The D-Backs announced they’ve claimed reliever Reyes Moronta off waivers from the Dodgers. Infielder Jake Hager has been designated for assignment in a corresponding 40-man roster transaction.
Moronta’s stay in the NL West continues. The big right-hander’s most productive seasons came as a member of the Giants, the organization with which he began his career. Between 2018-19, Moronta was one of the better relievers in the game. He tossed 121 2/3 innings of 2.66 ERA ball over that stretch, striking out a strong 29.3% of opponents. He issued a few more walks than ideal, but he nevertheless held opponents to a pitiful .175/.292/.266 line over 508 plate appearances.
Unfortunately, that marked Moronta’s last extended run of action until this year. He missed the entire shortened 2020 campaign with a shoulder problem, then landed on the IL to start last season with a flexor strain in his forearm. Moronta returned late last year but the Giants designated him for assignment after just four MLB appearances. He passed unclaimed through waivers, became a minor league free agent after the season, and signed a non-roster pact with the Dodgers during the offseason.
Los Angeles selected him onto the MLB roster in May, and the 29-year-old has gotten into 22 games. Moronta had an alright run, working 23 2/3 frames with a 4.18 ERA. He fanned an above-average 27.6% of batters faced on a solid 12.7% swinging strike rate, but he also surrendered five home runs and continued to walk batters at a higher than average (albeit improved, relative to his time in San Francisco) 10.2% clip. As part of a Dodger bullpen that ranks third in the majors with a 3.05 ERA, it’s easy to see how Moronta was squeezed off the roster. He should have a clearer path to a regular role with an Arizona club that has a 4.31 reliever ERA that checks in 24th leaguewide.
Moronta is due the prorated portion of a $1.5MM salary (around $370K) for the remainder of this season. He entered the 2022 campaign with exactly four years of service time but spent the season’s first three weeks in Triple-A. That was enough that he won’t reach a full year of service this season, meaning he’ll be arbitration-eligible once more after the year. He’s also in his second minor league option year, so the Snakes can freely shuttle him between Phoenix and Triple-A Reno — although he’d earn the right to refuse any optional assignments once he reaches his fifth year of big league service, likely early in 2023.
Hager, meanwhile, re-signed with Arizona on a minor league deal over the winter after finishing the 2021 campaign in the system. The D-Backs selected the righty-hitting utilityman to the majors in May, and he’s appeared in 28 games. Over 59 plate appearances, Hager owns a .240/.345/.280 line. He’s had a longer run in Reno, hitting .230/.330/.365 through 212 trips to the plate in one of affiliated ball’s more hitter-friendly environments. He’s spent the bulk of his minor league defensive action at shortstop but has played more second and third base in the big leagues.
Arizona will place Hager on outright or release waivers within the next few days. He’s previously been outrighted in his career, so he’d have the right to refuse a minor league assignment and test free agency if he goes unclaimed.
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