Designated RHP A.J. Griffin for assignment. [11/19]
It was just two years ago that the A’s won the AL West with a rotation of Griffin, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Bartolo Colon, and Dan Straily (plus a dose of Sonny Gray, we must admit). Then Griffin and Parker both had Tommy John surgery in April of 2014, and Milone and Straily were traded mid-season. Sure, the team’s brief dynasty was built mostly on things other than their starting pitching. Still, it’s not hard to see how the depletion of all that depth has led to the team’s tumble to the bottom of the heap. Griffin remains a certifiable Big Guy, and he has a track record of big-league success, but you have to figure he’s a long shot after a 2015 season more or less lost to setbacks in his rehab from Tommy John. If a team takes any serious chance on him, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them shift him to relief and relatively light duty. —Matthew Trueblood
Claimed RHP Chase Whitley off waivers from the Yankees. [11/20]
Whitley underwent Tommy John surgery in May, which, in most cases, would mean an early-season return is in the cards. The Rays, however, have indicated that Alex Cobb—himself a May recipient of a new UCL—won't rejoin the big-league roster until late in the year, if at all. Presuming Whitley makes his Rays debut at some point in 2016, you wonder what his role will be. Squint and you might see another Erasmo Ramirez: a fastball-changeup righty with just enough of a breaking ball to stick at the apple-bottom end of a rotation. Yet if the Rays continue with their bullpen-heavy approach, then Whitley's starting experience makes him a good candidate to fill a multi-inning role. Whatever the Rays decide, they'll have (at least) six months to change their mind. —R.J. Anderson
Designated RHP Allen Webster for assignment [11/19]
This is good news. No, really. After the Red Sox got Webster as part of the huge Nick Punto trade in August 2012, they tried to make it work with him in the rotation. After the Diamondbacks got Webster as half of their return for Wade Miley last winter, they tried to make it work with him in the rotation. His stuff is terrific, and because his repertoire is so deep and the level of investment in him has been so high, the temptation to try to get a mid-rotation starter (or better) out of that stuff has overwhelmed other concerns.
It had to end, though, and now it will. Webster has made 28 appearances in the Majors over the last three seasons, all but five of them as a starter. He has 76 strikeouts and 66 walks on his record. His command simply won’t hack it in a starting role. In short bursts, though, with a selection of his two or three best pitches and a little extra intensity on the stuff, there’s still big potential in Webster. Arizona’s organizational pitching depth makes cutting bait the right call, but some team might happen upon an electric (if sometimes erratic) set-up man on the rebound. —Matthew Trueblood
Signed RHP Andury Acevedo to a one-year contract. [11/19];
Claimed LHP Jack Leathersich off waivers from the Mets. [11/19];
Acquired RHP Spencer Patton from the Rangers in exchange for INF-S Frandy De La Rosa. [11/20]
The Cubs add three potential future bullpen contributors.
Patton is the most experienced of the trio, having accumulated more than 30 innings over the last two seasons with the Rangers. Alas, that experience hasn't been positive. He suffered through so many walks and home runs last season that he finished with the third-highest ERA (9.00) among pitchers with 20-plus innings. Nonetheless, Patton has missed bats throughout his career thanks to his deceptive delivery and fastball-slider combo. Factor in how he has options remaining—vital for relievers whose upside band tops out in the middle innings—and he should see time in Chicago throughout 2016.
The least experienced of the group is Acevedo, a converted infielder who remains in the early stages of his pitching career. Prior to last season, he'd walked more than eight per nine over his first 60-plus innings on the mound—a nasty byproduct of his tough-to-repeat, max-effort delivery. Yet Acevedo showed better control in 2015, averaging one free pass for every three innings across the upper minors. Combine those gains with his power arsenal—he's been known to text smileys to triple digits—and you can understand why the Cubs handed him a big-league deal. Consider Acevedo an intriguing, if unreliable relief option who could well join Patton in touching the ivy sometime next season.
The same prognostication would apply to Leathersich had he not undergone Tommy John surgery in July. He'd previously served as a wild and deceptive southpaw with Chapmanian strikeout rates in the minors. If Leathersich's well-below-average command returns in whole—and who knows, it could go backward—then he might just become an interesting bullpen candidate in nine to 15 months' time. —R.J. Anderson
Signed RHP Blake Wood to a one-year deal. [11/20]
Sure. Why not? Wood is a large chili-thrower who hasn't seen significant big-league action since 2011, after which he underwent Tommy John surgery and lost his control. He spent last season in the Pirates organization, where he threw more strikes than usual—albeit, evidently, not enough to convince Pittsburgh's brass he was worth a September look-see. You figure Wood ought to find ample opportunity in Cincinnati, where the rebuild is underway. You hope for his sake, anyway, because Wood turned 30 during the season, meaning he's ancient so far as Quad-A relievers go. —R.J. Anderson
Designated 1B-R Wilin Rosario, RHP John Axford, and LHP Rex Brothers for assignment [11/19]
The Rockies frustrate people, because they sometimes seem stuck in the middle of the road. Quietly, though, they’ve done a decent job over the last few years of deepening their farm system. One unhappy side effect of that happy development is that guys like Rosario, Axford, and Brothers—guys with marginal value, but solid track records and a little bit of upside—get squeezed out. The losses won’t hurt the Rockies, but maybe (maybe) they’ll help someone else soon.
Rosario, actually, is really unlikely to help anyone. He’s a train wreck. Over the last three years, his power has dried up, he’s hit the ball on the ground increasingly often, he’s failed to develop any semblance of patience at the plate, and he’s proved defensively indefensible at catcher and (improbably, and painfully) at first base. He’s not even a nominal catcher anymore, and if he can’t drive the ball at Coors Field, he probably can’t drive it anywhere.
Axford is a different story. He struck out 24.8 percent of opponents last year, even pitching for the Rockies. He generates a lot of ground balls. He lacks the control you want from a high-leverage reliever, but he does everything else well. There are contenders all over the league who should be able to benefit from adding Axford to their relief corps, if only as a seventh-inning guy. He throws gas, and he has a reverse platoon split for his career (thanks to a killer curveball). If he makes it through waivers, it will only be because this is a tricky time of year for teams’ 40-man roster management. Coming off his best season since 2011, he’s definitely an asset.
Then there’s Brothers. He was so dominant for a couple years, and has now been thoroughly broken for the last two. He’s definitely lost some of the zip on his fastball (he’s down three miles per hour from his peak velocity in 2012), but consider him a wild card. The problem is, whereas many starters who get lost this way find salvation in the bullpen, relievers who run into the same problem tend not to make it out of the woods. —Matthew Trueblood
Claimed RHP A.J. Achter off waivers from the Twins. [11/20]
Matt Klentak continues to build a bullpen of waiver claims and minor-league signings. Achter's impressive size and minor-league numbers suggest he possesses a power arm. He doesn't. Achter's boring fastball is often clocked in the upper-80s, and while he has a short arm stroke and closed landing, that deception hasn't prevented big-league hitters from teeing off on his pitches (six homers in 24 innings). Achter is probably nothing more than an up-and-down arm, but the Phillies have every reason to take an extended look at him over the next season-plus. —R.J. Anderson
Claimed C?-R Josmil Pinto off waivers from the Twins. [11/20]
The more famous of the two new Padres, Pinto is coming off a brutal season. Concussions limited him to 72 minor-league games, and he (understandably) didn't perform when he was allowed out there. Pinto, then, is an awkward spot. He enters camp as a 27-year-old who doesn't have an option to his name. What's more is he's far from mastering certain aspects of catching—specifically everything—which makes him a man without a bankable position or bat. So what's the plan? Is Pinto going to serve as Derek Norris' backup? Successor? Or is Pinto around to learn how to play first base in between his pinch-hit assignments? Who knows. At this point, there are way more questions than answers. —R.J. Anderson