Reliever Matt Wisler has gone unclaimed on outright waivers after being designated for assignment by the Rays this week, reports Darren Wolfson of SKOR North (on Twitter). He’s electing minor league free agency in lieu of an outright assignment, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link).
It’s a bit of a surprise to see Wisler go unclaimed, as he’s currently amidst a decent campaign. He owns a 2.25 ERA across 44 innings over 39 appearances. Wisler has only struck out 19.9% of opponents, but he’s shown strong control. While he’s not missed many bats this year, Wisler has induced swinging strikes at an above-average rate in each of the prior three seasons. In both 2020-21, the Ohio native paired those whiffs with decent overall run prevention.
Still, clubs are apparently apprehensive by Wisler’s dip in velocity. He’s averaging a career-low 89.7 MPH on his four-seam fastball this year. More important, his slider is down to 79.8 MPH after sitting at 81.5 MPH last year. Wisler leans almost exclusively on that breaker, turning to it on a staggering 91.5% of his offerings. He’s used the slider as his primary pitch four years running, but he’s continued to push his approach to greater extremes with each season. Despite turning almost exclusively to the slider, Wisler hasn’t encountered any sort of platoon issues. He’s actually fared better against opposite-handed hitters than righties over the past few seasons, including holding southpaws to a .186/.240/.314 line in 75 plate appearances in 2022.
Now that he’s on the open market, Wisler will have the right to explore opportunities elsewhere. Players who join an organization after August 31 aren’t eligible for postseason play, however, so any signing team would only be able to install him in the bullpen for the final few weeks of the regular season. Wisler has surpassed his sixth year of major league service this season, so he’d be eligible for free agency again at the end of the year even if he signs for the stretch run.
It’s possible Wisler just turns his attention to 2023 at this stage on the calendar, but there’d be no financial downside for another team adding him for the final few weeks if he’s searching for a more immediate opportunity. The Rays are responsible for what remains of his $2.16MM salary, while another team would only owe him the prorated portion of the $700K minimum if he finds another MLB job (which would be subtracted from Tampa Bay’s obligations).