Under the Radar: More Interesting Baseball Moves? You Don't Say

Besides the Nationals signing Adam Kennedy and maybe the Giants signing Todd Wellemeyer, it seems like the “big” signings are drying up. There are certainly still some solid players left on the market, like Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon and Carlos Delgado, but the “big” signings aren’t happening at the rate they were earlier in the offseason. Since those aren’t what I focus on though, I’m not too worried. Onto the good stuff…

Willy Taveras was traded from the Reds to the Athletics, promptly designated for assignment, released…and then signed, by the Nationals. Now THAT is an interesting series of moves. Despite the fact that, statistically, Taveras isn’t a good offensive player—his career OPS+ is a terrible 68, his on-base percentage is only .321 and his slugging percentage is only .328—I’ve always liked this guy.

The reason why is not rooted in any sort of sabermetric devil’s magic and it’s not very “deep.” I have no special connection to him, nor does he have one to me, it’s just that I like speedy players. I just like guys who can steal bases and hit triples (the former of which Taveras can do a lot of, the latter of which not so much). I think the stolen base and the triple are two of the most exciting plays in baseball.

Of course, it’s not like I stack my fantasy teams with guys who can steal 50 bases in a season and yet post OPS+’s of only 68—that’d be stupid. I mean, I’d finish poorly in the fantasy leagues every year…though, in all actuality I finish poorly in the fantasy leagues every year anyway. But who cares, that is one massive digression. Back on track.

Taveras is basically a one-tool player. He can steal bases. He doesn’t hit for a high average, nor does he hit for extra bases. He doesn’t walk and he strikes out a lot. Not a very good combination of traits. Nevertheless, when he does get on, he can be a real threat—he is a speed demon. He is the perfect fourth or fifth outfielder.

If you’ve been reading this series of articles since I began, then you may have picked up on some of the sorts of baseball players that I “like.” You just learned that I like speedy guys, for example. As well, you may have gathered that I like those minor league power hitters that no one’s ever heard of. Well, there’s one more kind of player that I like, and that’s solid minor league closers that no one’s ever heard of. For example, Bobby Korecky, who was recently signed by the Angels.

The 29-year-old Korecky has put up some good numbers in the minor leagues—he has a career minor league ERA of 3.02, as well as 144 minor league saves. He has saved over 25 games four times, and over 30 games twice, with a career high of 35. Though he pitched only 27 minor league games in 2009, he went 2-1 with a 2.10 ERA and 13 saves. Not bad at all.

Korecky is a player who I think has what it takes to be a solid big league pitcher—however, he has not necessarily been a solid big league pitcher when he’s had the chance. He made 16 relief appearances for the Twins in 2008, posting a 4.58 ERA. He had a 13.50 ERA in five games for the Diamondbacks in 2009. Nevertheless, Bobby Korecky is a good pickup by the Angels. (By the way, another minor league closer who I think never got a fair shake is Lee Gronkiewicz—in 351 minor league games, he has 159 saves and a 2.43 ERA! And yet, his big league career lasted only one [very successful] game).

I’m pretty apathetic about the Dodgers’ signing of Seth Etherton…I mean, it’s Seth Etherton. Who cares, right? (I guess that could be said for most of the guys I write about). Still, I think Seth Etherton’s career is interesting enough to bring up.

His big league career has not been continuous—in fact, he made his big league debut in 2000, then had to wait until 2003 to pitch in the big leagues again, then had to wait until 2005 to pitch in the big leagues once more. He last pitched in the majors in 2006. While he has four years of big league experience under his belt, he has not been particularly successful—though he has a 9-7 record, his career ERA is 6.30 (despite posting a 5.52 ERA for the Angels in 2000, he went 5-1).

That is not what I think is most interesting about him, however. Rather, the most interesting part of Etherton’s big league career so far is that he has started all 23 games he has appeared in. How often does a pitcher have a career ERA of 6.30 and not make a single relief appearance, especially in a career of 20 or more games? Teams, for whatever reason, must have a lot of faith in him as a starter.

In the history of the big leagues, as far as I can tell, only one other pitcher has appeared in at least 20 games in his career and posted an ERA of 6.00 or higher, and started every single game: Jason Berken, who made his debut in 2009. It is very likely that either his career ERA will dip below 6.00 or he will eventually relieve a game, so Etherton—unless he relieves a game or drops his ERA—will be in a club of one.  You might not find this too exciting, but I tend to get excited by menial things.

Just a quick note: It’s really amazing how many guys who haven’t played big league ball in years are still bouncing around.

J.J. Furmaniak hasn’t been to the Show since 2007, yet he just signed a contract with the Rays.

Ozzie Chavez hasn’t played in the bigs since 2005, yet he just signed with the Rays as well.

Orber Moreno hasn’t played in the bigs since 2004, and yet he just signed with the White Sox.

Some guys just keep on chugging, long after we have forgotten about them.

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