Eaton and Chen

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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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

11 Responses to “Eaton and Chen”

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  1. KingKirkpatrick says:

    Criticizing the Royals for a MINOR LEAGUE SIGNING of a guy who has had at least a little success in the past??? That’s pretty ridiculous. There is ZERO RISK. Nothing bad can possibly come from this. Why not try it?? He’ll almost certainly never even put on a KC uniform after the end of March….by the fluke chance that he finds something, he’ll still have trouble making the team. If you’re gonna criticize the Royals for this, you have a TON of minor league and other signings to go through and criticize teams for that are “no reward” or “medium reward” or whatever.

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    • Eric Seidman says:

      Not really criticizing the Royals here… more criticizing Bruce Chen. There is absolutely no risk in signing Chen, there just also won’t be any reward.

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      • KingKirkpatrick says:

        Well, perhaps I am misinterpreting, but it does sound like you’re criticizing the Royals for choosing Chen just a little bit, but it’s not a big deal. My bad for misunderstanding your intention, I suppose.

        Chen will probably not even get one inning for KC; definitely right about that.

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      • You're Kind of an Idiot, Aren't You? says:

        Then what the hell are you racking your brain for?

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  2. Kevin says:

    I know you said arguably, but I still think the Colon for Sizemore, Lee, and Phillips was more lopsided. Big Fat Bartolo Colon left Montreal like three weeks later, and even though he robbed Johan of a Cy Young in ’05, he really hasn’t been worth a couple of 30-30 guys at premium positions and a Cy Young winner.

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    • Stephen Colquitt says:

      Exactly, he said ‘arguably’ when clearly there is no argument. The Padres/Rangers trade doesn’t even come close to the lopsidedness of Cleveland’s fleecing of Montreal—the discrepancy between the two deals so far has been to the order of nearly 4 Value Wins per season.

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  3. Jay in BMore says:

    Not to turn this into a “worst trade ever” discussion, but the O’s sending Curt Schilling, Steve Finley and Pete Harnish to the Astros for a rapidly deteriorating Glen Davis still gets me going all these years later. Schilling’s personality and propensity for opening his mouth too often aside, to give up that arm at the start of his career was absolutely foolish. Finley turned into a more than serviceable CF and even tossed in a few AS worthy seasons as well. Harnish even produced more than Davis in his less than memorable career. Big fat UGH!

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    • gnomez says:

      TO turn this into a “worst trade ever” discussion, Mark Mulder for Dan Haren, Daric Barton, and Kiko Calero ranks pretty high. Then again, so will Matt Holliday for Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen, and Shane Peterson.

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  4. Craig says:

    Keep in mind that Dayton Moore probably knows Chen from their days with the Braves. At one point Chen was a highly regarded farmhand for the Braves and I think Moore was on staff with the Braves front office at that time. Also, one other thing to keep in mind about Chen is that he is LH. I don’t recall him being a LOOGY candidate but I think just throwing from that side gets you at least a few extra chances in baseball.

    From the Royals perspective you get a look at him and perhaps get some AAA rotation filler. I think they already signed his evil twin; Haracio Rameriz (also a former braves prospect and LH) to a deal as well.

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  5. Deacon Drake says:

    Wow… now that Chen has had a chance to embarrass himself at the major league level, I think it is safe to say more bad decisions in KC.

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  6. Chummy Z says:

    Yep, Bruce Chen is done.

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