Reliever Garrett Richards has reached free agency after clearing waivers, report Ken Rosenthal and Dennis Lin of the Athletic (Twitter link). It isn’t clear whether the hurler was released by the Rangers or elected free agency in lieu of an outright assignment, but that’s a largely immaterial distinction. A return to the open market was the expected outcome after Texas designated him for assignment last week.
Richards, 34, signed a one-year guarantee with Texas over the offseason. A career-long starter, he was transferred to the bullpen midway through last season with the Red Sox. The right-hander had a 3.42 ERA in 26 1/3 innings in that capacity, and the Rangers took a flier to see if he’d maintain that kind of production over a full season. That didn’t wind up being the case, as Richards managed only a 5.27 ERA over 42 2/3 frames while working primarily in low-leverage situations.
Always a hard thrower, Richards has averaged a solid 94.4 MPH on his fastball and 88.6 MPH on a slider that has been his primary offering this season. He’s generated swinging strikes on a decent 12.1% of his overall pitches (narrowly above the 11.8% league average for relievers). That hasn’t resulted in many strikeouts, though, and Richards generally gives up a fair amount of hard contact. Even with a robust 52.6% ground-ball rate, he didn’t manage to consistently keep runs off the board in Arlington.
Rough ERA aside, Richards’ combination of velocity and ground-ball tendencies will surely attract some interest from clubs now that he’s available on the open market. It remains to be seen whether he’ll land an immediate major league roster spot, but he should have no shortage of minor league opportunities at the very least. There’s no financial downside for another team in checking in, as the Rangers are responsible for what remains of Richards’ $4.5M salary this season. (Texas is also on the hook for a $1M buyout of a 2023 club option). Any signing team would only owe Richards the prorated portion of the $700K minimum salary for any time spent on their big league roster.
If Richards signs elsewhere by September 1, he’d be eligible for the signing club’s postseason roster. That’s true regardless of whether he’s immediately added to the majors, as players in an organization but not on a club’s 40-man roster by the turn of September are still eligible for the playoffs via petition to the league office if replacing someone on the injured list.