Eric Hacker’s 15 Minutes

Signs that the uneventful portion of the offseason is upon us: Eric Hacker stole the spotlight for about an hour’s span yesterday. There are a lot of starting points in most acquisitions, but not here, as the protagonist is a virtual unknown. One could say that Hacker’s offseason job is forest ranger and nobody would know any better. His onseason job is starting pitcher and more relevant to the discussion at hand.

Hacker is a short righty originally drafted by the New York Yankees in 2002. The Yankees traded Hacker to the Pittsburgh Pirates in May of 2009 for Romulo Sanchez. Hacker made a trio of relief appearances with the Pirates during the 2009 season before eventually hitting free agency and signing with the San Francisco Giants. That major league stint left some pitchfx residue in its wake, allowing us to confirm his low-90s fastball and usage of a mid-80s slider and mid-70s curveball.

Why is he relevant? Because the Minnesota Twins made a questionable decision yesterday by signing Hacker to a big league deal – a contract that places him directly onto the 40-man roster.

The prevailing explanation as to why is that Hacker won 16 games in the minor leagues last season. If explaining once again why major league win totals are a ridiculous method for evaluating pitching talent is insulting, then explaining why minor league win totals are a ridiculous method for evaluating pitching talent is like a string of obscenities. Although that explanation seems more reasonable than looking at his 4.51 earned run average, 4.67 FIP, or 2.08 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Rather, read this little ditty on Hacker by Marc Hulet:

Eric Hacker falls in the realm of ‘great results but lacks great stuff.’ Like Garcia, Hacker’s career has also been sidetracked by both elbow and shoulder surgeries, after originally being drafted out of high school in 2002. Those surgeries have taken a toll on his stuff and the right-hander now relies on command/control and the ground ball (58 GB% in High-A). Beginning the 2008 season in High-A ball, Hacker allowed 38 hits in 53 innings. He also posted rates of 1.53 BB/9 and 5.26 K/9, with just one home run allowed. Upon his promotion to Double-A, Hacker allowed 83 hits in 91 innings of work. He continued to show good control by posting a rate of 2.76 BB/9, along with 8.28 K/9.

If there’s any organization in the land that would find that skill set attractive, it would be the Twins. They love pitchers who throw strikes and get grounders. After all, the Twins found nearly 70 relief innings for Brian Bass in 2008. They found more than 30 for Luis Ayala in 2009 and so on. What seems more plausible than the Twins catching gaga eyes over Hacker’s minor league win total is that he fits what they look for in pitchers and that he has options remaining. Such a combination makes him a potential back of the bullpen arm who can eat innings in low leverage situations. That’s not a glamorous job description by any means, but one Hacker seems equipped to perform.

As for the 40-man roster spot, well, it is what it is. There are a finite amount of spots on a major league roster and affording one to a low-upside player this early in the offseason would be more concerning for a team without Minnesota’s amount of talent. The Twins are going to make some more moves this offseason which will quickly bury Hacker in the latest transactions blurbs and everyone will forget why they were skeptic to begin with.



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Alireza
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5 years 9 months ago

Remember – This type of MLB contract can be voided early with only partial pay, so the Twins aren’t making as big a gamble as one thinks. Unless they have some sort of high upside talent at risk for Rule 5, I just don’t see the problem.

What I do find odd is their continuing to go for the same type of pitcher, even after moving out of the Homerdome and off the artificial turf.

Luke in MN
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Luke in MN
5 years 9 months ago

I don’t really get how the throw-strikes and get ground balls philosophy was a match for the metrodome. With the weirdness of the turf and roof, I’d think a high-balls-in-play strategy wouldn’t be wise.

Ian
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Ian
5 years 9 months ago

I’m not sure what the hubbub over this move was. Hacker was a slightly better than league avg pitcher in the hitting friendly PCL last year. The Twins AAA pitchers were horrific last year and they need starting depth. Hacker probably slots in as the 9th starter (Liriano, Baker, Blackburn, Slowey, Duensing, Gibson, Manship, Swarzak) and a possible long relief arm but more likely a AAA starter all season to give a little stability to Rochester. The Twins have done a pretty good job of managing their roster over the last decade and have consistently won. They seem to have an idea of what they want to do and it seems to work. Why all the second guessing and strawmen arguments?

Steve
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Steve
5 years 9 months ago

The second guessing is b/c it is extremely unlikely that another team would have offered Hacker a major league contract. It is extremely likely that they could have signed him to a minor league contract and kept him off the 40 man roster, saving space for possibly protecting another player from the Rule V draft. If he makes the team out of ST, make a roster move at that point.

It just seems unnecessary.

You are right, they probably deserve the benefit of the doubt, and in the long run, it’s probably next to meaningless, just seemed like a rare misstep for such a well-run organization. That’s why it was noteworthy.

B N
Guest
B N
5 years 9 months ago

I assume they offered him a major league deal just because it’s cheap and they expect to play him at least once (which would turn a minor league contract into a major one anyways). It seems like an easy way to lock him in, with the only downside being if he gets injured between now and the season start. While no one else might offer him a major league deal, somebody might offer him a more convenient/attractive minor league deal.

adam
Guest
5 years 9 months ago

Little reward, but almost no risk.

One of the things I think the Twins do as well as any org, if not better than everyone else, is get a lot of marginal value for the few dollars over minimum they spend to shore up the back end of the roster. I don’t have a great amount of data for this, but you know how the Twins have come on strong in the second half of the last what, like 8 years? I don’t believe that is coincidence.

It’s anecdotal, but the Twins seem to be playing on fresher arms and fresher legs in August and September than the competition does. And this is the kind of move that feeds into that philosophy.

Do I think it’s a great move, or one that is going to push us past the White Sox again? Absolutely not. But with the incoming DisasterPen ’11 situation brewing, low-cost low-leverage arms are going to be needed when everyone in the pen has to promote a role tier or two because of guys not being resigned.

Scout Finch
Guest
Scout Finch
5 years 9 months ago

Racking up 16 wins in Fresno. He ain’t no slouch.

Al Bumbry
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Al Bumbry
5 years 9 months ago

how does him still having options figure in?
i thought these 6-year FA types if they make the MLB club you can’t send them down to AAA because the 6-year FA dude refuses assignment and is DFA’d – isn’t that how it usually works?

Facebook Account Hacker 2011
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4 years 9 months ago

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