What You Can Expect from a Player Claimed Off Waivers

Outfielder Cam Perkins was claimed off waivers by the Seattle Mariners about a month ago now. As deals go, it wasn’t particularly notable for anyone but the parties immediately involved. Originally selected by Philadelphia in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, Perkins has exhibited signs of promise during his ascent through the minors, demonstrating a capacity for contact that’s uncommon for players who also possess his game power. Perkins has also complemented that offensive profile with sufficient athleticism to play if not necessarily to thrive in center field. He’s an interesting player. Flawed, but interesting.

That said, the Phillies’ 40-man roster was full en route to the Winter Meetings. If the club had any designs on selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft — or creating flexibility for any other reason — it was necessary to part ways with at least one player. Whatever Perkins’ virtues, Philadelphia also possesses a number of interesting other outfielders. Interesting and, presumably, less flawed.

So now the Mariners have him — and could very well have some use for him in 2018. As for how useful Perkins could be to Seattle, there are a few ways to estimate that. The prorated Steamer projections, for example, call for him to produce 0.3 WAR for every 600 plate appearances currently. Chris Mitchell’s KATOH system, meanwhile, forecasts 2.2 WAR over Perkins’ six team-controlled years — or, roughly 0.4 wins per annum. Lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen, reached by way of talking across the room, gives Perkins a 40 Future Value grade, or roughly equivalent to one win per season at his peak.

Those are all valid methods for estimating possible value. What I propose to do here is provide another one. Perhaps less useful but not entirely without worth.

Major-league clubs have pretty sophisticated means by which to estimate talent. As such, they’re unlikely ever to waive a player who could serve some real use to their club. At the same time, because of those sophisticated evaluation methods, prospective “claiming” teams are unlikely to allocate a spot on their 40-man roster to a player incapable of serving some minimal use to their club. A player, then, who’s been both placed on and then claimed off waivers hypothetically occupies a somewhat narrow band of value. The very fact that a player has been waived and claimed ought, theoretically, to reveal how the league is evaluating him.

Assuming that line of reason has some merit, let’s attempt to calculate (roughly) what that value is. A reasonably careful examination of the data reveals that 107 different players have changed hands by way of waivers over the last three offseasons (where “offseason” is defined as November 1 to March 30th). What sort of value did those players provide in the season following their waiver claim?

There are a few ways to answer the question. First, let’s just look at the best players by this criteria. Here are the top-10 seasons produced by a player waived and claimed during the last three offseason.

Top-10 Offseason Waiver Claims, Last Three Years
Player Pos Year PA/BF WAR
Scooter Gennett 2B 2017 497 2.4
Christian Friedrich LHP 2016 567 1.8
Dan Otero RHP 2016 269 1.6
Blake Parker RHP 2017 254 1.6
Dominic Leone RHP 2017 279 1.5
Kirk Nieuwenhuis OF 2016 392 1.0
Ehire Adrianza SS 2017 186 1.0
Andrew Triggs RHP 2016 238 0.9
Tony Wolters C 2016 230 0.9
Jeremy Hazelbaker OF 2017 61 0.9
Year denotes how player performed in season following waiver claim.

Selected off waivers by Cincinnati just before the start of the 2017 campaign, Scooter Gennett proceeded to produce a career season for the Reds, hitting 27 home runs (including four in a single game) and recording more than two wins for his new club. He enters the 2018 season as Cincinnati’s starting second baseman.

That’s a pretty good outcome for all parties involved. It also represents something like the best-case scenario. As you can see, only one of the 107 players in this sample crossed the two-win threshold the season after being claimed. Only seven players (or, roughly 7%) crossed the one-win threshold. Gennett’s success is complemented — overwhelmed, really — by a collection of much, much more modest seasons.

So let’s take a look at the entire sample. Below is a large table including both (a) all 107 players acquired via waivers over the last three offseasons and also (b) some very basic data about their performances in the season following their waiver claim, data including plate appearances (for hitters), batters faced (for pitchers), and WAR. Owing to its aforementioned length, I’ve hidden the table in something called an “accordion widget,” which one can expand by clicking below.

Players Acquired by Waivers, Last Three Offseasons

Players Acquired by Waivers, Last Three Offseasons
Player Pos Year PA/BF WAR
Scooter Gennett 2B 2017 497 2.4
Christian Friedrich LHP 2016 567 1.8
Dan Otero RHP 2016 269 1.6
Blake Parker RHP 2017 254 1.6
Dominic Leone RHP 2017 279 1.5
Kirk Nieuwenhuis OF 2016 392 1.0
Ehire Adrianza SS 2017 186 1.0
Andrew Triggs RHP 2016 238 0.9
Tony Wolters C 2016 230 0.9
Jeremy Hazelbaker OF 2017 61 0.9
Chris Colabello OF 2015 360 0.8
A.J. Schugel RHP 2016 204 0.6
Will Harris RHP 2015 276 0.5
Ronald Torreyes INF 2016 168 0.5
Nori Aoki OF 2017 374 0.4
Peter Bourjos OF 2016 383 0.3
Logan Verrett RHP 2015 190 0.2
Chase Whitley RHP 2016 61 0.2
Christian Walker 1B 2017 15 0.2
Josh Smith RHP 2017 151 0.1
Donn Roach RHP 2015 18 0.1
Ryan Weber RHP 2017 14 0.1
John Hicks C 2016 2 0.1
Shane Peterson OF 2015 226 0.0
Willy Garcia OF 2017 119 0.0
Ryan Lavarnway C 2015 106 0.0
Leonel Campos RHP 2017 60 0.0
Zach Lee RHP 2017 41 0.0
Kyle Drabek RHP 2015 26 0.0
Ashur Tolliver LHP 2017 22 0.0
Chad Smith RHP 2015 13 0.0
Matt West RHP 2015 11 0.0
Jake Esch RHP 2017 2 0.0
Andrew Lambo OF 2016 1 0.0
Alex Hassan OF 2015 0 0.0
Carlos Rivero INF 2015 0 0.0
Eric Fornataro RHP 2015 0 0.0
Jandel Gustave RHP 2015 0 0.0
Josh Lindblom RHP 2015 0 0.0
Josh Zeid RHP 2015 0 0.0
Juan Francisco CIF 2015 0 0.0
Juan Oramas LHP 2015 0 0.0
Mike Kickham LHP 2015 0 0.0
Onelki Garcia LHP 2015 0 0.0
Preston Claiborne RHP 2015 0 0.0
Scott Barnes LHP 2015 0 0.0
Taylor Thompson RHP 2015 0 0.0
Bobby LaFromboise LHP 2016 0 0.0
C.J. Riefenhauser LHP 2016 0 0.0
Daniel Fields OF 2016 0 0.0
Danny Reynolds RHP 2016 0 0.0
Edgar Olmos LHP 2016 0 0.0
Guido Knudson RHP 2016 0 0.0
Jack Leathersich LHP 2016 0 0.0
Joey Butler OF 2016 0 0.0
Joey Terdoslavich COR 2016 0 0.0
Lane Adams OF 2016 0 0.0
Mike Strong LHP 2016 0 0.0
Rob Brantly C 2016 0 0.0
Rob Rasmussen LHP 2016 0 0.0
Ryan Cook RHP 2016 0 0.0
Sean Nolin LHP 2016 0 0.0
Tim Berry LHP 2016 0 0.0
Yoervis Medina RHP 2016 0 0.0
Adam Walker OF 2017 0 0.0
Adrian Sampson RHP 2017 0 0.0
Brady Dragmire RHP 2017 0 0.0
Conor Mullee RHP 2017 0 0.0
David Rollins LHP 2017 0 0.0
Dean Kiekhefer LHP 2017 0 0.0
Edwin Escobar LHP 2017 0 0.0
Elvis Araujo LHP 2017 0 0.0
Giovanni Soto LHP 2017 0 0.0
Jason Coats OF 2017 0 0.0
Joe Mantiply LHP 2017 0 0.0
Kevin Chapman LHP 2017 0 0.0
Nefi Ogando RHP 2017 0 0.0
Richie Shaffer OF 2017 0 0.0
Steve Geltz RHP 2017 0 0.0
Tim Cooney LHP 2017 0 0.0
Tyler Wagner RHP 2017 0 0.0
Tyrell Jenkins RHP 2017 0 0.0
Vicente Campos RHP 2017 0 0.0
Gonzalez Germen RHP 2015 176 -0.1
Edgar Olmos LHP 2015 67 -0.1
Dylan Floro RHP 2017 45 -0.1
Junior Lake OF 2016 39 -0.1
Daniel Robertson OF 2016 21 -0.1
Steve Selsky OF 2017 9 -0.1
Josmil Pinto C 2016 6 -0.1
Jordan Danks OF 2015 4 -0.1
Jorge Rondon RHP 2015 81 -0.2
Rob Brantly C 2015 36 -0.2
Andy Wilkins 1B 2016 27 -0.2
Nolan Fontana SS 2017 23 -0.2
J.B. Shuck OF 2015 165 -0.3
Eury Perez OF 2015 133 -0.3
Michael Mariot RHP 2016 95 -0.3
Pedro Florimon INF 2015 25 -0.3
Ryan Jackson INF 2015 14 -0.3
Lisalverto Bonilla RHP 2017 172 -0.4
A.J. Achter RHP 2016 160 -0.4
Juan Graterol C 2017 87 -0.4
Jerry Sands OF 2016 58 -0.4
Tuffy Gosewisch C 2017 31 -0.6
Jake Elmore INF 2015 158 -1.0
Marc Krauss OF 2015 81 -1.1

What one one notices immediately is the number of waiver-wire additions who never appeared on the field for the acquiring club in the proceeding season. This can happen for a number of reasons. Players are frequently passed back through waivers so that the claiming organization can assign them to a minor-league club. Other players, like Cam Perkins himself, have options remaining when they’re claimed. Still others are placed on the disabled list or leave baseball altogether.

In any case, it appears as though 49 of the 107 players (46%) claimed over the last three offseason have failed to record a single plate appearance or batter faced in the subsequent campaign. Here’s the observed playing time for the players from our sample.

Again, it’s important to note: the data here concerns only the player’s performance in the season just following the offseason in which he was claimed. Obviously, the fact that the Reds have control over Scooter Gennett for both 2018 and -19 is of considerable benefit to them. In a different way, the options remaining on Cam Perkins’ contract mean that his best season with the Mariners’ major-league club might not occur for several years. In most cases, however, the performance of a player in the season after which he’s been claimed is indicative of his utility to the acquiring club. And what the numbers here suggest is that expecting a large contribution from such a player isn’t advisable.

So Cam Perkins — contrary to this author’s unflinchingly optimistic assessment — likely won’t make much of an impact in 2018. Same for left-hander Sam Moll (also claimed by the Mariners) or other left-hander Henry Owens (Dodgers) or infielder Engelb Vielma (Pirates). About half the players selected this offseason will play some role with their new clubs in 2018, though, and probably two or three of them will contribute something even more than that.

We hoped you liked reading What You Can Expect from a Player Claimed Off Waivers by Carson Cistulli!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

newest oldest most voted
luke.shigeo
Member
luke.shigeo

Shouldn’t Dan Strailey be somewhere on this list?

Carlos Baerga
Member
Carlos Baerga

Maybe he fell through the cracks since he was first traded, then waived 4 days later.
ETA: Whoops, I should have reloaded the page to check replies before I sent mine.

Tommy
Member
Tommy

Brad Hand is another that barely missed the cutoff. designated on April 3rd and picked up soon after.