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Who Wants Some Guys?

Lucas Giolito #24 of the Los Angeles Angels pitches in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 22, 2023 in Anaheim, California.
Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

I'm ready to call it: This MLB season has belonged to the Los Angeles Angels. It has not belonged to them in any way that they would have chosen or preferred, but the Angels' scent, or stink, has been all over the proceedings. Having most recently produced the saddest news of the 2023 season—Shohei Ohtani's UCL going kerblooey—the Angels did something on Tuesday that was good for a few chuckles: Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López, Randal Grichuk, Matt Moore, Dominic Leone, and Hunter Renfroe were all put on waivers.

It is not exactly common for an MLB team to dump nearly one-third of its active roster onto the waiver wire just 48 hours before MLB's waiver deadline. But why wouldn't the most uniquely disappointing team of the last half-decade do one more unprecedented thing as one of the sadder phases of its history comes to a close? Giving these roster moves that special whiff of Angels futility is the fact that Giolito, Grichuk, Leone, and López were all acquired via trade just a few weeks ago after the Halos decided to hang onto Ohtani and make one final, doomed push for the playoffs before his contract expires this winter. The Angels have fallen completely out of postseason contention since making those trades, and so now they've decided that the some guys who were previously worth surrendering top assets in order to acquire are now nothing more than salary dumps.

As tempting as it is to ascribe these moves to an organizational humiliation fetish, there is some sound logic behind the Angels putting all of these guys on waivers. None of these players' current contracts extend into next season, and none of them would warrant a qualifying offer in the offseason that could return draft compensation. The Angels' current payroll is also just over the edge of the competitive balance tax threshold, and they would be able to dip under that threshold if a few of these guys get claimed by other teams in the next day. Getting under the threshold wouldn't save the Angels much money—teams pay the CBT based on how much they go over the threshold—but it would put them in line to get a better future draft pick. When free agency opens in the winter, the Angels will extend a qualifying offer to Ohtani that will earn them a compensatory draft pick when he inevitably turns it down in order to sign with another team. By getting under the tax threshold, that pick will fall at the start of the third round rather than the start of the fifth. Finally, something for Angels fans to get excited about.

Is it kind of small-time and embarrassing for the Angels to be attempting to chuck major-league players off the roster for the sake of saving a few dollars and getting a slightly higher draft pick? Yes, but the Angels are small-time and embarrassing, and these are the kinds of decisions that a franchise has to end up making when every other decision it has made over the last few years has blown up in its face. The Angels aren't really losing anything here, aside from what few shreds of dignity remained. I doubt any fans of the team recently purchased tickets because they couldn't wait to see Randal Grichuk play.

If the Angels deserve any credit here, it's for injecting some genuine intrigue into this year's waiver deadline. All those players who are now available to be claimed weren't enough to get the Angels into the playoffs, but they could be valuable to a whole host of teams who are either still fighting for a spot or looking to shore up their rosters for the postseason. Giolito wasn't great in his starts for the Angels, but there is still pedigree there and he could be a useful fifth starter on a fringe contender; Moore is a solid lefty specialist out of the bullpen; López has kicked ass during his brief spell in L.A. and would be a boost to any team's bullpen; Grichuk has been awful in 104 plate appearances with the Angels, but he was slashing .308/.365/.496 before he got there. These are actual dudes who could still make a difference in some team's fate this year.

I can sense the doubt bubbling up in your mind as you read this. And you're right, the safe bet is on none of these guys making a mark in the weeks to come. But I do feel compelled to remind you of one thing: This is the season of the Los Angeles Angels. Don't come crying to me when Reynaldo López helps win a Game 7 for the Orioles by working out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the eighth, or when Grichuk hits a walk-off, pinch-hit home run to send the Cubs to the World Series.

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