On Friday afternoon, as Major League Baseball inched into its offseason, the Washington Nationals made their third waiver claim since the trade deadline, nabbing reliever Francisco Pérez from the Cleveland Guardians.

Pérez, a 24-year-old lefty, debuted for Cleveland in August and worked only 6⅔ innings. In 2021 as a whole, Pérez had a 1.87 ERA across two levels of the minors. He was nearly perfect with the Class AA Akron Rubber Ducks before he was promoted a level. And with the Class AAA Columbus Clippers, Pérez, a native of the Dominican Republic, was effective still, posting a 3.12 ERA with a high strikeout rate in 26 innings. The Nationals can view him as a low-risk, high-upside addition.

Cleveland converted him to a full-time reliever before the 2019 season. He mixes a low- to mid-90s fastball with a slider and occasional change-up.

In a corresponding move Friday, the Nationals outrighted Kyle McGowin to the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings, removing the right-handed reliever from the 40-man roster. Since Pérez was claimed off waivers, he joins the organization with a 40-man roster spot, putting him a step away from the majors. McGowin, 29, missed a bulk of 2021 with elbow issues. He ultimately sprained his ulnar collateral ligament in late August, ending his season early.

Since Washington changed direction at the trade deadline — shipping out eight veterans for a group of prospects — they have made three waiver claims: Pérez, reliever Patrick Murphy and first baseman Mike Ford. This, too, is a new look for them, as they previously didn’t take as many fliers with players who were just demoted by other teams. Some clubs view waivers as a chance to find diamonds in the rough. Others, such as a previous iteration of the Nationals, don’t often meddle in a process with minimal stakes.

An explanation of outright waivers from MLB’s online glossary: “A club attempting to remove a player from the 40-man roster and send him to the Minor Leagues must first place that player on outright waivers, allowing the 29 other Major League clubs the opportunity to claim him. The claiming club assumes responsibility for the remaining money owed to the claimed player, who is placed on his new club’s 40-man roster.”

If a player clears waivers, his team then assigns him to a minor league affiliate in its system. But if that player has three or more years of major league service time, or was previously outrighted in his career, he can choose to reject the assignment and opt for free agency. So here are the Nationals taking advantage of the Guardians discarding Pérez. The best-case scenario for them is that he contribute in the majors (and at a club-friendly cost). The worst-case, though, is he doesn’t work out and is eventually replaced. And that is really not so bad.

Last December, for example, the Nationals claimed right-handed starter Rogelio Armenteros off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was added to the 40-man, had a sore shoulder in spring training and never pitched above the minors. Washington then released him in late August, making Armenteros a free agent.

At the very least, the hope is that Pérez is a depth reliever heading into next season. Unless the Nationals make a big splash in the bullpen market this winter — an outcome that doesn’t seem likely — he should have every chance to earn opportunities in spring training. In that way, the waiver claim is mutually beneficial.