I was amused by this article today in which Blue Jays GM Alex Anthropoulos explained his decision to release centerfielder Joey Gathright, after a horrendous Spring in which Gathright had a .353 OPS after 42 at-bats, with the statement that Anthropoulos thought it “wouldn’t be fair” to Gathright to send him down to the minors.
For those of you not familiar with Joey Gathright, he’s a 28 year old back-up centerfielder with a career major league OPS of .630 who has managed to obtain more than 1,000 ABs because his center field defense is stellar and he makes a useful pinch runner.
Given that Gathright hasn’t hit a lick this Spring, I take Anthropoulos’ statements as a polite way to say, “Joey, you played so badly this Spring we don’t even see you as a regular centerfielder at the AAA level. We could be using that roster space to develop a younger player, so hit the road.”
It’s just about impossible to imagine that a major league GM would feel the least compunction to send a Joey Gathright-type player down to AAA if the GM thought there was any way the player might be able to help the major league team or even the AAA team in the future.
By way of comparison, I also read this question and answer by mlb.com beat writer Marty Noble in which he speculates that despite his 1.38 ERA in 13 Spring innings pitched, lefty and former Giant Pat Misch probably won’t be on the Mets’ Opening Day roster. Noble further speculates that Misch will probably be one of the last players the Mets try to send down, since he’s out of options. The Mets’ hope is that teams won’t have a major league roster space for Misch and he’ll pass through waivers.
In fairness to the Mets, the rest of Misch’s Spring line isn’t nearly as good as his ERA. Thus, it would not be a surprise if the Mets would rather try to slip him through waivers than a pitcher they might think has a more of a future.
However, Misch is just good enough that no right-thinking GM would cut him loose because it wouldn’t be “fair” to send him to the minors. Misch still has value to a major league team, because at age 28 also, he’s just good enough that he’ll likely pitch well at AAA and get at least a couple of weeks on the major league roster in 2010, because someone on the Mets’ pitching staff is bound to get hurt.