The Yankees announced that outfielder Oscar González and infielder Jeter Downs were both outrighted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. That indicates that both players passed through waivers unclaimed after being designated for assignment in the past week. A third player that they club put on waivers, outfielder Bubba Thompson, was claimed by the Twins.
González, 26, debuted with a splash while with the Guardians in 2022. He hit 11 home runs in 91 games and slashed .296/.327/.461 for a wRC+ of 125. He also endeared himself to fans by using the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song as his walk-up music and hitting a series-clinching walk-off home run in the 15th inning of a game in the Wild Card round against the Rays.
But things went off the rails last year, as his poor plate discipline got worse and his production couldn’t stay afloat. His 3.9% walk rate in 2022 was already less than half the league average and that mark fell to 2.8% in 2023. His 19.6% strikeout rate also ticked up to 25.6%. He hit .214/.239/.312 in the majors and spent most of the year on optional assignment.
Poor pitch selection seems to be a clear issue for him, as he has swung at 49.1% of pitches outside the strike zone in his career thus far. That’s the highest rate among MLB hitters with at least 550 plate appearances over the past two seasons. He still managed to hit enough to be useful a couple of years ago but his stock has clearly fallen since.
The Guardians put him on waivers earlier in the offseason, with the Yankees making a claim in early December. The fact that he passed through waivers this week means that all 29 other clubs declined to give him a roster spot. Since this is his first career outright and he has less than three years of service time, he will stick in the organization as non-roster depth.
The 25-year-old Downs is in a similar situation, having just been claimed by the Yankees last month. Fairly or unfairly, he is best known by many fans for going to the Red Sox in the deal that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers. Once a top prospect, he hasn’t been able to hit much since that trade. He has produced a batting line of .200/.309/.365 in the minor leagues over the past three years, leading to a wRC+ of 80. He’s only been given 50 major league plate appearances in that time and hit just .182/.260/.273 in those.
He has gone from the Red Sox to the Nationals and now the Yankees via waivers, but today’s transaction indicates no club was willing to give him a roster spot. Like González, he lacks the necessary service time or previous outright to elect free agency, meaning he will stick in the organization as depth without taking a spot on the 40-man roster.