Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Most You'll Ever Read About Four Marginal Relief Pitchers

With today being the first day without regular season baseball, it can be argued that today, October 3rd, is the beginning of the baseball offseason. Luckily for you, that is exactly what I am going to do. Except no actual arguing - just me saying so. So without further ado, I present to you the 2005/6 Major League Baseball Hot Stove League. Or the 2005/6 MLBHSL. Now that's just stupid. Let's just get this thing going already, shall we?

It was a busy day for teams finishing below the Phillies in the NL East. The Marlins and the Nationals both made changes as they look ahead to 2006 and beyond. The four men cut today were John Halama (Nationals), Antonio Osuna (Nationals), Tim Spooneybarger (Marlins), and John Riedling (Marlins). All relief pitchers. All at various stages in their careers. And all apparently interesting enough for me to write 1,500 words on.

We can recap for those not paying attention. Four names. Four relief pitchers. Various stages of their careers. All let go today.

John Halama is a guy I have always liked on a personal level dating back to his starting days with the Mariners. Maybe his inclusion in the Randy Johnson trade to Houston always made me think higher of him than his performances deserved. I also think I remember him for those 14 wins in Seattle in 2000. If the Phils go after him, that would mean that 2/5's of the Mariners rotation that year has passed through Philly. I mean who could forget the illustrious tenure of one Paul Abbott in 2004. I'll get it out of the way now. I'll defend Ed Wade more than most. Not to the point of being a Wade-supporter, but he has done some positive things while in charge. We can get into that later. But how can a real-life Major League Baseball General Manager with a $90 million payroll expect to stay in a pennant race with Paul Abbott going every fifth day? He was a Phil for three full months in 2004 (June 7 - September 8)! It really can explained as nothing short of a disgrace. To have so much invested in a ballclub and continue to start the Paul Abbott's of the world (Paul Abbott being the poster boy of the Paul Abbott's of the world, of course) is just too amazing idiotic to comprehend. I was afraid just typing these words my keyboard would self-destruct on me. His list of comparables through age 36 include Masato Yoshii and Armando Reynoso. Ask any Mets fan how wonderful those guys were. Go ahead, I dare you.

I'm sure Paul Abbott is a lovely man, so please don't take this the wrong way. But when a guy is cut by the Devil Rays (the Devil Rays!) then signed four days later to a team with dreams of winning it all, there is something very wrong in this world. I'm done with Paul Abbott. He went 17-4 in 2001 for the Mariners. Good for him. Looks like he made roughly $6.5 million in his pro career. Even better. I wish him well. Remember when I said we need to look forward and not backward? Yeah, I hope nobody was planning on holding me to that. But I'm done now. Seriously. Thanks to baseballreference.com for the comparables and salary information. And, oh yeah, thanks but no thanks Mr. John Halama. That's my opinion and it happens to coincide with what I think the Phillies will do. So we can close the book on former Mariner pitchers - for the time being anyway (that's what we call in the business a tease...except I don't have anything more to add).

Antonio Osuna intrigues me. He had shoulder surgery in May, but that should only diminish his value on the open market. Why not take a chance on a guy like him if you can get him to come to camp as a Non-Roster Invitee? He turns 33 in April of '06, has had somewhat of a history of injuries in the past, but showed tremendous potential at the start of his career. Now of course, as previously mentioned, he will be 33 this upcoming season - what you see is what you get by at this point. However he has always had a good arm and with all the potential upheaval at the back end of the bullpen, why not take a chance on a low risk, high reward type guy? His status going into '06 depends solely on his bum shoulder. If it proves to be sound, more teams will come calling. I guess that is pretty much common sense. If a team offers him guaranteed cash, Osuna needs to take it. If not, he could do a heck of a lot worse than reporting to Clearwater in February.

Tim Spooneybarger - definitely a name that interests me. And why shouldn't it? It's hilarious. However, it also interests me as a baseball player and not just some freaky named sideshow. Time for a quick list of Pros and Cons and with me being the Negadelphian that I am we start with the Con's - its only natural:

CONS: The first is a major one - he hasn't really pitched in two years and is out again in 2006. This is truly the mother of all cons. Why are we talking about a guy who won't even pitch in '06? Patience, my friend, patience. I was the guy screaming at the Phillies FO to take a chance on Jon Lieber after his Tommy John surgery in 2002. The Yankees wound up paying him roughly $500,000 to rehab in 2003 and then $2.7 million in 2004. It wouldn't take nearly that amount to take a chance on Spooneybarger. Why not $500,000 in '06 to rehab, maybe a slight rise to something in the neighborhood of $700,000 - $1,000,000 in '07, and then, as far as my understanding on the subject goes, have the option to take him to his last year of arbitration in 2008? Back to the negatives though and this is something I maybe should have mentioned in more specifics earlier. His TJ surgery this year will be his second. That's not good news. There is really no way of telling how he will respond to the second surgery, both physically and mentally. The last thing that concerns me about Tim Spooneybarger is the simple fact the Braves traded him away. Atlanta's history with trading away young pitchers is well documented - they just seem to have a knack of knowing the right ones they can afford to lose. Maybe the Braves knew something about Spooneybarger's mechanics that could potentially lead to arm trouble; maybe the Braves just flat out didn't like him as much as I do; or maybe, and this is my hope, the Braves jumped at the opportunity to acquire Mike Hampton (and have the Marlins and Rockies pay his salary while they were at it) and were ok with dealing a promising young arm to get them a pitcher they thought could get them back over the hump.

PROS: Well I began to argue the positives in the CONS section (shows what kind of Philly fan I am), but to me the upside of a deal like this is simple. The walk to strikeout ratio (26-33 in 2002, 39-68 career) indicates Spooneybarger might have done it with smoke and mirrors to some degree, but I'll make an exception for a 22-year old who pitched as well as he did for a pennant contending team. By the time the 2007 season rolls around, Spooneybarger will be 27 years old. Give him half a season to shake the rust off and enjoy the year and half of quality relief at a controlled price that only a Spooneybarger can provide.

So with me typing "Spooneybarger" out every time instead of coming up with a clever nickname (all I got is "Spooney" and "Barge-Man", I'm not very good at this), it appears we've run out of time for John Riedling. Another guy I have always liked for some reason or another. I think if you can get him as a NRI if is well worth a shot, but I can't see the Phils giving him any guaranteed money. Anyway, I could get into all that or I could just mention that his number one comparable according to baseballreference.com is Toby Borland. I could go off on a whole other tangent about Toby Borland. In fact, it would be incredibly easy. Toby is one of my all-time favorite Phils. How could he not be? The porn star moustache, funky delivery, and charitable causes he supported just made him so gosh darned lovable. Not to mention he was a key inclusion in the Rico Brogna trade in 1996. Borland and Ricardo Jordan for Rico Brogna. How could you not love Rico? I could go on forever with this, so I will end this right now. Can you believe this was only day one of the 2005/6 MLBHSL? (If you've made it this far, well first off god bless you, and second off, there is no way you remembered what that stupid acronym meant - even I had to go back and check. Hey, I make no apologies. I'm a sucker for a good acronym. Even more so for a bad one...)

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