Twins (Terry Ryan) – Claimed from the Blue Jays on February 9 this year, Mastroianni didn't debut until May 10. The 26-year-old arrived in Minneapolis with just one Major League game and three plate appearances to his credit, but he's turned in a .266/.338/.378 batting line with three homers, 17 steals (in 19 attempts) and elite defense at each outfield position. The end result is 1.6 wins above replacement in 163 plate appearances and a strong fourth outfielder who the Twins can control for the next five seasons.
- Justin Maxwell, OF, Astros (Jeff Luhnow) — Maxwell was claimed on waivers from the Yankees by Houston's new GM on April 8. Maxwell isn't getting on base much, but he's hitting for plenty of power, as evidenced by his .221 ISO and .230/.303/.451 batting line. He's also played solid defense, as he has throughout his career in limited playing time. The Astros can control Maxwell, who's been worth 1.5 wins above replacement, through 2016 if he continues to put up useful numbers.
- Travis Blackley, LHP, Athletics (Billy Beane) — Beane snatched the Australian southpaw off waivers from his Bay Area neighbors (Giants) on May 15. He's since fired 90 innings in 19 games (12 starts) for the surging A's, totaling a 3.50 ERA, 6.1 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. Blackley has been worth 1.4 wins above replacement for an Oakland team that currently holds a 1.5 game lead in the Wild Card race.
An honorable mention should go to Lucas Harrell, who falls just outside the "one year" criteria I used for this post but has totaled 2.6 WAR for the Astros in 165 1/3 innings of work this season. Harrell was claimed from the White Sox last July and figures to have earned himself a spot in Houston's 2013 rotation with his solid performance in 2012.
It's common to see skeptical reactions from fans following waiver claims of relative unknowns, but these claims can often yield affordable long-term role players or surprising lifts that can push a team into contention.