How the Angels’ salary dump could impact National League Wild Card race

Aug 29, 2023, 8:43 PM

Matt Moore...

Matt Moore #55 of the Los Angeles Angels in the eighth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 21, 2023 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Angels reportedly waived six players on Tuesday, throwing a wrench into the playoff picture with potential implications for the Arizona Diamondbacks and the National League Wild Card race. 

The Angels waived starting pitcher Lucas Giolito, right-handed relievers Reynaldo Lopez and Dominic Leone, left-handed reliever Matt Moore and outfielder Randal Grichuk and Hunter Renfroe.

They all will be free agents after the season and could benefit playoff hopefuls looking for depth without giving up any prospects the Angels did at the deadline for Giolito, Lopez, Leone and Grichuk.

Teams interested in claiming them would need to pay their salaries for the remainder of the season, but there would be no trade involved like there was in the past. Claims will be awarded in reverse order of record on Thursday. 

Players claimed on waivers would be postseason eligible since they’d join an organization before Sept. 1. 

The Diamondbacks entered play Tuesday clinging onto the third spot 0.5 games above the San Francisco Giants, 1.5 games ahead of the Cincinnati Reds and 0.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs. The Marlins are 2.5 games back. 

If the Marlins have the lowest record of teams that put in claims, they could add multiple pieces to try and jump back into the picture after a 9-15 month.

The danger is if a team like the D-backs places claims on several players and get rewarded, then there’s no going back. They’re not revocable.

Angels’ waived players

Lopez and Moore have both produced strong seasons out of the bullpen. 

Lopez has an upper 90s fastball and a slider with a near 40% whiff rate. He had a 2.31 ERA in 11.2 innings since joining the Angels at the trade deadline with a 2.43 ERA and 2.97 FIP in 29.2 innings since the start of June. 

Moore has reverse splits as a left-hander, but has kept base runners off with a 0.98 WHIP this year. In 43 innings, he has a 2.30 ERA and 3.58 FIP. 

The D-backs checked in on Giolito ahead of the deadline. The veteran right-hander has struggled to keep runs off the board with L.A. after some early-season effectiveness with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 3.45 ERA over his first 19 starts, albeit with a 4.20 FIP. 

He swung the other direction with the Angels with a 6.89 ERA in six appearances. 

Leone has a 4.64 ERA and 5.43 FIP between the Angels and New York Mets this year with earned runs allowed in each of his last three appearances.

Renfroe and Grichuk are veteran right-handed bats. Renfore had a .778 OPS and 17 home runs entering what has been a miserable August in which he’s produced a .510 OPS. Grichuk hasn’t reproduced his numbers with the Colorado Rockies earlier this year (.861 OPS) on the Angels (.470 OPS).

Giolito is owed approximately $1.7 million, Moore $1.25 million, Lopez $600,000, Renfroe $2 million and Grichuk $1.7 million. These players may not make or break a team’s run, but in a race this tight, every win is magnified. 

The waiver period expires on Thursday, so several teams have cut players in advance. The Yankees placed standout defensive center fielder Harrison Bader on waivers, and the Mets did the same with veteran starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco. 

Rosters also expand on Friday, so the D-backs will have the chance to add a bat and pitcher to the mix from within the organization. 

D-backs fits

Arizona’s bullpen has had quite the workload this month with a lack of healthy starting pitching available. D-backs relievers have accrued 91 games since Aug. 1, the second most in the league, and have a 5.74 ERA, the fifth highest. 

The Giants and Reds have also utilized bullpen games, while Miami moved trade deadline addition David Robertson out of its closer role. 

Lopez misses bats. His fastball is among the fastest in the league along with his whiff and strikeout rates. Moore has successfully transitioned from a starter falling out of the league to an effective reliever.

The D-backs wanted reliever help at the deadline and traded for closer Paul Sewald, but adding either Moore or Lopez would further supplement the unit.

The Giolito question is whether the D-backs believe he could be more valuable down the stretch than Slade Cecconi in the starting rotation. Giolito has thrown in postseason pushes before, unlike much of Arizona’s rotation. Cecconi has been effective, but he only has three MLB starts entering the final month of a tight race.

The D-backs have 17 games in a row coming up, so any and all pitching depth could make a difference.

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