Thursday, February 18, 2010

Escobar May Be More Hurt Than Originally Thought, And Why Minor League Deals Are The Answer

UPDATE: Adam Rubin is tweeting this.  I'm not ready to throw a party just yet.  Just because he was able to throw all week, doesn't mean he can do anything TODAY.  I'm going to hold out on this one.

So, there's an update on Kelvim Escobar today, relayed by from a tweet by Craig Calcaterra of Harball Talk, and here it is, "Just heard that Kelvim Escobar may be in worse shape than reported yesterday. Can't pick up a ball; could be seriously injured."

That's a problem, more so than the general soreness I was expecting to be hearing about today.  I guess that's going to lead the Mets to have to take another arm up from Spring Training that maybe they were not expecting to have to bring up.  Like I posted yesterday, here, this should not be cause for alarm just because Omar wanted him to be the eighth inning man.  As I mentioned yesterday, it would have been nice if Escobar outperformed everyone in Spring Training to earn the eighth inning job, but I think a more realistic expectation was that he'd compete for that.  So, I guess the Mets will leave it up to Feliciano, Green, Parnell and Igarashi to pick up that eighth inning role. 

The one thing I would be against is rushing out to sign Kiko Calero, or anyone else, to a major league deal.  With Calero, there's a more specific reason as to why a major league deal is a bad idea.  Here's why, the Marlins (the team he last pitched for) have concerns themselves about his health.  Not good. But if it's a minor league deal sign Calero and let's hope he does work out. In fact, I think rushing to sign anyone to a major league deal out of the bullpen at this point isn't worth it.

I say Omar should go all "Omar" on the remaining relief market and get as many of the following as you can on minor league deals: B.J. Ryan, Mike MacDougal, Joe Beimel, Russ Springer, David Weather.  Because the bottomline is, middle relievers are a crapshoot and the best shot at finding one for 2010, is checking them all out on the field. 

In this article Jayson Stark makes an interesting point about relief pitchers in general, they're inconsistent.  In this article, which is a fantastic read, Stark talks about the top 25 middle relievers (as ranked by ERA) and notes that of the 25, "Five pitchers on that list were rookies. But of the other 20 …Two had gotten released. … Three had either been designated for assignment or flat-out dumped by their previous team. … One was claimed on waivers. … One had been non-tendered. … Two had either failed a physical or had major surgery. … Two were signed as non-roster free agents."  What does this mean?  16 of the top 25 middle relievers were not expected to be as good as they were, and guess who's in that group, Kiko Calero, who the Marlins brought in as a non-roster invitee.  So, it's tough to get good middle relievers, because in general they are an inconsistent group...

Stark says, "...middle relievers are like the weather. They might look great today. They might look great tomorrow. But that never, ever means they'll still be looking great the next day."  I usually disagree with Stark, but this time he's spot on.  You can blame poor production on change of scenery (Sean Green) or being over-worked (Parnell) but the fact of the matter is these guys are relief pitchers out of necessity...

Stark goes on to quote a GM who says, "The first thing you've got to they're relievers for a reason. The reason they become relievers in the first place is because they have some flaws. They don't have a third pitch. They can't repeat their delivery. They've got an unorthodox arm angle. So we made them relievers -- because if we had a choice, we'd make them starters. Just the fact that we made them relievers means you're looking at an imperfect crop to begin with."  Exactly the point.  Middle relievers have a hard time duplicating success because they're inconsistent, which is why guys like Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith, John Franco are so rare.

So, if Escobar ends up being seriously hurt, which I hope isn't the case, Omar should rely on what he always does, bringing in quantity to try to unearth a gem.  This time (as opposed to bench/platoon position players), I think it's a good plan, especially because of the inconsistent nature of middle relievers in general...

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