I am a big proponent of the low risk signings with minimal commitment and non-roster invitations to Spring Training. The players involved are forced to audition their talent and do not get a free pass based on a glimmer or more of success in the past. For instance, the Mark Prior signings of the last two seasons make complete sense given that Prior cost very little and he was merely looking for a deal that would allow him another shot at major league dominance. Well, two more of these signings took place this weekend, both somewhat questionable, but one more bizarre than the other.
The Phillies released Adam Eaton (finally) after two abysmal seasons in red pinstripes. Unfortunately he still had another quite lucrative year on the deal making it impossible to unload the flailing righthander. Add in that teams knew the Phillies wanted to rid themselves of their poor investment and it becomes very easy to see why nobody wanted to send any type of package to the Phillies in exchange for Eaton’s services when he could be signed “free of charge” with a bit of due diligence and patience.
The Orioles jumped on Eaton quickly, signing him to a minor league deal worth $400,000. Due to his release, the Phillies are still responsible for around $8.7 mil of Eaton’s salary. Over the last three seasons, Eaton’s win values of 0.6, -0.3, and 0.4 help illustrate the depths to which his performance has fallen relative to expectations. He looked pretty solid in 2003 and 2005, both seasons in spacious San Diego, before going to the Rangers in a trade netting the Friars Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez. After a pretty miserable season in Texas, Eaton then signed a ridiculous 3-yr deal with the Phillies worth near $25 mil.
Somehow, this former first round pick of the Phillies ended up in arguably the most lopsided trade of the decade right before signing the most undeserved contract of the decade. Still, if he impresses in Spring Training, the Orioles have themselves a #5 starter with the Phillies footing the bill.
The signing of Eaton at least makes some sense given the aforementioned details, but I am still racking my brain for a reason to justify the Bruce Chen signing by the Royals. Granted, Chen was given a minor league deal, but how… I mean… why… Bruce Chen!? Chen hasn’t pitched since April 2007 when the Rangers allowed him five relief appearances that didn’t work out too well: 7.20 ERA/7.54 FIP.
Before that, Chen had spent three years with the aforementioned Orioles, putting together win values of 0.6, 1.5, -0.7. Even at his absolute best in 2005, Chen greatly benefited from a .267 BABIP and 78% LOB. In other words, his 4.94 FIP that season was hardly impressive, especially for a career year of sorts. Outside of that 2005 season he looks like a marginal fifth starter, if that.
Perhaps Chen has added a new pitch to his repertoire, has gotten married, or worked out to be in the best shape of his life, but I doubt any of that matters in terms of his skill level. These low risk signings should really be utilized by inking players with talent, unless there are extenuating circumstances as there are in the Eaton case. The Chen signing is not a low risk, high reward situation, because the reward the Royals will get might not even be of the medium variety.
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