The Texas Rangers have purchased the contract of righthanded pitcher A.J. Griffin, who will be tonight's starting pitcher. To make room for him on the 25 man and the 40 man roster, the Rangers have designated outfielder Justin Ruggiano for assignment.
So, the Griffin move is not a surprise. It has been clear for a while that he would be the team's fifth starter, although the Rangers didn't officially announce it. However, Griffin is on a minor league deal, and we all knew moves would have to be made to clear roster spots for Griffin.
The expectation had been that Phil Klein would be optioned, and that either Alex Claudio or Anthony Ranaudo would be designated for assignment. When the bullpen got a lot of use early, speculation became that Ryan Rua might get optioned instead.
However, Ruggiano ended up being the odd man out. The Rangers had guaranteed only $500,000 of his $1.65M contract for 2016, so they could have released him before the season and saved about $1M. Since Ruggiano made the Opening Day roster, the assumption has been that his roster spot would be safe for a while. Instead, he's gone after four games.
That said, Evan Grant appears to have an explanation that makes sense:
Ruggianio's contract also includes a minor league split, so Rangers will pay pro-rated portion of $1.65 mm while in majors, lesser in minors— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) April 8, 2016
This helps explain the whole "why did they keep Ruggiano?" mystery. Ruggiano will be waived. If he is claimed, then the Rangers are off the hook altogether. If he isn't claimed, he goes to the minors (presumably, he's agreed to accept a minor league assignment, or will forfeit the non-guaranteed portion of his deal) and provides the Rangers with some depth.
At least, I assume that's the case. If the Rangers end up having to pay an extra $1.15M because they put him on the active roster for four days, that would be a very serious mistake. For now, I'm going to assume that Evan is correct and the Rangers didn't just act incompetently.