The Ohio Teams Actually Did Something Productive

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Angels surprised everyone on Tuesday when they placed six veterans from their big league roster on waivers. Four of the players — Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López, Randal Grichuk, and Dominic Leone — were recently acquired by the Angels at the trade deadline, while the final two — Hunter Renfroe and Matt Moore — had been picked up last offseason. The Yankees followed suit by placing center fielder Harrison Bader on waivers. With waiver claim priority going from the team with the worst record to the best, the teams at the back end of the playoff races got first dibs. The Cleveland Guardians and Cincinnati Reds, two teams that would miss the playoffs if the season ended today, scooped up five of these seven players, with the Mariners grabbing a sixth in Leone. Only Grichuk went unclaimed. Carlos Carrasco, José Cisnero, and Mike Clevinger also joined the waiver wire without attracting any interest.

The Guardians were the most active team, adding Giolito, López, and Moore. Giolito was one of the bigger names traded at the deadline, and the Angels thought enough of him at the time to give up Edgar Quero, our 51st-ranked prospect, and former second-rounder Ky Bush in order to bring him and López to LA for one last-gasp attempt to grab a playoff spot. Giolito was a disaster for the Angels. His ERA and FIP were both near seven, and he only managed quality starts in two of his six attempts. López fared somewhat better, but was rather adventure-prone, only throwing a clean 1-2-3 inning once in 13 games for the Halos. Moore had a solid year in Los Angeles, but he can be fairly tricky to use, as he doesn’t have the typical profile of a lefty reliever, with his changeup and his knuckle-curve significantly tougher for righties to hit than lefties these days.

A starting pitcher was just what the Guardians needed. Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie are both out with significant injuries, and if they return at all this season, it will only be at the very end. Gavin Williams just left a start with a sore knee and Cal Quantrill is only just returning from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him since early July. The bullpen is in better shape, but Moore and López do at least provide additional depth. The Guardian bullpen now ranks sixth in our depth chart rankings.

While Giolito ought to pitch better in Cleveland than he did in Los Angeles, there’s a big problem with this acquisition: the date. Bieber, McKenzie, and Quantrill were all injured long before the deadline, yet the team did practically nothing productive to address the needs of their rotation. In fact, they did less than nothing, sending their most effective starter this season, Aaron Civale, to the Rays for Kyle Manzardo, while picking up a struggling Noah Syndergaard. While one can make a solid case for preferring Manzardo to Civale over the long haul, it certainly wasn’t a move about making the 2023 team better, and Syndergaard has since been released. So this is a curious time to suddenly start worrying about the 2023 pennant race.

The Guardians’ playoff probability isn’t zero, but a lot needs to go right for them to play meaningful October baseball. The team stands at five games behind the Twins with 28 games to play — not an insurmountable deficit, but still a significant one. To get an idea how much this moves the needle, I ran the ZiPS projected standings both before Cleveland’s waiver claims and after:

ZiPS Projected Standings – AL Central (Before)
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win%
Minnesota Twins 84 78 .519 95.4% 0.0% 95.4% 4.3%
Cleveland Guardians 77 85 7 .475 4.1% 0.0% 4.1% 0.1%
Detroit Tigers 74 88 10 .457 0.6% 0.0% 0.6% 0.0%
Chicago White Sox 65 97 19 .401 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Kansas City Royals 52 110 32 .321 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

ZiPS Projected Standings – AL Central (Now)
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win%
Minnesota Twins 84 78 .519 93.4% 0.0% 93.4% 4.3%
Cleveland Guardians 77 85 7 .475 6.1% 0.0% 6.1% 0.1%
Detroit Tigers 74 88 10 .457 0.5% 0.0% 0.5% 0.0%
Chicago White Sox 65 97 19 .401 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Kansas City Royals 52 110 32 .321 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

At least according to ZiPS’ estimates of relative team strengths, if you played the final month of the season 50 times (against the fervent pleas of Mets fans), you’d expect the three waiver-wire pickups to flip the AL Central winner one time.

Now let’s take a drive down I-71 and visit the Reds. Like the Guardians, the Reds didn’t do anything particularly helpful for the 2023 season at the deadline, only picking up Sam Moll from the Oakland A’s. Adding Renfroe and Bader does give the team more flexibility in the short term. With Matt McLain, Jonathan India, Jake Fraley, and Joey Votto all currently out with injuries, outfield depth and a couple right-handed bats were certainly on the shopping list, and that’s what their two new additions provide. Renfroe’s the better hitter of the two and has experience at all four corners, while Bader remains a Gold Glove-caliber defensive player in center. The Reds are currently in the better playoff position than the Guardians, only a game and a half behind the last Wild Card spot through Thursday’s games. However, it’s not quite as strong position as one may think, as they’re fighting three other teams for that last Wild Card spot. So, let’s run the standings a couple more times.

ZiPS Projected Standings – NL Central (Before)
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff%
Milwaukee Brewers 89 73 .549 72.8% 23.0% 95.8%
Chicago Cubs 86 76 3 .531 26.7% 54.6% 81.3%
Cincinnati Reds 80 82 9 .494 0.5% 7.8% 8.2%
St. Louis Cardinals 72 90 17 .444 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Pittsburgh Pirates 73 89 16 .451 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

ZiPS Projected Standings – NL Central (Now)
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff%
Milwaukee Brewers 89 73 .549 72.3% 23.0% 95.3%
Chicago Cubs 86 76 3 .531 26.8% 53.5% 80.3%
Cincinnati Reds 81 81 8 .500 0.9% 11.2% 12.1%
Pittsburgh Pirates 73 89 16 .451 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
St. Louis Cardinals 72 90 17 .444 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

Cincinnati’s additions project to be about twice as impactful as Cleveland’s. A four-percent boost in playoff probability actually would have ranked the Reds third in baseball at the deadline.

Both Ohio teams had weaknesses in their teams that they at least partially addressed via the waiver wire. While both improved their chances at making the playoffs, one can’t help but wonder what might have been if moves of similar quality had been made a month ago.





Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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MarkZmember
7 months ago

> Renfroe’s the better hitter of the two and has experience at all four corners

Is this including DH as a corner? I had no recollection of him playing 3B and his fangraphs page seems to agree. Maybe in spring training?

Trevor May Care Attitude
7 months ago
Reply to  MarkZ

Like the fourth wall, the fourth corner exists only in our minds.

Trevor May Care Attitude
7 months ago

*third wall

(Edit function appears to be on the fritz.)

fjtorres
7 months ago
Reply to  Dan Szymborski

Been there, done that.
Hard to keep’em straight, sometimes..