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The Giants claimed Pierce Johnson off waivers and took advantage of the worst record in baseball

There aren’t a lot of benefits to having the worst record in baseball. But there is at least one.

Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Giants selected Pierce Johnson, right-handed reliever and complete sentence, off waivers from the Cubs on Wednesday. He was added to the 40-man roster, and the team officially ended Brandon Belt’s season by putting him on the 60-day DL to make room. This is the second waiver claim in a week for the Giants, who also added Engelb Vielma on a claim from the Twins.

The Giants are futzing around with young raffle tickets on waivers, and I am in.

Claiming young raffle tickets on waivers is something that other teams do. That’s how it’s been for as long as I remember. The Giants lost Ehire Adrianza on waivers. They lost Jake Smith, Mike Kickham, and Gary Brown on waivers. They lost Jean Machi on waivers. They lost Rajai Davis and Dan Otero on waivers, both of whom are contributing to their teams in 2017.

But it’s been over four years since the Giants selected a player off waivers who later appeared in the big leagues. That would be Hunter Strickland who, while occasionally infuriating, has been a net positive for the team. He’s a pitcher that other teams want, and the Giants got him because the Pirates needed a roster spot for Jonathan Sanchez. That’s poetry, really.

First, a quick scouting report on Johnson. He used to be a starter. He’s usually a little wild. He throws in the mid-90s, and he’s tied for the best ERA in baseball history (min. 1 IP). He struck out 12.3 batters per nine innings this year in the Pacific Coast League. He has a few different pitches, including a changeup, and he used to be one of the Cubs’ very best pitching prospects, ranking in their top-10 according to Baseball America from 2013 through 2015.

He looks like Kelby Tomlinson getting trapped in the machine from The Fly with Rod Beck, which is cool.

MLB: Spring Training-Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

This is one of the benefits of the Giants being the worst team in baseball. They get first pick at the waiver buffet. And they’re using this spot to evaluate the players who got squeezed off 40-man rosters because of a roster crunch. The strategy is sound, and I’m more than a little surprised that the Giants are doing it. I was a touch disappointed that they didn’t call up Chris Shaw and/or Andrew Suarez, but their restraint directly led to these two waiver claims, and that’s a worthwhile trade-off.

It’s also an opportunity to explore a history of Giants waiver claims from the last 10 years. There aren’t a lot of them, and a couple of them sure worked out.

Sandy Rosario

Rosario came over in 2013 on waivers from the Padres, and he threw 41⅔ innings with a 3.02 ERA in the majors. That’s good! He also walked nearly as many batters as he struck out. That’s bad. The Giants released him and re-signed him in 2014, and he’s drifted away from affiliated ball, appearing in the Dominican Winter League. For the Gigantes, of course.

When he was claimed, he had a pretty sweet K/BB in the minors, and I’m guessing that injuries are what have kept him out of Triple-A the last couple years. Hey, if Dan Runzler can appear in a major league game in 2017 ...

Tony Abreu

Abreu was also a 2013 claim from the Royals, and he somehow put up a .443 slugging percentage in 147 at-bats for the Giants that year, although his defensive metrics were poor enough to give him a negative WAR.

That .443 slugging percentage would be the third-best on the 2017 Giants, by the way.

Jose De Paula

De Paula was a lefty with iffy strikeout numbers who was claimed from the Padres in 2014. He started 10 games for the Grizzlies that year, and then he left as a minor-league free agent.

Jose Castillo

The Giants made Castillo the starter at third base in 2008. It ... didn’t work out, though he did hit 28 doubles.

Jose Mijares

Mijares was something of a veteran when the Giants claimed him from the Royals, so he probably doesn’t count, but I did want to post Carmen Kiew’s GIF one more time.

He was a solid, if unspectacular, reliever for the Giants, which makes it surprising that he never appeared in affiliated ball again after 2013. He was released after spring training in 2014 with the Red Sox, and then he was released after spring training in 2015 with the Reds, which is nature’s way of telling you to do something else, I guess.

Cody Ross

Rings a bell, but I can’t place him.

Hunter Strickland

Ah, here we go. When the Giants claimed Strickland in 2013, it was a season after he had come back from Tommy John surgery. He struck out just six batters per nine innings in High-A and Double-A, so it wasn’t the stats the Giants were after. It was his fastball.

The next year, he shot through the system, starting in San Jose, dominating in Richmond (48 K, 4 BB, 35 IP), and making the Giants’ postseason roster as something of a secret weapon. He, uh, didn’t stay secret for long, but he’s still a valuable member of a balanced bullpen.

That’s what the hopes probably are for Johnson. Straighten him out in Sacramento and see if he can contribute to the bullpen as early as next year. Most of the Giants bullpen is set for next year, surprisingly, with Mark Melancon, Sam Dyson, Kyle Crick, Will Smith, Hunter Strickland, and Cory Gearrin all under contract, with only Melancon making a huge sum of money. But the roster is also filled with intriguing fellers, with Reyes Moronta, Roberto Gomez, and Albert Suarez. Add Johnson to the pile. He throws hard, and prospect mavens have thought highly of him for years.

The Giants might finish with the worst record in baseball, but they’re taking advantage of their waiver spot. I approve of this idea, even if the odds suggest there are more Sandy Rosarios in the sea than Hunter Stricklands.