Alex Anthopolous and his Blue Jays were a well-oiled waiver-claiming machine for the last two weeks of October. Starting on October 17th, the Jays claimed Scott Cousins, Cory Wade, Tyson Brummett, Bobby Wilson, David Herndon and Scott Maine off waivers.
This is a group, as a whole, with 1.6 career WAR. Still, these moves aren’t about filling high-profile roster spots, they were about depth, and the Blue Jays had 40-man roster spots open. The problem is, they wouldn’t stay open for long. The Jays had six players on the 60-day disabled list, and those players would eventually need the spots taken by those marginal waiver claims.
Chances are, though, at least a few of these players were never intended to remain on the 40-man roster. Tyson Brummett was ourighted and passed through waivers unclaimed this time around — unsurprisingly, as he has just 0.2 MLB innings at age 28. This is what Anthopolous and the Jays were likely trying to accomplish — pass these players through waivers to create depth beyond the 40-man roster, an are he had to dip early and often in 2012 as the Jays suffered constant injuries.
The latest two couldn’t sneak through — the Jays designated David Herndon and Scott Cousins for assignment on Halloween, but both were claimed yesterday by the Yankees and Mariners respectively.
Currently, the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster stands at 39. If the Jays need to add players to protect them from the Rule V draft or to sign any major league free agents, we can expect to see the Jays try and sneak a Wilson, Maine or Wade through waivers again. Even if they can’t, last season provides an excellent reason why to at least try.
The Jays received a total of -3.1 WAR from 17 players with sub-replacement seasons in 2012, covering 575 plate appearances and 183.2 innings pitched. If they can fill their upper minors with replacement level or slightly better depth, they could see a gain from three to six wins.
The risk was low — a mere $20,000 claim fee per player — and unlike many teams, the Jays had the 40-man roster spots and low waiver order to make use of this simple strategy. The payoff seems minimal, but for a team that was decimated by a lack of production from depth in 2012, it at least seems worth a try.