The Oakland Athletics signed Justin Duchscherer to a one-year, $5.5 million deal earlier this week.
This is the sort of move I've been hoping the A's would make for weeks.
It's no secret around Bleacher Report that I think Trevor Cahill and Vince Mazzaro need to start 2010 in Triple-A, and that the A's, prior to signing Duchscherer, only had three true MLB-level starters: Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden, and Gio Gonzalez.
They also have Josh Outman, but Tommy John surgery will keep him out for at least the first two months of 2010.
If the A's are smart, they'll keep Anderson, Braden, and Gonzalez in the rotation, and I think they will. That means Duchscherer allows for either Cahill or Mazzaro to get more Triple-A time, which is particularly a necessity for Cahill, who has never pitched in Triple-A.
The A's could still use a fifth-slot placeholder so Mazzaro can start 2010 in the minors as well, and I still recommend James Simmons for that role.
Both Simmons and Duchscherer come with significant questions, and I understand that.
For Simmons, the question is simply: "Is he a major league pitcher yet?"
For Duchscherer, there are questions about his skill erosion (he didn't pitch in 2009) and his durability (he's never thrown 155 or more innings in a season).
I would answer those questions with the fact that Simmons and Duchscherer don't need to be in the rotation all year.
With Outman coming back at some point around July, and with Mazzaro and Cahill something close to ready (maybe 10-15 starts in Triple-A away), the A's will likely need Duchscherer and Simmons in the rotation for half of the season.
They can often skip one of the two to rest Duchscherer extra or keep Simmons (if he struggles, which I'm not sure he will) from getting lit up.
When Outman comes back, Simmons can be sent down or Duchscherer can be moved to the bullpen. The same applies when Cahill, Mazzaro, or anyone else in the organization demonstrates a mastery of Triple-A. With that schedule, Simmons is likely gone if he makes 10 bad starts, which is a fair trial, and Duchscherer likely won't have to throw 155 innings.
It's a pretty nifty move by Billy Beane to get Duchscherer, a big step toward allowing Cahill and Mazzaro more minors time, which I think could be key for their future success.