The Orioles announced today that left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser, who was designated for assignment when they acquired Odrisamer Despaigne from the Padres, has been claimed off waivers by the Cubs. To create roster space, Chicago has designated fellow southpaw Edgar Olmos for assignment.
With this move, Riefenhauser will join his fourth organization of the offseason. After starting out with the Rays, Riefenhauser went to Seattle alongside Nate Karns in the Logan Morrison/Brad Miller trade. He was then sent to Baltimore alongside Mark Trumbo in a trade that brought Steve Clevenger back to the Mariners. With the Cubs, he’ll hope to break camp as a left-handed option in the bullpen, although the team has a number options in that regard, including Travis Wood, Clayton Richard and Rex Brothers. Riefenhauser does have options remaining, so he could open the year at the Triple-A level without being exposed to waivers.
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.
As with Riefenhauser, Olmos has been subjected to a heavy dose of roster churn. He has been claimed three times — by the Cubs (from the Mariners), by the Orioles, and then again by the Cubs — only to be designated in short order. It seems clear that there is plenty of interest in the 25-year-old lefty, who has flashed a mid-90s heater in his limited MLB time, but that organizations are willing to risk losing him in an attempt to stash him in the upper minors without wasting a 40-man spot. Though he’s bounced around frequently, Olmos did show well last year at Triple-A, posting a 3.55 ERA with 9.3 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 in the hitter-friendly PCL.