The Indians announced Friday that they’ve activated lefty Andrew Miller from the 60-day disabled list and cleared roster space by designating right-hander Zach McAllister for assignment. McAllister, who has been with the team since 2010, was one of the team’s longest-tenured players.
McAllister, 30, was traded to Cleveland by the Yankees eight years ago this month as the player to be named later in 2010’s Austin Kearns swap. While he never found his footing as a stater with the Indians, McAllister blossomed into a quality bullpen piece when taken out of the rotation in 2014. Over the next three seasons, from 2015-17, he pitched to a pristine 2.99 ERA with 10.0 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9 through 183 1/3 innings of work.
This season, however, has been another story entirely for McAllister. Through 41 2/3 innings, he’s limped to a 4.97 ERA with a diminished 7.3 K/9 mark against 2.2 BB/9 while serving homers at a career-worst rate (1.5 HR/9). He’s yielded seven homers through those 41 2/3 frames after surrendering only eight long balls throug 62 innings in 2017.
The 2018 season would’ve been McAllister’s last year of club control anyhow, as he’s now accumulated the requisite six years of Major League service time needed to reach free agency. Unfortunately for him, he’ll hit the open market on his worst full season as a reliever.
It’s still possible, of course, that another club could snag McAllister and plug him into its relief corps in the hopes that a change of scenery and some different coaching will foster a return to form. McAllister, after all, is still averaging just over 95 mph on his fastball with a near-identical swinging-strike rate to the one he posted in 2017, and his chase rate has actually jumped by nearly five percent. He’s only earning a $2.45MM base salary, with about $773K of that sum yet to be paid out, so he wouldn’t exactly break the bank for a team in search of a bullpen mercenary to close out the season.
If he ultimately is run through outright waivers and clears, McAllister does have enough service to reject an outright assignment to the minors in favor of free agency while retaining the rights to the remainder of his salary. At that point, he’d be a free agent available to all 29 other teams for only the pro-rated league minimum.