Wednesday marked the deadline for teams to protect players from next month’s Rule 5 draft, and the evening didn’t pass without its fair share of activity. Dozens of prospects were ultimately provided shelter on their clubs’ 40-man rosters, but, as expected, many of those moves required some tough decisions on the part of parent clubs.
While gaining a spot on a 40-man roster marks an important step in a young player’s career, it often means that a veteran must be politely shown the organizational door. Sure enough, Wednesday saw several experienced position players and pitchers designated for assignment, traded to rival clubs, or outright released.
With the smoke still clearing on many of these moves, readers may simply be scrambling to make sense of which of their favorite team’s prospects were left unprotected in advance of the Rule 5. But what about the veterans who are currently left floating in DFA limbo as a result of the evening’s activities?
Today offers a good opportunity to examine a few players who, in the coming days, will be available for selection via waiver claim or trade after being designated by their teams last night. While we saw some well-known, oft-injured names either released (Jacoby Ellsbury) or traded (Jose De Leon) by their clubs, we’ll focus instead on DFA’d players who could soon find a place on another MLB roster.
Matt Duffy: Rays GM Erik Neander had a busy night on Wednesday, with his club adding five prospects to its 40-man. While the Rays’ trade of the oft-injured De Leon to the Reds was likely a tough roster-clearing pill for fans to swallow, Duffy’s own designation also brought about a few “what-if” questions. Originally acquired as part of the 2016 package coming back to Tampa in return for Matt Moore, Duffy projected as a controllable, well-rounded infielder who, true to the club’s modus operandi, could play a few positions while hitting well enough to justify his lineup spot. Unfortunately, injuries limited Duffy to just 199 games in a Rays uni since the middle of 2016, and he now hits the waiver wire as a 28-year-old just one year removed from his 2018 batting line of .294/.361/.366 production (107 wRC+).
Nick Goody: The 28-year-old Goody was jettisoned from the Indians roster when the club added outfielder Daniel Johnson, right-hander Triston McKenzie and left-hander Scott Moss to its roster. While the Indians boast enviable pitching depth, it’s easy to see where Goody could fit on a number of MLB rosters. Since making his debut with the Yankees in 2015, the LSU alum has logged a 3.81 ERA supported by a 10.9 K/9 rate; he was superlative in 2017 out of the Cleveland pen, in particular, notching a 2.80 ERA/3.45 FIP across 54 2/3 innings of work. Goody’s 4.62 FIP and 4.9 BB/9 rate in 2019 showed that there was perhaps a bit of rust beneath the veneer of his 3.54 ERA, but the longtime Statcast darling shouldn’t have trouble finding a big league job next season, given the collective strength of his track record.
Nestor Cortes Jr.: Cortes was culled from the Yankees’ active roster on Wednesday, on the heels of a rough 2019 campaign out of the New York bullpen. While his 5.67 ERA across 66 2/3 Bronx innings last year would likely tell you what you need to know, Cortes is still just 24 years old and possesses a solid track record of success in the upper minors. The lefty posited a 3.86 ERA across seven games and six starts for the Triple-A Yankees of Scranton Wilkes-Barre, with decent underlying metrics (9.5 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9). Cortes doesn’t throw hard, with a fastball sitting around 89 mph, but he offers a five-pitch mix and could represent an interesting depth flier for a rebuilding club in search of a back-end starter.
Jharel Cotton: Like Duffy, Cotton’s story is largely defined by injury. Since coming to Oakland from the Dodgers as part of the package received in return for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick, Cotton has loomed as a potential impact arm on the edges of the Athletics rotation. However, his unimpressive 2017 (5.58 ERA in 129 innings) was followed up by Tommy John surgery in 2018, and Cotton ultimately missed most of 2019 due to a hamstring issue that required surgery. The now-27-year-old righty hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors in two years, but his relative youth and starter’s repertoire could see him latch on with a new team in short order. Cotton was removed from the A’s roster on Wednesday to make room for Daulton Jefferies.
Tim Mayza: Mayza doesn’t bring the former prospect pedigree of some of the other names on this list, and he’s a non-factor for 2020 specifically after undergoing Tommy John surgery. But, for a team interested in signing Mayza to a low-cost two-year deal, what he does offer is a lefty arm and at least some record of effectiveness while pitching in the AL East. While the 27-year-old limped to a 4.91 ERA/4.73 FIP in extended action in 2019, he was far more effective in a more limited feature in 2018. That season saw Mayza log a 3.28 ERA/3.36 FIP through 35.2 innings; not exactly an overwhelmingly convincing sample size, but lefties are at a perpetual premium and Mayza does hold a 10.6 K/9 rate across 104 career innings. Lefties have managed just a 70 OPS+ against Mayza for his career, although it is fair to wonder whether next year’s introduction of a three-batter minimum rule may limit clubs in their deployment of LOOGY types.