For the second time this year, the Orioles claimed infielder Hanser Alberto on waivers from another team. The team announced on Friday afternoon that they had claimed Alberto back from the Giants, after having lost the 26-year-old to the Giants in a claim on February 22 when the O’s added lefty reliever Josh Osich on a waiver claim, also from the Giants.
It’s the fate of unheralded players like this to be passed around on waivers. One comes off the roster, another is added, especially on bad teams who don’t have a lot of roles solidified. What’s surprising in this case is the corresponding roster move made by the O’s, as lefty reliever Donnie Hart was designated for assignment.
The O’s 27th round pick in the 2013 draft forced his way up to the big leagues towards the end of the 2016 season, with impressive results in the form of a 0.49 ERA in 18.1 innings in his MLB debut. Important for a lefty pitcher, that included holding lefty batters to a .132/.190/.158 batting line.
First impressions last a while, so even though he had more pedestrian results in 2017, with a 3.71 ERA across 43.2 big league innings, you probably still remembered the pleasant surprise Hart from ‘16 and not the “just another guy” Hart from the 75-87 O’s of ‘17.
In the even more miserable 2018 season, Hart was repeatedly banished to the minor leagues, occasionally resummoned for long enough to battle command problems at the MLB level. That led to a 5.59 ERA, with 13 strikeouts and 12 walks in 19.1 innings pitched. It’s hard for a reliever to succeed in the modern game without gaudy strikeout totals, and if you’re walking too many guys while not overwhelming with strikeouts, it’s even worse.
Having laid all of that out, it’s much less of a surprise that Hart’s headed for the great DFA in the sky, even if Hart still has a minor league option available for this year. New GM Mike Elias has no particular reason to show any loyalty to guys who are still lurking around from the Dan Duquette era.
If Elias and his people have already seen enough this spring to decide Hart isn’t going to have any positive impact for a future Orioles team, it’s not like anybody can point to much to argue they’re wrong. There’s not a shortage of pitchers fighting for jobs in the 2019 bullpen. If I was Hart, I would be a little cheesed off to be cast aside ahead of the previously-claimed Osich, who sports a 5.01 ERA across parts of four MLB seasons. That’s the way it goes.
Perhaps Elias’s own fixation is on these fringe middle infield types, of which Alberto is one. It’s been a strange offseason journey for Alberto, passed on waivers from the Rangers to the Yankees on November 2, then to the Orioles on January 11, to the Giants on February 22, and back to the Orioles today.
An obvious question presents itself: Why do so many teams think they want, and then quickly no longer decide they want, this dude? The answer to the first part cannot be found in his limited big league action, with Alberto batting .192/.210/.231 across 89 MLB games over three different seasons.
Perhaps Alberto’s 2018 performance for Triple-A Round Rock, where he posted a .330/.346/.452 batting line in 106 games, explains it a bit more. That’s enough to make a GM go “Hmm...” in the moment when Alberto crosses the waiver wire, but not enough to stop the same GM from turning into the guy from the meme who looks at the other girl when the next vaguely appealing fringe roster player comes along.
In his minor league career, Alberto chiefly played shortstop, though he’s been used as more of a utility type in his MLB action with the Rangers, also seeing time at second and third base. He is out of minor league options.
Unless there are multiple injuries in the remainder of O’s camp, it’s tough to imagine a scenario where Alberto pushes his way into the roster picture ahead of Rule 5 picks Richie Martin and Drew Jackson, veteran infielder Alcides Escobar, and Elias-connected reclamation project Rio Ruiz. Don’t be surprised if they try to sneak him through waivers one more time at the end of camp. I hope he’s getting frequent flier miles for this.