Richie Shaffer must be feeling either really wanted or really unwanted. Regardless, the utility man was designated for assignment for the third time this offseason when the Cleveland Indians purchased right-handed reliever Carlos Frias from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday.
Frias, who has appeared in parts of the last three seasons for the Dodgers and has been a member of their organization since 2007, is expected to contend for a spot in the Indians bullpen for the 2017 season. Shaffer’s fate is yet to be determined as the Indians will face the prospect of trying to trade the 25-year-old former first round pick or expose him to the waivers process once again.
Frias had been designated for assignment by the Dodgers last Wednesday to create room on the 40-man roster for outfielder Brett Eibner, who had been acquired in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.
The 27-year-old hard-throwing right-hander had a bit of a lost season last year as lower back tightness and a right oblique impingement slowed down his season twice. After nearly winning the fifth starter spot in spring, the start to his 2016 season was delayed when he landed on the disabled list at Triple- A Oklahoma City with an oblique injury before making his first start there. He returned in May, when he made a pair of short starts at Double-A with Tulsa before transferring back to Oklahoma City. He made four starts and four multi-inning relief appearances there, going 3-3 with a 4.46 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP over 36 1/3 innings.
He was recalled to the Major League club in June without making an appearance and was optioned back to OKC when Yasiel Puig returned from the disabled list. He got the call again in July and made one strong relief appearance, throwing four innings of scoreless two-hit ball with a walk and three strikeouts against the San Diego Padres on July 7 in what would be his final outing of the year as he was placed on the disabled list after the start with lower back tightness. He would later be transferred to the 60-day disabled list, helping the Dodgers surpass the record for DL stints in a season at 28.
He showed much more success when entering the game in relief as opposed to starting last season, going 0-2 with a 5.04 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in six starts, while posting a 3-1 record with a 2.01 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in five relief appearances. His strikeout rate in relief was nearly half the figure from his results while starting, but he also walked batters in relief at nearly half his starting rate.
Some of those statistical trends have persisted throughout his Major League career. Frias had previously worked 15 games (two starts) for the Dodgers in 2014 and 17 more in 2015 (13 starts). He owns a 4-6 record in 15 career MLB starts with a 4.96 ERA, a 1.54 WHIP, a 5.08 strikeout per nine rate, and a 2.77 walks per nine rate. In relief work, he is 2-0 in 18 appearances with a 3.50 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, 7.8 strikeouts per nine, and 2.50 walks per nine.
The tenth-year pro has sported a fastball mix in the mid-90s, a changeup, and a curveball throughout his big league career.
Shaffer joined the Indians last Thursday, when Cleveland claimed him off of waivers from the Cincinnati Reds. His stay in the Queen City was just a touch over one month in length after the Reds selected him off of waivers on December 23 from the Philadelphia Phillies, who had picked him up on waivers nine days prior from the Seattle Mariners. The M’s had not even had the rights to Shaffer for a month at the time that they designated him for assignment after previously acquiring him in a five-player swap with the Tampa Bay Rays in mid-November.
Prior to his five-city tour in just over the past two months, Shaffer had spent his entire career with the Rays, who had selected him with the 25th pick overall in the 2012 June amateur draft. In 51 games over two Major League seasons, the corner infielder and corner outfielder has a .213/.310/.410 batting line with nine doubles, five homers, and ten RBI.
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