Under the Radar: A Few Interesting Baseball Moves

These past few days have produced quite a slew of interesting—although not entirely notable—baseball moves. We all heard about Felix Hernandez signing a mega-contract with the Mariners and Josh Johnson signing with the Marlins, but those aren’t the kind of moves I’m talking about. I’m talking about some of the smaller moves that may have fallen under the radar.

For example, the Chicago Cubs signed Scott McClain. Scott Mc-who? Scott McClain. Every generation has its perennial power hitters that no one has ever heard of, and Scott McClain is one of those guys. Why has no one heard of them? Because they are perennial power hitters in the minor leagues. And Scott McClain is a real whopper of a power hitter…in the minor leagues.

His career is long and storied, but I’ll try to keep it short. He made his professional debut in 1990—20 years ago—and has played in over 1,750 games in the minors, as well as a few hundred more in Japan. He has 292 minor league home runs, hitting as many as 34 in a season. He hit as many as 39 in a season on the other side of the ocean.

Big league opportunities have been few and far between for this slugger, however. He had a cup of coffee in 1998, and then had to wait until 2005 to get another chance to play in the majors.  In 2008, at the age of 36, he hit his first career home run, becoming one of the oldest players in big league history to hit career home run number one. He went on to hit another one later that year. In 78 big league at-bats, he has a .192 average, two home runs and eight RBI.

Judging by past history, I don’t think it’s very likely he’s going to get a shot at the big leagues this year, and if he does it will once again be for only a few games. Nevertheless, I like this signing by the Cubs, because it allows McClain to continue and add to his already historic minor league career.

While the Cubs were signing “that old guy” Scott McClain, the Giants signed a 29-year-old pitcher that I’m pretty fond of, who goes by the name of Santiago Casilla. It is pretty hard to believe that his big league debut was way back in 2004, and it’s also pretty hard to believe that I’m saying how I’m fond of a guy with a 5.11 career ERA. But I like what Santiago Casilla has to offer. I think he is a solid pitcher with a knack for strikeouts (and unfortunately, walks). If he can ever put it all together, he will be a solid pitcher.

Maybe this is the reason I think he has so much potential: back in 2008, he began the season without allowing a single earned run in 18 straight games. In that 17 1/3 inning span, he struck out 21 batters and allowed only nine hits and three walks. It is a streak such as that which shows what kind of pitcher he can be. Here’s hoping he can do well in the National League West.

And finally, the Arizona Diamondbacks released Eric Byrnes. It is sad to see a man with so much upside falter like he has these past two years, and it is especially sad to see him be released. This was a player who, at his best could have hit more than 25 home runs and stolen 50 bases or more. Alas, over the past two years, he hit only .218 in 445 at-bats. Such numbers do not a good career outlook make, and I certainly do not believe the future has a lot of good in store for him. Still, here’s hoping he can catch on with another team, and maybe even get himself back to pre-2008 form.

Just a quick note: the Orioles signed Chris George, adding to the list of recent signings of players in the “two first names club.” Other players include Alfredo Simon (also signed by the O’s), Luke Scott, Chris Ray and Alex Gordon.

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