The Padres announced Thursday that they’ve claimed righty Glenn Otto off waivers from the Rangers, who designated him for assignment earlier in the week. San Diego designated outfielder Ben Gamel for assignment in a corresponding move.
Otto, 27, was a fifth-round pick by the Yankees out of Rice University back in 2017. He went to the Rangers alongside Ezequiel Duran and Josh H. Smith in the 2021 trade that sent Joey Gallo from Arlington to the Bronx.
At the time of the swap, Otto was one of the more well-regarded prospects in the Yankees’ system, ranking 19th on New York’s top-30 list at Baseball America. He placed 15th among Rangers’ farmhands heading into the 2022 season, with BA labeling him a potential fourth starter who could likely be moved to the ’pen if things didn’t pan out in the rotation.
Otto has gotten looks in the Majors in each of the past three seasons with Texas, but he’s yet to find his footing. While the right-hander tossed 135 2/3 innings over 27 starts last year, he posted a rather pedestrian 4.64 ERA and fanned just 18.2% of his opponents against an unpalatable 10.6% walk rate along the way. He also struggled in six starts down the stretch following the trade in 2021, and he was hit hard in six bullpen appearances this year. Overall, Otto has pitched 169 2/3 innings in the Majors but carries just a 5.69 ERA with worse-than-average strikeout, walk and home-run rates (in addition to a roughly average ground-ball rate).
That said, there’s plenty in Otto’s minor league track record to give the Friars some optimism. He posted a strong 3.20 ERA in 96 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A during the 2021 season that saw him traded, and that year’s 35.3% strikeout rate and 6.2% walk rate in the minors were both excellent. Otto has never posted an ERA higher than 3.48 at any minor league level, and he’s punched out 32% of his total opponents in the minors.
Otto missed the first three months of the 2023 season due to a lat injury, so he’s pitched just 40 total innings this year. While his 10.13 ERA in the big leagues (12 runs in 10 2/3 frames) is an eyesore, he’s also posted a sharp 3.38 ERA with his typically promising strikeout tendencies (32.5%) in 29 1/3 Triple-A frames. Otto also has a pair of minor league option years remaining beyond the current season, plus an additional five years of team control remaining. Given that context, it’s not a surprise to see a Padres club that could lose a good bit of pitching depth this winter take a more or less free look at the former prospect.
San Diego, after all, could see each of Blake Snell, Josh Hader, Seth Lugo, Michael Wacha, Rich Hill and Nick Martinez reach free agency this winter, either via the expiration of their current contracts or via opt-outs/player options that could be declined. The Padres aren’t going to firmly bank on Otto replacing anyone from that group, but he’s a controllable depth option who could earn his way into the mix and help patch some of those gaps. If nothing else, he could be called upon as a spot starter or extra bullpen arm next year in the event of injuries on the MLB roster.
As for the 31-year-old Gamel, he appeared in just six games with the Padres before today’s DFA. The veteran outfielder has been quite good between the Triple-A affiliates for San Diego and Tampa Bay, batting a combined .286/.402/.498 in 332 plate appearances, but the Friars are prepared to cut ties after just 15 plate appearances, during which Gamel collected three hits (two singles, one double).
In parts of eight Major League seasons between the Mariners, Pirates, Brewers, Padres, Guardians and Yankees, Gamel is a .252/.332/.384 hitter. He’s drawn walks at a healthy 10.1% clip but also fanned in just under a quarter of his plate appearances. Gamel is primarily a corner outfielder but lacks the prototypical power associated with those positions, evidenced by a career-high 11 home runs and a tepid .131 ISO in his career (slugging percentage minus batting average). Now that Gamel has been designated for assignment, the Padres will place him on outright waivers or release waivers within the next five days.