I remember sitting with Jon Daniels in a golf cart at the Surprise Complex a few years ago when the GM talked about the importance of the waiver wire.
It was easy for fans to ignore, he said. But injuries and other factors could force teams to expose someone they really didn't want to expose. He noted it because his staff was trying to make sure it was smart about what it did with the roster leading into the 2009 season. And the front office always kept a careful eye on the waiver wire, trying to find a way to improve the club if another team provided an opportunity.
That happened a month after we talked, when Darren O'Day, a player Daniels later said he'd had his eye on for a few years, was put on waivers by the New York Mets. That was a crazy offseason for O'Day. He was acquired by the Mets from the Angels in the Rule 5 draft and was on the Opening Day roster in the bullpen. But when the Mets had to call up Nelson Figueroa in late April, they put O'Day on waivers. The Rangers pounced, and O'Day has become an important part of the Rangers' bullpen ever since.
With his unique delivery and ability to pound the strike zone, something manager Ron Washington preaches, O'Day has established himself as a reliable pitcher in the late innings. He's now got a new one-year deal at $1.251 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility.
O'Day is just one more reminder that the waiver wire can yield some nice finds. (How many teams wish they had put a claim in on Nelson Cruz a few years ago? And how lucky are the Rangers that they didn't lose him?)