The Athletics have claimed left-hander Jairo Labourt off waivers from the Reds, the club announced. Veteran first baseman/DH Brandon Moss has been designated for assignment in a corresponding move to create room for Labourt on Oakland’s 40-man roster.
Moss was acquired by the A’s as part of a four-player trade with the Royals that essentially shook out as Oakland agreeing to take on a heavy chunk of Moss’ salary as the price for obtaining a cost-controlled young reliever in Ryan Buchter. Matt Olson and Khris Davis were already locked in at first base and DH for the A’s, leaving Moss without any clear path to regular playing time, and even a bench role seemed unlikely given the Athletics’ overall youth movement.
[Updated A’s depth chart at Roster Resource]
The Royals kicked in $3.25MM as part of the trade, leaving the A’s on the hook for the remaining $4MM of Moss’ 2018 salary, plus $1MM to buy out their end of Moss’ $10MM mutual option for 2019. A team that claims Moss within the 10-day DFA period would take on this salary commitment, so it seems much likelier than any clubs interested in the 34-year-old will wait until Moss is officially released. (A new team would owe Moss just a minimum salary in 2018, with Oakland responsible for the prorated remainder of that $5MM.)
It remains to be seen if any suitors will come calling for Moss given the number of other first base/DH types available in free agency, plus Moss’ own struggles in 2017. Moss hit 22 homers last year for Kansas City, but slashed just .207/.279/.428 over 401 plate appearances. His batting averages and on-base percentages have been in steady decline over the last five seasons and, given his lack of defensive value, Moss was a sub-replacement level player in 2017 as per both fWAR (-0.5) and bWAR (-1.0).
If Moss doesn’t land another MLB contract, the veteran plans to retire, he told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle as part of an interview on the A’s Plus Podcast (to be released later today). “I totally understand the situation here. They [the A’s] had to get me to get a guy they really needed. That’s baseball, that’s the way it works,” Moss said. “But if I get cut, I can play by my own rules, I don’t have to do anything, and I won’t. If another team doesn’t pick me up, I’ve had a good career, more of a career than I ever thought I’d have.”
Labourt will now be joining his third organization in less than two weeks, as the southpaw was designated by the Tigers in the wake of their signing of Francisco Liriano, and the Reds then claimed Labourt just two days ago. Buchter and Danny Coulombe are the only other left-handers on Oakland’s 40-man roster, so Labourt has at least a shot at winning a job out of Spring Training. Despite some significant control issues throughout his seven-year pro career, Labourt posted some strong results after becoming a full-time reliever in 2017, and his performance even led to Labourt making his Major League debut in a six-game cup of coffee with Detroit last season. Labourt has a 3.61 ERA, 8.8 K/9, and 1.74 K/BB rate over 481 minor league innings.