The MLB transaction wire was burning yesterday, as it was the deadline for teams to add players to the 40 man roster in advance of the Rule 5 draft. Along with players being added, many teams had to drop players from the 40 man roster to create roster spots, and there were some notable names among those who were designated for assignment yesterday.
Probably the biggest name of yesterday’s 40 man roster casualties wasn’t designated for assignment, but was actually released — Jacoby Ellsbury of the New York Yankees. The 36 year old outfielder was one of the Yankees prized additions in the 2013-14 offseason, when they poached him from the rival Red Sox on a seven year, $153 million deal. Ellsbury gave the Yankees 9.8 bWAR as their primary center fielder from 2014-17, then missed all of 2018 and 2019 due to injuries. The Yankees, seeing little chance of Ellsbury contributing, opted to eat the $21 million due to him in 2020 and the $5 million buyout of his 2021 option rather than have him occupy a 40 man roster spot all offseason.
The Yankees also designated first baseman Greg Bird for assignment yesterday. Bird had a nice debut in 2015 for the Yankees, but hasn’t been able to hit or stay on the field since, and thus was a roster casualty. He’s arbitration eligible so I’m not sure if he will be claimed or if a team will trade for him, but if he clears waivers, he should generate interest from teams on a minor league deal.
The Miami Marlins gave Taiwanese lefty starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen a 5 year, $80 million deal after the 2015 to jump to the National League from Baltimore. His first three seasons he was not good and missed time due to Tommy John surgery, and the Marlins put him in the bullpen in 2019, where he put up a 6.59 ERA in 68.1 IP. Chen was designated for assignment yesterday as well.
Perhaps the most surprising name to see DFA’d was Oakland A’s pitcher Jharel Cotton. Cotton came over to the A’s in the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick deal in 2016, and he gave Oakland 5 good starts in 2016 before putting up a 5.58 ERA in 24 starts in the majors in 2017. Cotton missed all of 2018 and virtually all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, and he could be a Super Two arbitration eligible guy this year, but he’s also someone who had a great arm pre-injury and has an option remaining. My guess is that the A’s are planning on trading Cotton, and figure teams will be better able to make offers once yesterday’s 40 man roster dust settles.
Finally, Matt Duffy was designated for assignment by the Tampa Bay Rays. He put up a 4.7 bWAR season for the Giants in 2015, but was dealt to Tampa in 2016 in the Matt Moore deal. Duffy missed all of 2017 and much of 2019, though he had a 2.4 bWAR in 2018. As an arbitration-eligible player who made $2.675M last year, he may not be claimed or traded for, but he is someone who could be a viable third base option for a major league team in 2020.