Critique of a front office is easy to make in the midst of a deeply disappointing season. While many fans are languishing over the incoming July trade deadline, I've heard a lot of complaints about the lack of waiver claims made this season by the Minnesota Twins.
Why are the Twins continuing to trot out the likes of Colomé, Happ, and (formerly) Shoemaker, when the front office can claim replacement-level players from other teams for essentially nothing?
The outright waiver transaction process is a deeply complicated one. Whenever a team wants to remove a player that is already on the 40-man roster, that player must first be offered to each of the other 29 major league teams. If another team claims that player, the player goes on that new team's 40-man roster. The full definition from MLB can be found here.
Because I'm insane, and this season is awful, I decided to compile a list of every player that the Falvey/Levine front office has claimed from other organizations, in addition to players they've lost via waiver claims.
How have they fared in the waiver claim game? Should they pick up the pace, now that they have nothing to lose? Do these claims actually amount to anything?
These questions are important... but so is the trip down memory lane, once you read some of these names.
Players Acquired Via Waiver Claim
|Date of Claim||Player Claimed||Position||Team Claimed From||fWAR in Minnesota|
|2/6/2017||Ehire Adrianza||UTL IF||San Francisco Giants||2.1|
|5/10/2017||Adam Wilk||LHP||New York Mets||-0.2|
|6/7/2017||Chris Heston||RHP||Los Angeles Dodgers||0.0|
|3/24/2018||Kenny Vargas||1B||Cincinatti Reds||-|
|4/26/2018||David Hale||RHP||New York Yankees||-0.2|
|5/28/2018||Taylor Motter||UTL||Seattle Mariners||-0.3|
|8/3/2018||Johnny Field||RF||Cleveland Indians||0.1|
|8/3/2018||Oliver Drake||RHP||Cleveland Indians||0.2|
|10/31/2018||Michael Reed||CF||Atlanta Braves||-|
|11/26/2018||C.J. Cron||1B||Tampa Bay Rays||0.3|
|10/29/2019||Matt Wisler||RHP||Seattle Mariners||0.6|
|10/30/2020||Ian Gibault||RHP||Texas Rangers||-|
|10/30/2020||Brandon Waddell||LHP||Pittsburgh Pirates||-0.3|
|2/5/2021||Ian Hamilton||RHP||Philadelphia Phillies||-|
|2/11/2021||Kyle Garlick||RF||Atlanta Braves||0.3|
|6/22/2021||Beau Burrows||RHP||Detroit Tigers||-|
The Twins have claimed a total of 16 players from opposing organizations since Falvey/Levine took over after the 2016 World Series. Of these 16 claims, their most consequential claim was their very first one. Ehire Adrianza was never a star, but a very productive role player for a number of contending Twins teams.
After that, the list isn't so impressive. Matt Wisler was great at slinging sliders in the bullpen during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but the Twins cut him last offseason in a puzzling move. C.J. Cron and the currently-injured Kyle Garlick have been the largest "successes" outside of Adrianza and Wisler, each account for 0.3 fWAR as right-handed hitters that were acquired to mash left-handed pitching.
Most of these players did not remain on the 40-man roster for a long time. Quite a few were lost to waivers shortly after the Twins acquired them, which include Kenny Vargas, Johnny Field, Oliver Drake, and Brandon Waddell. Such is the life on the waiver wire for many MLB players.
Players Lost Via Waiver Claim
|Date of Claim||Player||Position||Team Claimed By||fWAR after Minnesota|
|11/18/2016||Adam Brett Walker||LF||Milwaukee Brewers||-|
|8/26/2017||Tim Melville||RHP||San Diego Padres||-0.2|
|9/14/2017||Engelb Vielma||SS||San Francisco Giants||-0.1|
|11/3/2017||Randy Rosario||LHP||Chicago Cubs||-0.3|
|11/3/2017||Daniel Palka||OF||Chicago White Sox||-0.7|
|11/6/2017||Nik Turley||LHP||Pittsburgh Pirates||0.2|
|1/22/2018||Buddy Boshers||LHP||Houston Astros||0.1|
|2/23/2018||JT Chargois||RHP||Los Angeles Dodgers||0.5|
|3/22/2018||Kenny Vargas||1B||Cincinatti Reds||-|
|7/9/2018||Ryan LaMarre||CF||Chicago White Sox||0.4|
|10/10/2018||Juan Graterol||C||Cincinatti Reds||-0.2|
|11/1/2018||Johnny Field||RF||Chicago Cubs||-|
|11/1/2018||Oliver Drake||RHP||Tampa Bay Rays||0.4|
|1/11/2019||Aaron Slegers||RHP||Pittsburgh Pirates||0.4|
|5/26/2019||Austin Adams||RHP||Detroit Tigers||-0.1|
|7/20/2019||Adalberto Mejia||LHP||Los Angeles Angels||0.0|
|8/14/2019||Ryan Eades||RHP||Baltimore Orioles||-0.2|
|9/16/2019||Marcos Diplan||RHP||Detroit Tigers||-|
|11/4/2019||Stephen Gonsalves||LHP||New York Mets||-|
|9/5/2020||Ildemaro Vargas||2B||Chicago Cubs||-0.5|
|10/1/2020||Sean Poppen||RHP||Pittsburgh Pirates||-0.1|
|5/8/2021||Brandon Waddell||LHP||Baltimore Orioles||0|
|5/14/2021||Travis Blankenhorn||2B||Los Angeles Dodgers||-0.1|
|6/5/2021||Dakota Chalmers||RHP||Chicago Cubs||-|
|6/18/2021||Shaun Anderson||RHP||Texas Rangers||-|
You'll immediately notice this list of players lost via waivers during the Falvyey/Levine regime is a lot longer than the list of players they've acquired via waivers. All together, they have lost 25 players, which is 9 more players than they've claimed from other teams.
The good news for the organization, is that this cumulative list has not come back to bite them. 10 of the 25 claimed players provided negative value for their new teams, after departing Minnesota. Daniel Palka's 2017 season really sunk this group, as he posted a -1.4 fWAR in only 93 plate appearances for the White Sox (after he provided 0.7 fWAR and a 109 wRC+ in 2018).
The largest losses from this group have definitely been in the relief category, highlighted by JT Chargois, Oliver Drake, and Aaron Slegers. However, most of these players have had inconsistent careers, injuries, or both, in their time after playing for Minnesota.
Even when factoring in some bullpen pieces this organization might regret losing, the total fWAR from these players after departing the Twins is -0.5 fWAR. The current front office has been right far more than wrong, when deciding how to churn the 40-man roster.
Yearly Trends And Overall Takeaway
|Year||Players Claimed From Other Teams||Players Claimed By Other Teams|
Overall, the Twins have gained 3.1 fWAR from their decisions to gain and lose players from the waiver wire. That's a pretty decent result for a type of front office transaction that is often overlooked. It averages out to about 0.69 fWAR per season, factoring in the 4.5 seasons of the Falvey/Levine regime.
Most of that waiver activity came in 2017 and 2018, when the front office was still adjusting to their inherited players from the previous front office. Successful teams don't always gamble roster spots on players exposed to outright waivers, which is evident in the 2019 team.
One major caveat to point out across the yearly trend is that teams were probably hesitant to claim players from other organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic, so 2020 and early 2021 should be viewed through that lens.
However, that didn't stop the Twins from claiming 3 bullpen arms (Ian Gibault, Brandon Waddell, and Ian Hamilton), and Kyle Garlick this offseason. The jury is still out on these claims, but Waddell did not go well.
The most interesting thing about 2021 is that the Twins lost 4 players during their early season free-fall (Brandon Waddell, Travis Blankenhorn, Dakota Chalmers, and Shaun Anderson), before claiming Beau Burrows a few weeks ago from the Detroit Tigers.
Is former first-round draft pick Beau Burrows the tip of the iceberg? Now that 2021 is officially kaput, will the front office be more aggressive?
I sure hope so. Moves will be made in the next few weeks, and this 40-man roster will be significantly different as we approach the trade deadline. The 40-man roster will likely be smaller, and the Twins will be in front of the line when contenders have to cut players to account for their deadline additions.
Waiver claims are rarely sexy transactions, but sometimes you stumble into a Ehire Adrianza or a Matt Wisler. The Twins have proven to be more successful than not when it comes to their waiver claim game. It's time to play, because there's simply nothing to lose.