I was curious how the performance of Red Sox waiver claims compared to the rest of the league, so I took a deeper look.
- Players claimed from late October, 2019 through the end of calendar 2021.
- WAR accumulated during 2020, 2021, and 2022 based on Fangraphs (fWAR).
- Salary totals reflect salary considered in luxury tax calculations, not necessarily cash dispensed.
- 2022 WAR and Salary are captured but only for players claimed from late October, 2019 through the end of calendar 2021.
- The Rule 5 Draft is excluded, in part because there are distinct rules for retaining draftees but in larger part because the total Rule 5 pool is fewer than 30 players from just two drafts.
- WAR and Salary are captured as long as the player continuously remains with the organization, even if they— like John Schreiber— are removed from the 40-man roster and later restored.
The median major league team has accumulated negligible WAR during this period. Ten of the 30 clubs have accumulated between -0.2 WAR and 0.1 WAR. Of these 10, only the Braves
have made significant investments in salary or roster space. $2.0m of the Braves’ $2.7m was paid to Guillermo Heredia, whose 0.8 WAR was offset by Travis Demeritte’s -0.5 WAR and Robbie Erlin’s -0.3 WAR.
By comparison, the Red So
x have performed well. The Red Sox have accumulated 2.5 WAR while paying claimed players $4.5m, including 1.8 WAR from Schreiber while paying him $620k. Boston has, however, committed a significant amount of 40-man roster space to claimed players. Josh Osich and Andrew Triggs may have been forgettable but cannot be forgotten. Claimed players occupied six spots between 8/13/20 and 10/26/20. Seven claimed players were rostered between 9/4/21 and 9/6/21, but COVID replacements during that September stretch altered the typical limits of the 40-man roster.
Teams most similar to the Red Sox are the Cubs
. The Cubs have accumulated 2.8 WAR but have paid claimed players $11.3m, driven by paying Wade Miley $10.0m for 0.5 WAR in 2022. The Angels have accumulated 2.3 WAR while paying claimed players $5.9m but 2022 was significantly worse than the prior two seasons. After accumulating 3.0 WAR while paying claimed players $2.1m through 2021, in 2022 the Angels paid Mike Mayers more than that for -0.9 WAR.
Just three other teams have accumulated more than 1.5 WAR, but those three have distinguished themselves from the Red Sox, Cubs, and Angels.
At first glance, the Mariners
accumulating 2.4 WAR while paying claimed players $4.7m seems very similar to the Red Sox. The Mariners’ advantage is a player that accumulated 0.2 WAR and was last rostered in August, 2020. Seattle claimed Taylor Williams from Milwaukee in February, 2020. At the time, his addition appeared no more consequential than the Red Sox’ corresponding claim of Phillips Valdez and Williams’ six weeks in the Mariners bullpen did little to change that perception. At the end of August, the Mariners traded Williams to the Padres in exchange for a player to be named later.
Claimed players like Red Sox legend Easton McGee often are subsequently traded for cash considerations. Less frequently, claimed players subsequently have smaller roles in a larger trades, such as Aramis Garcia being included in the Elvis Andrus-Khris Davis deal that netted the Rangers Jonah Heim. The Williams trade was a two-player deal, though, and the player later named was Matt Brash. Brash moved from the rotation to the bullpen during his 2022 major league debut and thrived in a relief role. Brash’s 0.6 WAR are not included in the Mariners’ 2.4 cumulative WAR above, but he appears as likely to continue contributing beyond 2022 as any player claimed from late October, 2019 through 2021.
’ first claim during this period did not come until April, 2021, when they claimed Ashton Goudeau during the reliever’s National League West tour that also included appearances with the Giants and Rockies over the same two-week span. During the next five months, the Dodgers would claim players that have accumulated 2.9 WAR while being paid $2.15m, driven almost entirely by Phil Bickford and particularly Evan Phillips. Jimmie Sherfy was the only other of the Dodgers’ eight claims to be paid more than $24.5k or to be rostered more than two weeks. This combination of economic efficiency and effective roster management is especially remarkable considering that the Dodgers have spent most of this time with among the lowest claim priorities.
However, having among the highest claim priorities is no guarantee of success. Their perennial place in the National League Central’s cellar has not profited the Pirates
, whose treasure remains well-hidden after accumulating a major league-worst -1.6 WAR while paying claimed players $7.2m. Michael Perez’s -1.5 WAR may speak to how teams value catcher defense differently than public metrics, but it might also speak to the Pirates’ perennial place in the National League Central’s cellar.
The birds in the basement of the American League East during this period have taken much better advantage of similar opportunities. The Orioles
have accumulated 9.4 WAR while paying claimed players $9.6m. Baltimore boasts both the player with the most single-season WAR (Jorge Mateo’s 2.8 WAR in 2022) and the player with the most cumulative WAR (Ramon Urias’s 3.6 WAR). In 2022, the Orioles rostered four claimed players with 1.0 WAR or more (Mateo, Urias, Bryan Baker, and Cionel Perez) and traded a fifth with 0.9 WAR through July (Jorge Lopez) for four pitching prospects, including Cade Povich.
While the Red Sox have performed well relative to much of the league, the Dodgers and Mariners have demonstrated clear advantages in efficiency and sustainability while the Orioles have been a class unto themselves.