The Pirates have claimed right-hander Enyel De Los Santos off waivers from the Phillies, per a team announcement. Lefty Steven Brault was placed on the 60-day injured list in order to open a spot on the 40-man roster. Brault left his most recent appearance with tightness in his arm and was placed on the 10-day IL with a lat strain. The Pirates did not provide any update beyond the 60-day IL transfer, which will formally end Brault’s season.
De Los Santos, 25, was once a well-regarded prospect in both the Padres’ and the Phillies’ farm systems. San Diego sent him to Philadelphia in the Dec. 2017 trade that brought Freddy Galvis to the Padres. He appeared in the Futures Game for the Phillies the following season and made his big league debut that summer. Santos appeared in seven games that year, starting two of them, and pitched well outside of one poor outing. Overall, he notched a 4.74 ERA that season through his first 19 MLB frames — plenty respectable for a 22-year-old rookie.
Things haven’t gone as hoped for De Los Santos since that time, however, He’s pitched to a 6.92 ERA in 39 subsequent MLB frames, and while he’d been borderline dominant with Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2018,he served up a 4.40 ERA at that same level the following year. De Los Santos has previously been designated for assignment and gone unclaimed on waivers, but the Pirates scooped him up with the No. 3 waiver priority this time around. The Orioles and D-backs passed on claiming De Los Santos.
Part of the reason for the newfound interest could simply be one of having a straightforward path to making room for De Los Santos, but his work on the field this season is also somewhat intriguing. Granted, a 6.75 ERA in 28 frames isn’t much to look at, but De Los Santos’ 95 mph average heater is a career-best mark in the Majors. He’s also punched out 30.7 percent of his opponents, logged a very strong 14.9 percent swinging-strike rate and induced chases on pitches outside the strike zone at a 33.9 percent clip — all career-highs. Opponents have swung at De Los Santos’ pitches a career-high 54.2 percent of the time and made contact a career-low 72.2 percent of the time.
If he survives the offseason and Spring Training on the Pirates’ roster, De Los Santos will need to break camp with the club or else once again be designated for assignment (or traded). He’ll be out of minor league options in 2022, so he won’t be able to be sent down without first clearing waivers. And at that point, even if he were to go unclaimed, he’d have the option of electing free agency by virtue of the fact that he’s previously been outrighted once in the past.
As for Brault, he’ll look to get back to good health and put behind him what has been a largely nightmarish season. Brault missed most of the season with a strained lat and made just seven appearances before going back on the injured list with a recurrence. He posted a 5.86 ERA in 27 2/3 innings while battling that pair of injuries.
That said, Brault has been a largely serviceable long reliever/fifth starter for the Buccos over the past several seasons, including a strong showing in 2020 when he posted 42 2/3 innings of 3.38 ERA ball. The 29-year-old carries a 4.68 ERA in 315 2/3 innings and will be arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter. Brault’s strong 2020 resulted in a $2.05MM salary on his first trip through the arbitration process, and he’s unlikely to see much of a raise this winter thanks to the limited workload he compiled. Pittsburgh controls him through the 2023 season.