Cleveland claims former LA pitchers Giolito, López and Moore for late playoff push

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Los Angeles Angels' Lucas Giolito pitches during the second inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Monday, Aug. 28, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

CLEVELANDThe Guardians are hoping some Angels throwaways can get them to the postseason.

Trying to chase down Minnesota in the AL Central race, Cleveland claimed starter Lucas Giolito and relievers Matt Moore and Reynaldo López off waivers from Los Angeles on Thursday, acquisitions that didn't cost the Guardians any prospects.

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After going 4-2 on a recent road trip, the Guardians are currently five games behind the first-place Twins with 28 games left. Cleveland will host Minnesota for a three-game series next week.

By getting Giolito, Moore and López, the Guardians hope to catch the Twins, defend their division title and make the postseason. It could be a memorable final surge as manager Terry Francona has hinted he'll retire in October.

“Whether or not we can close the gap that’s in front of us, we don’t know,” said Chris Antonetti, the team's president of baseball operations. “But we want to try.”

It's something of a reversal for the Guardians, who appeared to be conceding the division at the trading deadline, when they dealt slugger Josh Bell, shortstop Amed Rosario and right-hander Aaron Civale, their hottest pitcher at the time.

But the Central remains winnable, and Cleveland figures it has as good a chance as anyone to take it.

“We had a unique opportunity to acquire three players to hopefully impact us moving forward as we continue to try to compete with the Twins for the AL Central,” Antonetti said. “There were a number of players on waivers, not just these three, but in the end we felt these three were the three that made the most sense for us.”

In addition to adding some proven talent, the Guardians also prevented other contending teams from picking up Giolito, once considered one of the AL's top young pitchers, along with two quality relievers.

The players were awarded to the team with the worst record, so the Guardians jumped in front of some teams they could meet in the playoffs to get the trio.

“If our record was better, our chances of getting them would’ve been worse,” Antonetti said. "So we had a pretty good understanding of where we were in the standings, and we weren’t sure if we’d get one, two or three of them.

“But we’re happy we were able to get all three.”

Cleveland will assume what’s left of their contracts — all three can become free agents after this season — and all would be eligible for the postseason roster if the Guardians qualify.

In making the moves, the Guardians added nearly $2.1 million in payroll. They'll assume $1,241,667 for the final 31 days of Giolito’s $7.45 million salary, $416,667 of Moore’s $2.5 million salary and $437,500 of Lopez’s $2.625 million salary.

Antonetti credited the club's principal owners Paul Dolan and David Blitzer for their willingness to assume a greater financial burden. That hasn't always been the case in Cleveland, where the Guardians have had to watch their spending carefully.

“Every opportunity that we’ve had to improve the team, the limitation hasn’t been finances,” Antonetti said. "Whether that’s this year or years past, we’ve been really fortunate to have finances available to try to do that when we haven’t made moves.

“It’s mostly been because the player value we would have to give up exceeded what we thought made sense. In this case, there was no player value. So it was really financial considerations and then how we could fit them on the roster. And both of those things made sense.”

To make roster space, the Guardians designated right-hander Peyton Battenfield and catcher Eric Haase for assignment.

Cleveland has remained in contention despite a rash of injuries to its starting rotation. The Guardians have had to rely on rookies Tanner Bibee, Gavin Williams and Logan Allen to keep them within striking distance of the Twins.

Those young pitchers have performed well but are reaching innings thresholds, forcing the team to find some arms to protect them.

Williams was pulled from a start on Tuesday in Minnesota after hurting his right knee. Antonetti said the hard-throwing right-hander underwent treatment and “seems to be progressing pretty well. As of right now, it looks like we’ve avoided the worst case.”

The Guardians are expected to get starter Cal Quantrill back from a shoulder injury Friday.

Giolito, López and Moore were waived earlier this week along with three other players by the Angels, who have had another disappointing season and are already looking toward 2024 and beyond.

Los Angeles is 64-70 and 12 1/2 games behind Seattle in the AL West with just 28 games left.

An All-Star in 2019, Giolito, 29, was traded by the Chicago White Sox along with López in July. The right-hander went just 1-5 with a 6.89 ERA for the Angels, who fell out of contention this month and began dumping salaries.

"He’s been a really effective and durable major league starter for most of his career, and we’re excited to have him join our rotation to help stabilize that and provide us some competitive innings moving forward,” Antonetti said.

Moore and López will be added to a Cleveland bullpen that's been leaned on heavily of late.

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