After making a flurry of acquisitions last week, the Toronto Blue Jays realized they had no room on their 25-man roster, and designated Danny Valencia for assignment.
The Oakland Athletics were first on the American League waiver claim order and swiftly picked him up.
I was shocked to see that of all the Jays players, Valencia was the guy they decided to DFA, considering the impressive numbers he’s putting up this year. He’s slashing .296/.331/.506 with a wRC+ of 129. Even though he only has 173 plate appearances, he’s posted a 0.9 fWAR on the season.
He value doesn’t stop there. The 30-year-old played five positions for the Blue Jays this year, first, second and third base as well as both corner outfield spots.
But even if you don’t buy into Valencia’s overall numbers this year (which is understandable, as his career wRC+ is only 95), you can’t deny that he’s always been a threat against lefties. His career line against lefties is .326/.468/.497 and his versatility makes him easy to fit into a lineup.
Despite Valencia’s production this year, the move actually makes sense for the Blue Jays. They couldn’t send down Munenori Kawasaki or they wouldn’t have a backup shortstop, and for the most part Valencia wasn’t a very good fit for this Jays roster. He’s another right-handed hitter that destroys lefties in a lineup full of such players, and Ben Revere would have taken away most of his playing time regardless. The Jays didn’t need him, and wouldn’t be able to play him often anyway.
The A’s must be happy. After losing Ben Zobrist, they were able to pick up a somewhat comparable player for effectively nothing. Not only that but Valencia is arbitration-eligible and under A’s control until 2017.
This got me thinking, is Valencia the best player to be claimed off of mid-season waivers in the last decade? Has there been a player as successful as Valencia been claimed and switched teams in recent memory?
Sam Fuld was a great claim by the Twins in 2014. They got him for nothing from the A’s, then after Fuld hit .274/.370 in 53 games the Twins traded him back to the A’s for Tommy Milone. As good as this was for Minnesota, Fuld couldn’t hit before he was claimed by the Twins or after he was traded back to the A’s, so definitely not as good as Valencia.
Alex Rios switched teams in 2009 when the White Sox decided to claim his ridiculous contract during their playoff push. Rios was a star player in previous years, but in 2009 his production sank, and during his time with the Blue Jays and White Sox he posted a -0.1 fWAR and a measly .247/.296/.395 line. Rios was better during the next few years, but still wasn’t worth the $12.5 million he was making every season.
The Blue Jays claimed Edwin Encarnacion from the Reds in 2009, although Encarnacion was terrible when the Reds let him go, and didn’t become a force at the plate for the Blue Jays until 2012. This also was a trade, the Jays weren’t able to select Encarnacion off waivers for free.
The White Sox received 38-year-old Manny Ramirez from the Dodgers from waivers in 2010, and he hit a solid .311/.405/.510 with LA. With that said, Manny couldn’t play the field, hit badly with the White Sox and was making nearly $19 million. His career was over a year later.
Cody Ross was let go by the Marlins in 2010 and claimed by the Giants. He was hitting .265/.316/.405 line for the Marlins and played well for them during the regular season and run to the world series.
I really can’t find a player that was as good, affordable and versatile as Valencia to get claimed in recent history, especially to get claimed for nothing (if anyone can, please let me know). It’s rare a player as good as Valencia gets outright DFA and claimed off waivers. Normally the only players in his situation are either downright bad or under an absurd contract. The A’s should consider themselves lucky.