It’s happened twice just in the last month: a player has been designated for assignment who seemed like a very good fit for the Rays and it seemed like the Rays just might acquire him. After the Oakland Athletics designated catcher George Kottaras for assignment, I wrote an article declaring him a player that the Rays were “absolutely going to go after” as a lefty-hitting offensive catcher who would have been an excellent candidate to split time behind the plate for the Rays with Jose Molina. Kottaras wound up going to the Royals on a waiver claim, with the A’s not receiving anything in return. The Royals didn’t even need a catcher too badly considering they have Salvador Perez ready for his first full-season in the major leagues and possessing star potential and then a halfway-decent player in Brett Hayes backing him up. Then over the past couple of weeks, Dereck discussed former Mariners 1B/OF Mike Carp as a player the Rays could acquire, initially writing about him before he got designated for assignment and then saying after the Mariners did DFA him that acquiring him would “fit right into the Rays’ wheelhouse” as a low-cost player who could be a good hitter with power and see time at first base and the outfield. What happened? Carp anticlimactically went to the Red Sox for a player-to-be-named. The Red Sox had signed Lyle Overbay as a minor league free agent as a candidate to play the type of backup first baseman and lefty bat of the bench role that Carp is set to fill for them, and now Overbay might end up parting ways with the Red Sox after being made redundant by Carp. Kottaras and Carp were two players who really fit for the Rays who would up being acquired for next-to-nothing by teams that didn’t need them so badly. What in the world is going on in baseball these days?
The thing to remember is that once a player is designated for assignment, they are exposed to waivers, which teams getting the opportunity to claim them. The team that receives the claim, though, is the team with the highest waiver priority, meaning for right now the team with the worst record in 2012 of all the claiming teams. After finishing with 9th-best record in baseball in 2012, the Rays’ waiver priority is just 22nd, and the odds of any player they possibly would have wanted falling to them after getting designated for assignment was extremely low. It didn’t matter that they were perfect fits for the Rays or that the teams that designated them for assignment had no leverage in trade talks- the only thing that mattered was going to be the highest-priority team that claimed them, and unless a player had serious flaws to warrant 21 teams passing on him, that team was never going to be the Rays. And if a player did have major issues, why would the Rays claim him?
When a player is designated for assignment, fans of the Rays and other contending teams in baseball can speculate about whether that player could be someone their team could be interested in. But at the end of the day, it’s useless getting your hopes up. The Rays could have claimed both Kottaras and Carp or they could have claimed neither- it doesn’t matter because their chances of being the team that received the claim for either of them were slim to none from the start.