Days after the Los Angeles Angels shocked the baseball world by placing Lucas Giolito, Randal Grichuk and three more significant contributors on waivers — essentially punting on the rest of the 2023 season and potentially flipping the postseason chase on its ear — two members of that group have found new homes. Per a report from Jeff Passan, the Cleveland Guardians have claimed Giolito along with relievers Reynaldo Lopez and Matt Moore.
The Cleveland Guardians claimed right-handed starter Lucas Giolito and right-handed reliever Reynaldo Lopez on waivers from the Los Angeles Angels, sources tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 31, 2023
The Guardians have also claimed LHP Matt Moore from the Angels on waivers, per source.— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) August 31, 2023
Buried under .500 — having shipped off Aaron Civale for prospect Kyle Manzardo at the trade deadline — most assumed that Cleveland was waving the white flag on what had been a disappointing 2023 season. But their 64-70 record meant that the Guardians had higher priority than just any other potential contender, giving them dibs on every player made available on waivers this week. (Waiver claims are processed in reverse standings order.) It also puts them a mere five games back of the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins, whom Cleveland just took two of three from earlier this week.
Adding Giolito, Moore and Lopez gives the team a chance to stay in the divisional race at very little risk — all three players are impending free agents, so the Guardians are only on the hook for a month’s salary. They also fill real holes on the team’s roster: Giolito gives Cleveland desperately needed rotation depth with Civale gone, Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie on the IL and rookie Gavin Williams tweaking his knee earlier this week. The righty pitched to an ugly 6.89 ERA in his short stint with the Angels, but he had a 3.79 ERA over 21 starts with the White Sox prior to that, and he’s intimately familiar with the more pitcher-friendly AL Central from his years spent in Chicago. (He also has a 3.73 ERA in 23 career starts against the Twins.)
Another way to help out a beleaguered starting staff? Keep loading up an already-formidable bullpen. Cleveland has the fifth-best reliever ERA in baseball this season, and they’ll only be stronger with the additions of Moore and Lopez. Moore, in particular, is a big get: For as good as Emmanuel Clase, Trevor Stephan, Enyol de los Santos and Co. have been, the Guardians lacked a reliable lefty option, making the southpaw Moore and his 2.66 ERA this season a terrific fit. Lopez got rocked in his most recent outing on Wednesday but had otherwise been very good in his short time in L.A., with a 2.77 ERA and 19 Ks in just 13 innings of work.
Of course, the Guardians remain pretty mediocre on paper, without much of an oomph on offense outside of Jose Ramirez and the injured Josh Naylor. Fangraphs had them at just a 5.2% chance of making the postseason entering the day, and that number doesn’t figure to go up too much even after these additions. But again, there’s hardly any risk at all here for Cleveland, and a five-game deficit in the division is far from insurmountable — especially with another series against Minnesota coming up next week. And once you make it to October, who knows what could happen?