The waiver wire can be a team’s best friend and it can be their worst enemy, too.
It has proven to be both so far for the Minnesota Twins in 2012. It has proven to be the Twins' best friend in the acquisition of Clete Thomas. Thomas was originally drafted by the Twins and looks to be a nice young piece to the puzzle for the ballclub; it doesn't hurt that the Twins took him from the division rival Detroit Tigers either.
The waiver wire has proven its cost with the loss of Luke Hughes, who was put on waivers to make room for Jason Marquis and then claimed by the Oakland A’s on Sunday.
Chances are good that Hughes will never win an MVP award or even make an All-Star team, but he does bring something very valuable to a team: versatility. The Twins lost their main source of infield versatility a couple of years ago when Nick Punto departed, and they lost the ultimate utility man in Michael Cuddyer when he signed with the Rockies this offseason. You can’t perfectly compare Hughes to either player, but it shows how valuable versatility can be.
Hughes only played in four games for the Twins this year, but during those four games he played at first base, second base and third base. Ryan Doumit is the only other Twin that has played three different defensive positions for the Twins this year.
Injuries happen. They are inevitable. What happens if either Jamey Carroll or Alexi Casilla goes down? Only two players on the active roster have spent time in the middle infield: Sean Burroughs and Trevor Plouffe. Burroughs played 13 games at second base in 2002 and two innings at short in 2005, and Twins fans know how well the Plouffe experiment worked at short last year.
To make it worse, Tsuyoshi Nishioka is the only other infielder on the 40-man roster, which could mean another risky waiver move to bring up, in all likelihood, Brian Dozier.
Hughes isn't a household name, and he probably never will be. Hughes isn't the best hitter; his lifetime .224 average shows that. Hughes doesn't exactly have a gold glove; his one error in four game evidences that.
Despite all of that, Hughes is a very valuable player to a ballclub. Managers love the guy they can pencil in at multiple spots, it gives the player more playing time and it gives the regulars more opportunities to rest.
Luke Hughes may be an average player, but for a team that lost 99 games a year ago, average may be just what they are looking for.