The Orioles announced Wednesday that they’ve claimed first baseman/outfielder Chris Shaw off waivers from the Giants. Right-hander Thomas Eshelman was designated for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man roster. Additionally, the O’s revealed that corner infielder/designated hitter Renato Nunez, whom they designated for assignment last Friday, went unclaimed on waivers and has been released.
Shaw, 26, long seemed like a change-of-scenery candidate for the Giants. The former No. 31 overall draft pick has a productive .280/.328/.538 slash in more than 1000 Triple-A plate appearances, but he’s also struck out in 30 percent of his plate appearances there. He made his big league debut in 2018 but still only has 82 plate appearances, as the new-look Giants front office never seemed as bullish on Shaw as the prior regime that drafted him. Shaw was initially omitted from San Francisco’s 60-man player pool this season, and although he was later added, he never got called up to the big leagues. With the O’s, his left-handed bat will get some looks at first base, in the outfield corners and at designated hitter.
The release of Nunez in many ways opens a spot for Shaw to get an opportunity in Baltimore. While Orioles fans were alarmed to see Nunez, who slugged 43 home runs in just over 800 plate appearances from 2019-20, designated for assignment last week, the move wasn’t necessarily a shock.
Nunez has struggled to get on base even while showing considerable power, and he’s a below-average defender at both infield corners. The market for OBP-challenged, defensively limited sluggers has dried up considerably in recent years, and Nunez was due a raise in arbitration. That he went unclaimed speaks to the fact that his one-dimensional skill set isn’t one that’s valued highly around the game at the moment.
As for the 26-year-old Eshelman, he gave the Orioles an aesthetically pleasing 3.89 ERA in 34 2/3 innings this past season, but that mark was likely misleading. Eshelman managed just 16 strikeouts in that time, and while many low-strikeout arms can mitigate damage by keeping the ball on the ground, his 35.9 percent grounder rate makes him a fairly extreme fly-ball pitcher.
Eshelman has just 38 strikeouts in 70 2/3 career innings, and he’s allowed 19 home runs in that time as well — a rate of 2.42 per nine innings pitched. He has a decent minor league track record, but that lack of missed bats and penchant for serving up the long ball has led to a career 5.22 ERA and even higher 6.56 FIP. The Orioles will have a week to trade Eshelman, run him through outright waivers or release him.