Earlier today, the Toronto Blue Jays picked up a potential gem, claiming reliever Preston Guilmet off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles. They quickly countered that move by an iffy waiver claim, picking up Scott Barnes on waivers, another pitcher who had been designated for assignment by Texas Rangers earlier this month.. Both moves were announced earlier this evening by the an official press release from the team.
As is the case with many waiver claims at this time of the year, there is a lot of bouncing around, like the ping pong balls in a lotto drawing. They keep bouncing around until they find a winner. Barnes has been bounced quite a bit this offseason, He was purchased by the Orioles earlier this winter after being designated for assignment by the Cleveland Indians. Baltimore then opted to dangle Barnes out there on the waiver wire as well, hoping to sneak him through, but the Texas Rangers plucked him up on December 8th.
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Toronto will now become the 4th stop of the winter for Scott Barnes, and the 5th organization of his career. The question is, why is Barnes in such high demand?
Scott Barnes was drafted in the 8th round of the 2008 draft by the San Francisco Giants, but was traded to the Indians just a year later in a deal that brought former slugger Ryan Garko to the Giants. Since then, the 27-year-old has spent most of his career in the minor leagues, making just 22 relief appearances at the Major League level.
Of those 22 appearances, 16 of them came in 2012, when Barnes put up a modest 4.26 ERA, a 3.67 FIP, and a 7.6 K/9 ratio. He would make 3 more appearances the following season, but surrendered 7 runs, 8 hits, and 3 home runs in just 8.2 innings of work in 2013.
His minor league track record is a bit inconsistent at best. Barnes owns a 39-31 record with a career ERA of 4.12 in the minors. While that isn’t bad on the surface, most of his success came in the lower minors, as seen in the chart belows (courtesy of Baseball Reference).
As you can see, Barnes has struggled at Double and Triple-A. His struggles at Double-A seem to be the culprit responsible for his move to the bullpen. However, the results there have been mixed at best, with a 4.33 ERA over nearly 200 Triple-A innings. Additionally he has become a little bit homer-prone as well, surrendering 22 bombs since moving to the bullpen. However, that could be attributed to getting punished by advanced hitters, as Barnes has always seemed to be susceptible to fly-balls, with a career minor league GO/AO ratio of 0.94.
That just makes this pick-up by Toronto all the more curious. Toronto does have a need for bullpen help, both in Toronto and likely in Buffalo as well. However, the track record here, as well as his recent movement would seem to indicate that the Blue Jays are just another layover until Barnes reaches another destination or chooses to pitch overseas.
This ping pong ball is likely to keep bouncing a bit more before it finally settles on a home.