Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Waiver Debate Much Ado About Nothing

Recently MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth asked if something should be done about MLB's waiver claim system. His trumpeting call for the change? The Toronto Blue Jays. According to a review by MLBTR's Steve Adams, Alex Anthopoulos has made 22 waiver claims over the last year, more than any other GM in the game. Brian Cashman of the New York Yankees was second with 14 claims. Toronto has made at least one additional claim since the post on Aaron Laffey. I can admit it is interesting that one team is so active on waiver claims compared to other teams, but there is no need to change anything. MLBTR should stick with transactions and rumors and not attempt to create controversy where it does not exist.

To start, as Mr. Wilmoth points out, the Blue Jays making claims prevents teams with lower waiver priority from acting. Bad records create better opportunities for teams to improve. Once a claim is made the process starts over, so fans rarely hear of other teams that make claims once a player is claimed. More shocking to fans should be that the Yankees have been able to make the second most claims given their overall record should have limited their ability to get players worthy of claiming.

Second, and completely ignored in Wilmoth's post, was the busy offseason Toronto had. Blockbuster trades with the Miami Marlins and New York Mets cost the team prospects. By my count 6 prospects including 4 that were ranked in the top 100 overall by Baseball America . The other two were also highly regarded. As a result of these trades, Baseball America currently rates Toronto's farm system at #22 overall. Any team ranked in the bottom third should put a premium on targeting players on the waiver wire as a way to improve their team. After this offseason especially, the Blue Jays likely have 4-6 players occupying spots in their organizational top 30 by necessity not talent. An aggressive pursuit of the waiver system permits the restocking of that lost depth.

Finally, Anthopolulos is a younger GM with a solid track record of success. He is also a fan of advanced metrics. At the most basic level the "Moneyball" philosophy is about exploiting market inefficiencies. OBP is no longer that inefficiency, nor is the "ugly body" type. Look at Matt Adams of St. Louis or Darren O'Day of the Orioles for that. Waiver claims are a gamble that many teams do not look at to improve their teams. Toronto found a diamond a few years back with Jose Bautista. Numerous other teams had tried with him, but it was not until Toronto claimed him and were able to afford him regular at bats that he really turned things around and flourished. Many of Toronto's waiver claims are on out-of-options players. These players usually have shown flashes in the majors, but their current team does not want to commit the major league playing time to them. Toronto has no problem trying to claim them and hope to restock their 40 man roster. At the major league or minor league level they feel they can offer regular playing time. If they perform in AAA they might be useful call-ups or trade chips. If not, well other teams can take a chance.

Calling for a change based on one teams approach is an extreme call. While it is no doubt frustrating for players to be unsure where they are supposed to travel to, they are still getting MLB salaries and service time. Toronto appears to be making claims to restock depth lost this winter. Not every claim will pan out, but there is nothing wrong with playing the odds. Rather than make a mountain out of this molehill, perhaps the better question is, why aren't other teams doing the same?

Is Toronto on to something or should there practice be stopped? Add your two cents in the comments section.