CLEVELAND -- In a surprising late-summer twist, Cleveland is calling upon some Guardian Angels to save the season.
One month after opting to punt at the Trade Deadline, the Guardians elected to receive Thursday, when former Angels pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López and Matt Moore all fell into their lap on the waiver wire. That’s three quality arms infused on the roster of the second-place Guards after a 4-2 road trip that included a series victory over the first-place Twins.
All it will cost them was an estimated $3.7 million in salaries.
Cleveland is five games back in the American League Central entering a six-game homestand that begins Friday against the Rays and continues with a three-game set against Minnesota.
“We looked at it as an opportunity to improve our team,” Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said of the moves. “It's rare that you have the ability to improve the team during a season, especially with quality players like this when it doesn't require trading ... good players.”
Because this is such an unusual situation, let’s dig into how it happened and what it means moving forward:
Why were Giolito, López and Moore available?
The Angels, desperate to get to the postseason in the midst of an MVP-worthy campaign from Shohei Ohtani, acquired Giolito, López and others ahead of the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline. Immediately after the Deadline, however, they lost seven straight games and never got back on track in the AL Wild Card race. Then, Ohtani injured his elbow. The Angels opted to put several of their pending free agents on irrevocable waivers earlier this week.
What does irrevocable waivers mean?
It means the player is available to be claimed by any other team willing to take on his remaining salary. Once a claim is placed, there is no negotiation. The claiming team -- in this case, the Guards -- acquires the player.
Why were these players awarded to Cleveland?
The waiver order goes in reverse order of winning percentage. As the team with the lowest winning percentage among those who entered Thursday within five games of a postseason spot, the Guardians were well-positioned to pounce.
“Our primary motivation was trying to improve our team and find ways to get better,” said Antonetti, “but obviously there's a secondary benefit of teams that we're chasing in Minnesota don't have the opportunity to get these guys.”
Antonetti credited ownership with being willing to absorb the influx of salary.
How will the Guards make room for these guys?
Catcher Eric Haase and right-hander Peyton Battenfield were both designated for assignment Thursday to clear room on the 40-man roster. Remaining moves affecting the active roster will be made on Friday.
What roles will the new arms fill?
The right-handed Giolito, who has a 4.45 ERA across 153 2/3 innings in 27 starts for the White Sox and Angels this season, will join the rotation.
“He's been a really effective and durable Major League starter for most of his career,” said Antonetti.
The left-handed Moore and right-handed López will work out of the bullpen. Moore, who has revitalized his career as a reliever the past two seasons, went 4-1 with a 2.66 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP in 41 games for the Angels this season. López has a 3.93 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 55 innings across 56 appearances for the Sox and Angels this year. López brings the Guards a 98 mph fastball, while Moore gives manager Terry Francona another lefty option alongside Sam Hentges.
“We feel like we've added two arms to our bullpen that will both improve our depth,” said Antonetti.
When will Giolito make his first start?
With Giolito having to travel to join the club, the Guardians have not yet determined when he will make his debut. Giolito struggled mightily with the Angels (6.89 ERA) but had posted a 3.79 ERA, 25.8% strikeout rate and 8.3% walk rate in 121 innings for the White Sox previously.
Are the new additions available for the postseason?
Yes. Any players added to the 40-man roster or 60-day injured list prior to Sept. 1 are eligible.