As tweeted by Ken Rosenthal the Rays have claimed lefty reliever Pedro Figueroa off of waivers from the Oakland Athletics. Because the James Loney contract has yet to be finalized, the Rays do have an 40-man roster spot open at the moment, so no additional moves will need to be made immediately.
Figueroa spent 2013 in Triple-A, where he was not particularly great in 46 appearances, posting a 4.10 ERA and a 5.0 BB/9 in 59.1 innings. He also had a cup of coffee in the big leagues, posting a 12.00 ERA in 5 appearances. However, in the past he has been better. In 2012, he posted a 2.65 ERA with an 8.1 K/9 and a 3.6 BB/9 in 32 Triple-A appearances. Figueroa made 19 big league appearances, where he put up a 3.32 ERA, although he did walk 6.2 batters per nine innings while striking out just 5.8 batters per nine. Those numbers may not be so exciting, but his arsenal does fit that description.
Figueroa features a fastball that sits around 95-96 MPH and can touch 99 with good sinking action. He also features a changeup and a slider, but neither of these pitches are very effective. He does walk a too few many hitters, largely due to inefficient command of his secondary pitches, but this can be hidden in a bullpen role. A lefty that can throw as hard as Figueroa always has value, especially as a LOOGY. For his big league career, he has been good against lefties, holding them to a .229/.270/.257 line, but hasn’t been as good against righties who have hit him to the tune of a .259/.429/.500 line. He was a starter, and was well regarded in the A’s system, before Tommy John surgery caused him to miss most of the 2011 season and led to a move to the bullpen.
There is a chance Figueroa may only be with the Rays for a few days. When the Loney contract is finalized, a 40-man roster spot will need to be opened. The Rays may have simply claimed Figueroa to try and sneak him through waivers when a spot was needed. However, the Rays could elect to designated another player off the 40-man; maybe someone like Jeff Beliveau. If he sticks with the Rays, whether if that is on the 40-man roster or if he clears waivers, he figures to be given an outside chance at winning a spot as a lefty reliever. But, the Rays have plenty of better left-handed options already. More than likely, Figueroa will simply provide depth out of the Triple-A pen. One thing to note is that Figueroa is out of options, so if he remains on the 40-man roster, but does not make the major league bullpen out of spring training, he will need to be passed through waivers to be sent to Triple-A.
This is a good, low-risk depth move by Andrew Friedman. Maybe Figueroa is only a Ray for a few days, but it can never hurt to attempt to acquire more depth. A lefty that can throw 99 MPH is nothing to ignore, so Friedman will do what he can to keep Figueroa within the organization. There is only an outside chance that he makes a big league roster spot, and maybe even an outside chance he remains with the organization because he is out of options. But, it doesn’t hurt to try to acquire just one more player at no cost that could play a potential role for the Rays in 2014 or beyond.