The Nationals announced on Wednesday that right-hander Aaron Barrett has cleared waivers and elected free agency rather than accepting an outright assignment to Triple-A Syracuse. The 28-year-old, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015, was placed on outright waivers over the weekend.
Barrett is now more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, but he also suffered a setback in late July when he fractured his elbow and required a second surgery to repair that injury. Prior to suffering the ligament tear that preceded his initial operation, Barrett looked to be an emerging piece in the Nationals’ bullpen. In 70 Major League innings from 2014-15, he pitched to a 3.47 ERA with 10.8 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, a 44.9 percent ground-ball rate and a fastball that averaged 93.8 mph. The 2010 ninth-rounder was effective against both right-handed hitters and lefties alike, limiting righties to a paltry .225/.299/.294 while holding opposite-handed opponents to a .239/.333/.337 slash.
There aren’t yet specifics on Barrett’s timeline to return to the mound, though considering the second procedure took place just over three months ago, there’s probably a fair bit of time left in his rehab process. Nonetheless, it’s easy to envision Barrett attracting interest on a minor league pact and possibly working his way back to the Majors sometime in 2017. Certainly, given the nature of his injuries, a full comeback is no sure thing, but there’s little harm in a team taking a chance on a once-effective reliever that still has fewer than three years of Major League service time under his belt.
Had he remained on the Nationals’ 40-man roster, Barrett would’ve been arbitration eligible as a Super Two player and been in line for a nominal raise; MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected him for a salary of just $700K next season. If he is ultimately able to return to the Majors, his new team would be able to control him for four years (including next season) based on the two years and 144 days of MLB service Barrett has accrued thus far.