While trying to ignore the mounting evidence that a Delywn Young-sized mistake is about to be made, let’s not forget to focus on another roster battle that’s coming down to the wire, and for once I don’t mean #5 starter – #2 lefty reliever. You thought the fight for that last starter role featured some awesome names? At least you’d heard of Eric Milton, Shawn Estes, and Claudio Vargas, even if you shuddered at the mention of their names. These are guys even I’d barely ever heard of before this spring. With “notable” lefty contenders Carmen Cali, Stephen Randolph, Brent Leach, and Victor Garate already shipped off to minor league camp, here’s what we’re looking at…
Brian Mazone: a 32-year-old who’s yet to make his Major League debut? Oh yeah, off to a great start here. He went undrafted in 1998 and made it into 20 games for Atlanta’s A-ball team that year, before spending five of the next six seasons in independent ball, with the 6th lost to arm surgery. He finally made it back to organized ball in 2003 and has been bouncing around the minors (mostly as a starter) ever since, going 9-12 with a 4.10 ERA for Philadelphia’s AAA team last year. That was actually his worst season of the last few years, but I’m not exactly sure if that’s a good thing or not.
Mazone’s actually been very good so far this spring, allowing no runs and just 2 hits in 6.1 innings. You’d think that in a competition which is so lousy that, well, Brian Mazone can still be a top contender for the crown, a line like that would get you a good chance. Except that Tony Jackson disagrees:
Mazone pitched the eighth inning and stranded a runner on third. He now has pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings, spread over eight appearances, this spring. He also is a left-hander. And the Dodgers NEED a left-handed reliever. But this guy probably will begin the season at abq.
I’m sure there’s a good reason for that, but damned if I know what it is. Moving on…
Erick Threets: Threets comes over from the dark side, having been in the Giants system since entering pro ball in 2001. He does actually have some MLB experience, though it was pretty monumentally bad: 16 hits and 12 walks allowed in 12.1 innings over the last two years. His minor league stats aren’t all that much better – he seems to be Greg Miller light in terms of Ks and BBs, because in 398.2 career IP he’s whiffed 370 (that’s good!) and walked 286 (that’s bad!). And yes, the frogurt is also cursed.
Threets hasn’t been as good as Mazone this spring, allowing 3 earned runs in 4.2 innings, though striking out 8 in that time is pretty nice. To be honest, while I like a guy with the stuff to miss bats, do we really want to be seeing this guy come in and walk half the league? Not what you want out of a guy who’s supposedly going to be your lefty specialist.
Shawn Estes: ugh, him again? That’s right, just a day after being told he had lost his shot at the 5th starter role and could choose between the minors or being released, he’s gone with door #3: reinvention as a lefty reliever.
Veteran starting pitcher Shawn Estes agreed to report to the Dodgers’ Minor League camp on Monday to attempt a transition to left-handed-relief specialist.
Estes, cut on Sunday with a choice of reporting to the Minor Leagues or receiving his release, said the compromise was raised in a meeting he had on Sunday with general manager Ned Colletti. The Dodgers have been unsuccessful in finding a second left-handed reliever to complement Hong-Chih Kuo.
Really? I mean, I don’t mind giving the guy a shot in minor league camp, but how many times have we been over this? He’s almost never been very good in the bigs, and he’s been downright awful this spring. He’s done. Cooked. Over. Finito. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. No matter whether or not the biggest competition are guys like Brian Mazone and Erick Threets.
So the solution is…
Just sign Will Ohman already! I was calling for this as far back as last October, when I included him as part of my 2009 plan:
Ohman’s a 31-year old lefty reliever and Pepperdine alum who’s made it into at least 56 games in each of the last four seasons with the Cubs and Braves, with ERA+ marks of 151, 112, 94, and 112. Plus, he’s absolutely murder on lefties (.571 OPS against in 2008), which makes him unlike Beimel (who’s actually harder on righties) and Kuo (who kills everyone, but isn’t really a situational kind of guy).
Joe Torre spent most of last year trying to turn Beimel into a situational lefty, which he never was, so why not just sign a guy who’s clearly good at it? Makes sense to me. Plus, the price is right, because according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark:
Last I heard, the last of the free-agent left-handers, Will Ohman, was looking for a one-year deal in the neighborhood of $1.75 million, with easily reachable incentives that could add close to another $1 million on top of that. Also hearing Ohman wants to stay on the West Coast. So with the Dodgers not interested in approaching that price, the Padres and Giants would seem to be the teams at the front of this line.
You know what? I’m usually not in favor of giving much money to relievers, but in this case it’s worth it. Not only is this a big need for the Dodgers (and not just because Mazone and Threets are the alternatives – what happens when, not if, when Kuo goes on the DL? You’ll still need those guys later.) After an off-season in which Ned Colletti clearly established he’s trying to win now, are we really going to let a measly $1 million or so stop us from getting the quality lefty reliever we so desperately need?