Monday, August 15, 2011

The waiver game

An interesting bit of gamesmanship climaxed Monday when the Twins traded outfielder Delmon Young to the Tigers. It's interesting on a couple of fronts. First of all, the Tigers, like the Indians when they traded for Ubaldo Jimenez, have chosen to strengthen an area that was already a team strength. The Tigers' hitting is their strength. Monday they added another hitter _ a hitter the Indians could have prevented the Tigers from acquiring.

The trade that sent Young to the Tigers started out as a waiver claim. The Twins put Young on waivers, the Tigers claimed him. At that point the Twins had three options. They could immediately pull Young off waivers and keep him. They could pull him off and attempt to work out a trade with the Tigers for Young. Or they could have simply let Young go to the Tigers in a straight waiver claim.

The Twins chose option number two, and ultimately traded Thome to the Twins for a minor leaguer. What's interesting is that the waiver claim process works in inverse order of teams' won-loss records. In other words, the second place Indians had a chance to claim Young before the Tigers did. So the Tribe could have claimed Young in order to prevent him from going to the first-place Tigers.

Obviously the Indians had no way of knowing whether or not the Tigers would claim Young, but the Tigers did _ and they got him. Young is having a very poor season, hitting .266 with 4 home runs and 32 RBI. However, last year Young had a big season, hitting .298 with 21 homers and 112 RBI. He is, moreover, a right-handed hitter, which the Indians need.

Young's salary this year is $5.375 million, of which only about $1 million remains, which is what the Tigers will be responsible for. Why did the Indians not claim Young? They apparently feel that he isn't much of an upgrade over what they have in left field, although I might dispute that. I don't recall any Indians outfielder driving in 100 runs the last couple years. The Indians also probably felt their chances of re-signing Young after the season were slim.

Young can become a free agent after the season. He'll turn 26 next month and will probably be looking for a big contract this winter. The Indians must not feel Young is worth the kind of money he is going to be looking for as a free agent, so the Tribe passed on claiming him on waivers.

Now they have to hope that Young's bat doesn't help push the Tigers further ahead of the Indians in the AL Central race.


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