The Reds have made a pair of claims already, nabbing Kevin Gausman from the Braves and Freddy Galvis from the Blue Jays. While the Cincinnati organization still hasn’t manage to make a run into clear postseason contention, it’s in shouting distance and obviously wants to send a message to its fanbase. With a marginal place in the standings, the Reds also have waiver priority over all other contenders. (Current rules do not distinguish between league status, except in cases where two teams with the same record each put in a claim.) The claims are relatively low-cost since there’s not much time left in the regular season (around $4MM in total) and both players can be controlled for 2020 (Gausman via arbitration, Galvis via club option). It’s also possible the Reds could pass along the contracts via the waiver wire later this month.
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It stands to reason that players in similar positions will be exposed to waivers as well. Those likeliest to hit the wire — beyond younger, fringe 40-man members — are arbitration-eligible players who are obvious non-tender candidates and impending free agents who no longer fit onto their current club. Gausman and Kyle Barraclough, whom the Giants recently claimed from the Nationals, represent recent examples of the first group. In such cases, teams stand to save a nice chunk of money if another team places a claim; if not, they only lose a player whose days in the organization were clearly numbered. Certain veterans on expiring contracts may also be allowed to leave, even if their non-contending current team would happily pay their salary down the stretch, in order to generate goodwill in pursuing future free agents. (That possibility explains why we’ve listed, say, Hunter Pence as a conceivable waiver candidate.)
It should be noted that players with guaranteed salaries beyond the 2019 season aren’t as likely to be waived in this manner. There’s little incentive for the Mariners to waive Dee Gordon, for instance. He’s owed more than $16MM and would surely go unclaimed as a result. At that point, he’d reject an outright assignment in favor of free agency, leaving the Mariners on the hook for the entirety of his contract. At best, Seattle would save the prorated league minimum if Gordon signed with another team. It makes more sense to hold him and try to move him in the offseason or even next year.
There ought to be demand on the claiming side. Plenty of needs remain unmet even on competitive rosters. It’s notable that the Nats and Braves saved money with their above-cited waiver placements; that could leave some addition free cash to utilize in adding other players. Some clear non-contenders will even work the wire, as the Blue Jays did with Zack Godley. It would seem there’s nothing to stop teams from discussing their intentions in advance — “hey, we’d claim him if you cut him loose” — to assuage any concerns about a player going unclaimed, which could perhaps even open the door to a surprising late-month claim or two.
With that in mind, it’s worth taking a look around the league to see which other players could land on waivers, focusing on contract status and other factors. Rebuilding and/or clearly non-contending clubs will obviously be contemplating ways to save some cash with moves of this nature. Some players on contending teams may be candidates to be cut loose regardless of their organization’s place in the standings — hence, the prior moves on Gausman and Barraclough — but we’ll focus here on organizations with sub-.500 records.
Just because a player lands on the list doesn’t mean we think it’s especially likely he’ll move by way of waivers; it just indicates we can see a path to such an outcome. Without further ado (teams listed by inverse order of record):
(It’s possible that the win/loss outcomes over the next two weeks will push some other organizations to consider dropping short-term veterans, but we won’t guess here as to how that’ll shake out. The players on contending teams just listed could be pushed out due to performance/roster considerations, regardless of their teams’ place in the standings.)