The Pittsburgh Pirates have released right-handed pitcher Allen Webster, according to the MLB.com transaction page. They had acquired Webster at the end of last month from the Diamondbacks, in exchange for cash considerations.
This move is a surprise, as they didn’t need a spot on the 40-man roster, even after tonight’s addition of Jason Rogers. The Rogers move cleared Keon Broxton, and that combined with the Webster move (which happened Wednesday, according to the transactions), leaves the 40-man at 38.
Webster seemed like a good project, with a fastball that touched the upper 90s, and the long-term potential to still end up a starting pitcher in the majors. He was out of options, which means if he didn’t make the roster, they’d have to put him through waivers. Considering he didn’t cost more than cash considerations, I think he might have had a shot at clearing waivers.
I’m not 100% on this, but I’m pretty sure you can’t just release someone. They would have to go through release waivers, giving each team a chance to claim the player. So the fact that Webster was released shows that no team wanted to claim him. And the Pirates could have put him on outright waivers, sending him to the minors and keeping him in Triple-A, with Webster lacking the service time to decline that move.
It seems there’s something else going on here. When this type of move happens, it either means the team is trying to sign a player back to a minor league deal (while keeping the player happy in avoiding the outright scenario), or the more common scenario is that the player is being released to pursue playing in a foreign country. This actually happened last year with Josh Lindblom, who the Pirates claimed off waivers, then waived a released a few days later when he decided to play in the KBO.
No word yet on why the Pirates released Webster, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s looking to play in another country. There are some benefits there. Lindblom received $850,000 and a $50,000 signing bonus last year, which was guaranteed. If he would have stayed in Pittsburgh, he would have received a shot at maybe making a little over $500,000 if he made the team. And that seemed unlikely. Like I said, I don’t know if this is the case with Webster, but it wouldn’t be surprising if that’s why he was released.
Update 10:45 am: Looks like he is headed to the KBO in Korea.
— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) December 18, 2015