A career journeyman who played for five different teams in his first seven seasons, Ryan Weber has been one of the most active riders of the Scranton Shuttle this season. After starting the year with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, he was called up to the Major Leagues on June 16th after Luis Severino was added to the COVID-19 IL on the morning that he was expected to make a start against the Tampa Bay Rays. Weber would go on to throw 3.2 innings one-run ball in relief of Clarke Schmidt, that night’s emergency starter, as the Yankees downed the Rays by the score of 2-1.
And what did Weber get for that gutsy performance? He was designated for assignment the following morning. Weber cleared waivers and, seeking a major league opportunity, elected free agency. Two days later, however, he was back in the fold, returning to Scranton. It was the beginning of a pattern for the 32-year-old.
Just a week later, Weber got the call again; he threw a scoreless ninth in a 13-4 blowout win over the Cleveland Guardians, On the sixth, he was once again jettisoned, this time to add Miguel Castro back to the active roster. A little over a week later, he was back once more, this time replacing Luis Severino as the Yankees starter hit the 15-day IL with a lat strain. He would throw three scoreless innings to earn his first career save in a 14-1 shellacking of the Red Sox on July 16th.
Following the trade deadline, Weber was DFA’ed, as Domingo Germán returned from the injured list to make his season debut. This time, after rejecting a Triple-A assignment on July 26th, he waited three days before signing a new contract. He would spend the entirety of the team’s disastrous August in Scranton, returning to the Bronx on September 3rd when the Yankees designated the far-worse Anthony Banda for assignment. Weber appeared in a pair of losses on the 8th and 9th, allowing just three hits in three scoreless innings across the two outings. With the Yankees starting to win again, he sat on the bench in the bullpen for the next week before finally being designated for assignment once again when Aroldis Chapman returned from the injured list. Yesterday, he elected free agency once again.
I sure hope that Weber has a good travel plan, because he’s really racked up the miles this season. And he’s done it in such a strange, strange way. Most of the time, pitchers that have pitched as well as Weber has (he has allowed one run and six hits in 10.2 innings) while bouncing between Triple-A and the Majors have minor league options, as teams hesitate to risk losing Major League arms by trying to send them through waivers. Weber, however, is out of options, and because his underlying metrics aren’t great — he has a minuscule .156 BABIP, resulting in him stranding 100 percent of baserunners he’s had this season (the one run he allowed was a solo shot) — nobody has claimed him on the waiver wire despite his strong performance.
A season like this is rare, to say the least. The closest comparison at this point would be Chris Capuano in 2015, who was designated for assignment four times in less than a month that August, only to be immediately re-signed each time due to injuries. Capuano, however, was at least a frequent (if ineffective) contributor early in 2015 before seeing his role diminish, so he made 22 appearances and 4 starts that year. Of course, Weber has pitched much better, as Capuano had a dismal 7.97 ERA in 2015, whereas Weber permitted just a single run in his five relief outings.
As Gerrit Cole chases the franchise strikeout record and Aaron Judge both the AL home run record and the Triple Crown, Ryan Weber has managed to put together a weirdly amusing season of his own. It won’t be nearly as memorable.