1:00pm: The Rockies announced the claim of Lamet, adding that right-hander Ashton Goudeau has been designated for assignment in order to create roster space.
12:46 p.m.: The Rockies have claimed the right-hander Dinelson Lamet off waivers from the Brewers, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reports (Twitter link). Lamet, whom the Brewers acquired alongside Taylor Rogers and prospects Esteury Ruiz spirit Robert Gasser in Monday’s surprising Josh Hader trade, was designated for assignment just 48 hours after being acquired.
At the time of Lamet’s DFA, Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns told reporters that Lamet “has a good arm and was included in the trade to help balance out the deal” but that “subsequent transactions” made him a tougher fit on the roster . The Brewers added right-handers Matt Bush spirit Trevor Rosenthal in separate trades one day after acquiring Lamet.
Still, the quick DFA makes it fair to wonder how prominently Lamet ever truly factored into the plans. The 2020 Cy Young candidate has been plagued by injuries since late in that truncated season and has yielded 14 runs in just 12 2/3 innings this season. His fastball, which averaged 97 mph in 2020, has averaged 95.3 mph this season. Of particular note for the Padres, who are barreling toward a second straight season paying the luxury tax, Lamet is earning $4.775MM in 2022. Including him in that trade meant not only jettisoning a player who had ostensibly been squeezed out of a roster spot but also who’d have a non-zero impact on the team’s luxury ledger. Stearns’ usage of the phrase “balance out the deal,” then, could be interpreted as referencing talent or in more fiscal terms.
Regardless, the Rockies now stand to potentially benefit from both their division rival and the NL Central leaders feeling their rosters lack space for Lamet. As recently as 2020, the 6’3″, 228-pound Lamet looked like a foundational piece in San Diego. He made a full slate of 12 starts during that pandemic-truncated campaign, pitching to a brilliant 2.09 ERA with a 34.8% strikeout rate, 7.5% walk rate and 36.9% ground-ball rate. That showing was good enough to land Lamet, then having just turned 28 years old, a fourth-place finish in the National League Cy Young voting.
However, Lamet’s 2020 season also ended with him heading to the injured list with a biceps injury sustained in his final outing of the season. He’d go on to miss the 2020 postseason, and his 2021 season was limited to just 47 innings on account of a forearm issue that twice sent him to the injured list.
Those injuries, coupled with this year’s poor showing, have resulted in a grisly 5.46 ERA in the now-30-year-old Lamet’s past 59 1/3 Major League innings. In addition to the diminished fastball, he’s seen his strikeout rate plummet from that 34.8% mark to 26.9%, while his walk rate has spiked from 7.5% to a dismal 11.4%. Lamet may have had some bad luck in 2021, posting a .344 batting average on balls in play despite allowing hard contact at well below-league-average levels, but that’s not been the case at all in 2022. Yes, his .412 BABIP is through the roof, but so too is his opponents’ average exit velocity (a blistering 93.1 mph) and his 50% hard-hit rate.
For a pitching-needy team like the Rockies, however, there’s little harm in taking a relatively low-cost look at Lamet. They’ll be owed the prorated portion of his salary — about $1.6MM between now and the season’s end — but can also control him via arbitration this winter if he impresses down the stretch. Viewed through that lens, there’d have been a case for any of the clubs higher on the waiver priority (eg Nationals, A’s, Tigers, Royals, Pirates) claiming Lamet, but despite the right-hander’s obvious talent, not every club is going to be bullish on his chances to rebound (or on taking on that extra chunk of cash at this point in the season).
Goudeau, also 30, has pitched 20 1/3 innings in this, his second stint with the Rockies, for whom he made his MLB debut back in 2020. He’s been tagged for a 7.08 ERA with a 17% strikeout rate and 10.6% walk rate, however, both well worse than the league average. His work in Triple-A Albuquerque has been even rougher, evidenced by 43 earned runs allowed in just 37 innings of work (10.46 ERA).