Could Mariners add after MLB’s waiver bombshell? ESPN’s Olney weighs in

Aug 30, 2023, 11:51 AM

Seattle Mariners New York Yankees Harrison Bader...

Harrison Bader of the New York Yankees hits against the Seattle Mariners on June 21, 2023. (Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

(Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

A waiver wire bombshell Tuesday in MLB caught the attention of fans of the Seattle Mariners – or any team currently in a playoff race right now, for that matter.

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The Los Angeles Angels waived a number of recognizable names, including pitcher Lucas Giolito and outfielder Randal Grichuk, making them available to every other franchise before Friday’s deadline for postseason roster eligibility. The New York Yankees had their own smaller version, too, waiving third baseman Josh Donaldson and outfielder Harrison Bader.

All of the sudden, a potential opportunity has appeared for the Mariners to add a proven player despite the MLB trade deadline having passed nearly a month ago. But just how realistic is it that Seattle could be awarded one of these newly available players (at the price of their full remaining salary) on a waiver claim?

Longtime ESPN MLB senior writer Buster Olney joined Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Wednesday and shared his insight. For him, one player stands out as an option for the Mariners: Bader, who could provide the kind of offensive help against left-handed pitching that Seattle sorely missed in a 3-1 loss Tuesday night against the Oakland Athletics.

“I think for the Mariners, how they run the franchise, we’ve seen how aggressive they’ve been, we’ve seen the fan response, it would make sense to me to pick up Bader,” Olney said. “He is a terrific player when he’s swinging the bat well, he’s got experience, he plays with a ton of confidence. You saw him in the postseason last year, he was the Yankees’ best player besides Aaron Judge. It’s been a disappointing year this year (for Bader), but given the fact that he’s not making a lot of money, what, $5.2 million in salary? Which means the team claiming him, it’s less than a million dollars – absolutely (it makes sense to claim him).”

The issue, though, is the order that waiver claims go, which is in reverse order of overall record. That means each team with a worse record than Seattle will get a chance to claim any player on waivers before the Mariners, and some of those teams are in playoff races themselves.

Current MLB Standings: Division | Wild Card

“The question from the Mariners’ perspective is, because they’re down in the waiver claim pecking order, will they even have a chance to claim them?” Olney said. “He may not even get to them.”

Olney on the waiver chaos

The Angels’ decision to waive six notable players provided a shock to the baseball world. In the past, there was a separate trade deadline about a month after the regular trade deadline where teams could swap players once they’ve cleared waivers. That’s no longer an option, but the Angels and to a lesser extent the Yankees seem to be using a loophole to shed salary after they’ve fallen out of playoff contention.

Here’s how Olney made sense of it:

Arte Moreno, the Angels owner who made the decision to keep (Shohei) Ohtani (at the trade deadline), led to the Angels front office deciding, ‘Hey, we’re going to add. Since we can’t trade Ohtani, we might as well add and try to get better.’ It does feel like Arte Moreno flipping over the game board when he’s 10 years old – like, ‘It’s not working out so we’re just going to give up, we’re going to put everybody on waivers and we’re going to try to save as much money (as we can).’

I will say everybody I talked to last night said, you know, for an organization which historically has made a lot of bad decisions, this was a smart decision that’s allowable under the rules. The Angels, and now to a lesser degree the Yankees and probably other teams here in the next 24 hours, you know, essentially found a loophole in the rules they put in place in 2019 against waiver claims. But if you’re Major League Baseball, you really have to be concerned about the idea of getting to the end of August every year and this becoming a trend where all the non-contending teams are like, ‘You know what, let’s just cut everybody that was a veteran player who’s going to be a free agent, and then we can see if we can save a little bit of money.’ Because the reason why they put these rules in place, of course, in 2019, is that they wanted teams to stand on the integrity of their rosters for the bulk of the season, and not have a situation where you essentially had teams adding ringers late in the year going into the postseason. But that’s what we’re going to have now.

You know, if you look at a Harrison Bader potentially as a ringer, the Yankees outfielder who you assume would be claimed, you know, Lucas Giolito, Randal Grichuk, etc., you would assume that these guys, at least some of them, are going to be claimed.

… This a complete wildcard scenario that you know is not only sending front offices in a scramble, but probably really making some owners mad who are not interested in spending money, because in some ways this is going to be a referendum on the front office of the Boston Red Sox, whose fan base as you guys know are not happy with them. And other teams, like the Reds right now, probably could use a starting pitcher and Lucas Giolito would make sense, but the ownership might not be willing to take on an extra couple million dollars as we come down the stretch.

Listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation with Buster Olney in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

More on the Seattle Mariners

• The unsung player during Mariners’ hot streak? Teoscar Hernández
Passan: What about Mariners’ rise is and isn’t sustainable?
How good is Seattle Mariners’ pitching? It has the Astros worried
MLB insider Verducci: Why Seattle Mariners’ dominant pitching is different
Salk: Seattle Mariners in first place? Three things brought them here

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Could Mariners add after MLB’s waiver bombshell? ESPN’s Olney weighs in