The Los Angeles Angels placed nearly a quarter of their roster on waivers Tuesday, including starter Lucas Giolito, relievers Matt Moore, Reynaldo Lopez and Dominic Leone, and outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Randal Grichuk, prompting a flurry of intrigue leading up to Thursday when the teams that win the claims will be revealed, sources told ESPN.
The use of waivers, in which the Angels essentially will give away the players for a $50,000 waiver fee and salary relief, stunned the baseball industry. Between now and the expiration of the waiver period Thursday, teams can place claims on players, who, in the meantime, are allowed to play. The team with the worst record Thursday will be awarded the player — and because he will be on the team’s roster before Sept. 1, all claimed players will be eligible for the postseason.
Giolito said he read the news on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Other players currently on waivers, according to sources, include New York Yankees center fielder Harrison Bader, New York Mets right-hander Carlos Carrasco, Chicago White Sox right-hander Mike Clevinger and Detroit Tigers reliever Jose Cisnero.
If all six Angels players are claimed, the team stands to save around $7 million in salary over the season’s final month — enough, perhaps, to push its payroll beneath the $233 million competitive-balance-tax threshold. Dipping beneath the tax would allow the Angels to recoup a second-round draft pick as compensation if Shohei Ohtani leaves as a free agent, rather than a fourth-round selection. Players who are not claimed simply would clear waivers and remain under contract with the Angels.
Regardless of who ends up where, considering where the Angels were a month ago, a dump of this magnitude, even of free agents to be, is almost unfathomable.
Late on July 26, the same day the Angels decided not to trade Ohtani, they acquired Giolito and Lopez from the White Sox for catcher Edgar Quero, a 20-year-old ranked by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel as a top-100 prospect, and left-hander Ky Bush, now in Double-A. The price was heavy, but the Angels were indicating to the industry: They were pushing for a postseason spot to help convince Ohtani to remain in Anaheim.
Since the Aug. 1 deadline, the Angels have a 7-18 record, the worst in the majors. Ohtani is no longer pitching, as an MRI showed a tear in his right ulnar collateral ligament. Mike Trout, their star outfielder, came off the injured list, played one game and returned with pain in his surgically repaired hamate bone. And the Angels, who were a half-game ahead of Seattle on deadline day, now are 63-70, while the Mariners, at 75-57, reside in a three-way tie atop the American League West division.
“It’s front office decisions that don’t affect our room,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said. “We’ve got to go out and win some games and play the games right. Business as usual. We’ve got to go out and play.”
The teams likeliest to benefit from the Angels punting are toward the bottom of the playoff table. While it’s possible San Diego (62-71) could pursue a claim, it’s unlikely. The Yankees’ attempt to move Bader, who is owed less than $1 million for the remainder of the season, suggests they aren’t in the market for Angels players.
The Miami Marlins, at 66-66, are regarded by teams as a favorite to pursue bullpen help, particularly with their big deadline acquisition, David Robertson, losing his closer’s spot this week. Just ahead of them, at 68-65, are the Cincinnati Reds, whose season-long starting pitching struggles make them an ideal landing spot for Giolito.
The pertinent standings will be determined Thursday morning. In the case of a tie between an American League and National League team, the AL team would have priority, according to MLB rules. If the tied teams are in the same league, the team with the worst record in 2022 would have priority.
Considering what Giolito and Lopez cost at the deadline, the ability to get them for next to nothing is a gift for teams struggling in the standings. Giolito, 29, was one of the biggest deadline prizes but has struggled in his six starts with the Angels, posting a 6.89 ERA and allowing 10 home runs in 32⅔ innings.
“Thursday is when it all goes down,” Giolito said. “Until then, I’m here. We’ll see what happens after Thursday.”
Lopez, 29, has been lights out for the Angels, striking out 19 in 11⅔ innings and logging a 2.31 ERA.
“That’s the reality, they put me on waivers,” Lopez said Tuesday night through an interpreter. “I’m still going to be here until whenever I get claimed. Whatever happens, I’m ready for it.”
The 34-year-old Moore, who signed a one-year, $7.55 million deal this offseason, has had the best season of the group, striking out 47 in 43 innings, with a career-low walk rate and 2.30 ERA.
Leone, 31, is making around the major league minimum salary, making him a cheap and easy claim.
Renfroe, 31, and Grichuk, 32, are veteran outfielders whose salaries — $11.9 million and $10.3 million, respectively — could make them slightly less desirable, though with the minuscule acquisition cost, contending teams could see the salary covering two months: September and October.
The Angels, meanwhile, will be watching instead of playing in September, with this brutal one-month stretch the culmination of a season gone wrong.
Without any playoff appearances during Ohtani’s first five seasons, the Angels over the winter signed left-hander Tyler Anderson, utilityman Brandon Drury, closer Carlos Estevez and Moore while trading for Renfroe and infielder Gio Urshela in hopes of contending. Buoyed by Ohtani’s MVP season, the Angels looked primed to trade players away — including potentially Ohtani — until they won seven of eight in late July and owner Arte Moreno decided to hold their superstar and try to build a championship contender around him.
It failed, and the biggest shedding of players via waivers ever in August will happen accordingly.
Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.