Orioles claim Shaw from SF, release Núñez

Eshelman designated for assignment in corresponding move

November 25th, 2020

Unable to find a trade partner for after designating the slugger for assignment last week, the Orioles on Wednesday released Núñez after he cleared unconditional waivers. Núñez is now a free agent.

Additionally, the Orioles claimed outfielder/first baseman off waivers from the Giants, designating right-hander for assignment in a corresponding move. The O’s have seven days to trade, release or place Eshelman, who pitched to a 3.89 ERA in a swingman role in 2020, on outright waivers. He can remain with the organization if he clears waivers.

Shaw, 27, was designated for assignment by San Francisco last week in a roster crunch to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft. The Giants’ first-round Draft pick out of Boston College in 2015, Shaw hit 45 home runs at Triple-A Sacramento between 2018-19 but just .153 with one homer in 38 big league games over the past two seasons. He is a left-handed hitter with defensive experience at both corner outfield spots, third base and first base, and he has one Minor League option remaining.

The Orioles acquired Núñez on a waiver claim from the Rangers in May 2018, and after a trial run at third base down the stretch, penciled him in as their everyday designated hitter the following year. Núñez, 26, then emerged as one of the bright spots of their rebuild, hitting .247/.314/.469 with a team-high 43 homers and 121 RBIs across 203 games from 2019-20.

But with Núñez projected to earn between a $2-4 million raise in arbitration as a first-time eligible player and the O’s facing a logjam of bat-first corner types, Baltimore designated him while clearing room for six prospects on the 40-man roster rather than wait for the Dec. 2 non-tender deadline. If another team were to acquire Núñez, it could control him via arbitration through 2024.

What that team would get is a player who saw his streaky power weighed down by below-average on-base skills (7.3 percent career walk rate) and lack of a true defensive home. He is viewed as a strong thrower but poor fielder overall at both first and third, where he combined to make 65 appearances over the past two seasons. It’s a skillset that suddenly looks redundant on a roster planning to welcome back Trey Mancini and cycle several young players through its DH spot in 2021.

All told, Núñez hit .253/.319/.464 with 50 homers, 141 RBIs and a 108 OPS+ in 263 games over parts of three seasons with the Orioles.

"It was a very difficult decision because he’s been such a productive member of our lineup, and he’s been an important member of the club here for the past couple years,” Orioles general manager Mike Elias said last week. “Ours is not the ideal roster for him in terms of a fit.”