The Pirates have reinstated outfielder Ka’ai Tom from the 10-day injured list and designated him for assignment rather than adding him back to the active roster, per a club announcement. Pittsburgh claimed Tom off waivers from the A’s earlier this season. He was Oakland’s Rule 5 pick out of the Indians organization and must now be offered back to Cleveland if he goes unclaimed on outright waivers.
Tom, 26, hit the injured list earlier this month with a lower back strain that has now apparently healed sufficiently. He scarcely got a look in Oakland before being designated for assignment there, but the Bucs have given him a lengthier leash in Pittsburgh before making today’s decision. In 117 plate appearances since being claimed by the Pirates, Tom struggled to a .152/.308/.261 batting line.
It hasn’t been an auspicious MLB debut for the Hawaii native and 2015 fifth-rounder, but Tom has a strong track record in the upper minors with Cleveland, so it’s easy to see why multiple outfield-needy clubs have been intrigued. He’s a .296/.362/.558 hitter in 229 Triple-A plate appearances and has also posted a .261/.351/.444 slash in 827 plate appearances at the much more pitcher-friendly Double-A level.
Tom has walked at a robust 11.1 percent clip in his minor league career to date against a manageable 19.5 percent strikeout rate. He slugged a career-best 23 long balls between Double-A and Triple-A in his most recent full season, in 2019, and has five seasons with double-digit stolen base totals under his belt — including a career-best 23 swiped back in 2017. He obviously hasn’t produced much yet in the big league opportunities he’s gotten this season, but the Bucs claimed him earlier in the season with one of the top waiver priorities in the game.
Other teams will at least have the opportunity to add him and hang onto him for the final few weeks of the season. Should a team choose to do so, Tom has enough time on the active roster this year that his Rule 5 restrictions would be lifted in 2022. In other words, any team that claims him and hangs onto him for another six weeks would be able to freely option Tom in 2022 — though they’d also have to carry him on the 40-man roster all offseason.