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Here's a Thought: Oakland A's Designate LHP Jay Marshall For Assignment

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 6: Jay Marshall #52 of the Oakland Athletics delivers the pitch against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium on April 6, 2007 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Nathaniel StoltzSenior Analyst IJanuary 1, 2010

The Athletics signed Justin Duchscherer to a one-year deal earlier this week, and I praised the move.

Of course, Duchscherer's signing took up a 40-man roster spot, and someone thus had to go.

It turns out that the odd man out is LHP Jay Marshall, who was a Rule 5 draft pick in 2007 by Oakland. He stuck with the A's in a low-leverage role that year, and briefly resurfaced in the green and gold in September of 2009 after spending time at Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento.

Marshall is the sort of guy who doesn't really fit in the American League style of play. As this article's picture shows, he's a 6'5" lefty with an extremely low arm angle.

Marshall couldn't throw his fastball through a piece of paperit often fails to even touch 80 mph on the radar gun. His sweeping slider often comes in in the high 60s.

Despite the utter lack of velocity, Marshall's arm angle gives lefties fits, and it also puts a ton of sink on his fastball, resulting in astronomical groundball rates (56.4percent in just under 50 career MLB innings).

That makes Marshall a nice third lefty for Tony La Russa, but wildly unsuited for AL playhence his career 5.37 True ERA and 19/22 K/BB ratio. He faced 35 batters in the majors in 2009, and struck out exactly one.

Marshall turns 27 in spring training, and it's not like we're losing a stud arm here. There are a ton of lefty relievers who can put up a 5.00 ERA in the majors washing around in Triple-A. 

And hey, given all the flaws I've outlined, we may not lose him at allMarshall may wind up ousted from the 40-man and start 2010 at Sacramento, where he excelled (3.48 FIP) last year.

All that said, I don't like this move.

Why?

Two reasons. First of all, the A's now only have two lefty relievers (Craig Breslow and Brad Kilby) on their roster. Both are likely to open 2010 in Oakland, so if either one gets hurt (Breslow was worked hard last year, and Kilby's conditioning has long been under fire, so they are pretty significant injury risks), the A's would be forced to designate someone else for assignment to bring up a second lefty.

Second, there's a very clear DFA candidate that's less useful than Marshall; righthander Justin Souza, who put up an ERA over 10 (yes, 10) in Double-A after being acquired from the Mariners at midseason last year.

Would any team actually clear 40-man roster space for Souza? He's a 24-year-old pitcher who's bounced between starting and relieving with moderate success, and he was terrible late last year. I can't think of anyone on a 40-man roster over whom he'd represent an upgrade in either present or future value.

So the logical move would be to DFA Souza, keep Marshall around in Triple-A and on the 40-man in case Breslow or Kilby gets hurt, and send Souza back to Double-A off the 40-man to see if he can figure himself out.

I really hope this move doesn't cost the A's Marshall, because with Souza around, it really shouldn't have.

That said, making a mistake with Jay Marshall isn't the end of the world.

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