The Guardians announced that they’ve claimed veteran outfielder Ramon Laureano off outright waivers from the A’s. He was designated for assignment by Oakland over the weekend.
As a reminder, Major League Baseball did away with revocable August trade waivers five years ago. Laureano was claimed off (irrevocable) outright waivers. He’s now under Guardians club control through the 2025 season, and Cleveland will pick up the remainder of this year’s $3.55MM salary. The Guards currently have MLB’s tenth-worst record, indicating that the eight non-A’s clubs ahead of them — Royals, Rockies, White Sox, Cardinals, Nats, Tigers, Mets, Pirates — all passed on putting in a claim.
Just two years ago, the notion of Laureano being placed on waivers would’ve seemed difficult to fathom. From 2018-21, the now-29-year-old Laureano was a core piece in Oakland, batting a combined .263/.335/.465 (119 wRC+) and coupling that production with strong baserunning, respectable glovework in center and plus defense in right field.
Laureano, however, was hit with an 80-game PED suspension midway through the ’21 campaign and has never regained his footing. He was suspended for the final couple months of play in 2021, and that ban lingered into the 2022 season. He’s since missed time with oblique, groin and hamstring strains, as well as a fractured hand. Since returning from that PED suspension, Laureano has four IL trips and a collective .212/.285/.371 batting line in 158 games/629 plate appearances — effectively one full season’s worth of games.
The A’s have surely had varying levels of trade interest in Laureano over the past couple years, but they’ve understandably opted against selling low on a player whose value was once considerable. Unfortunately for the club, they’ll now lose Laureano for nothing more than the $1.07MM in salary relief they’ll gain with Cleveland claiming the outfielder and his contract. It’s a sub-par outcome that’ll draw ire from fans and criticism from pundits — particularly given the lackluster results of the current rebuilding effort. Laureano would likely have been non-tendered rather than given a raise this winter, so once a trade failed to materialize prior to the deadline, the A’s apparently shifted gear and simply looked to recoup some of salary obligation.
The final two months of the season will serve as an audition for Laureano in Cleveland, where outfield production is a near-annual concern. Guardians outfielders are batting a combined .248/.310/.342 this season, and the resulting 81 wRC+ (i.e. 19% worse than the MLB-average hitter) places the Cleveland outfield 29th of all 30 teams, leading only the last-place Royals. Steven Kwan is the only Guardians outfielder with even average offensive output at the plate this season, so the chance to buy low on Laureano for a cost of just over $1MM is a sensible roll of the dice for the team.
Laureano will at the very least provide a right-handed-hitting complement to lefty-swinging Will Brennan in right field, but the production (or lack thereof) from Brennan and center fielder Myles Straw is glaring enough that there ought to be an opportunity for Laureano to claim a larger role if the change of scenery proves beneficial.