The Process of Weeding Out

Tom DubberkeCorrespondent IMarch 31, 2010

Teams are getting towards their Opening Day rosters and some tough decisions are being made.

The Mariners have waived Ryan Garko, who hasn’t been hitting this Spring (.630 OPS in 41 at-bats).  My guess is that Garko will clear waivers because he has a major league $550,000 contract for 2010, which other teams probably won’t want to assume.

To my surprise, Garko still has minor league options left, according to  However, he’s been in the majors the last three seasons now, so he may have the right to void the contract and become a free agent.  In this market, however, he may well elect to be sent down to AAA so he can keep collecting on his guaranteed contract.

In a similar vein, the Rays’ Dan Johnson cleared waivers and has accepted an assignment to AAA.  Dan Johnson is a former A’s 1Bman who was the best hitter in the International League in 2008 and went to play in Japan in 2009 for about $1 million.  However, he disappointed with the bat in Japan and wasn’t invited back for a second season.

In fact, Johnson really wasn’t that bad in 2009, except for his feeble .215 batting average (he hit 24 HRs and drew a lot of walks), and I still think he could have become a big star in Japan with another year to get used to the Japanese game.  However, the Rays gave him a $500,000 major league contact on January 10, 2010, which was more than any Japanese team would give him in the current economy and after his sub-par 2009.

Of course, Johnson has accepted the minor league assignment, because a guaranteed $500,000 is more than he’d get this year from anyone else anywhere.  If the Rays are committed to paying him half a mil to play minor league ball, they’ll at least have him in mind when someone gets hurt.  Meanwhile, I expect he’ll again be one of the top hitters in the International League in 2010.

Eric Stults is headed to Japan.  The Dodgers have sold Stults for an amount reported to be $300K or $400K to the Hiroshima Carp.  My guess would be that Stults’ contract will be for roughly twice the purchase price.

Stults is a marginal major league pitcher at best, with a career major league line of a 4.84 ERA, 145 IP, 156 hits, 18 HRs and 63 walks allowed and 98 Ks.  And he did that pitching his home games in Dodger Stadium, a great pitchers’ park.

Stults is 30 this year, and Japan is certainly his best bet.  I’m not sure he’ll be successful, though.

Japanese teams like guys like Stults with significant major league experience.  However, while Stults pitched well at the AAA level in 2006 and 2008, he was pretty terrible there in 2007 and 2009.  It remains to be seen if he’ll have what it takes to be a success in Japan.

Another player reported to be of significant interest to Japanese teams, Seth McClung, was just released by the Marlins, after posting an 11.05 ERA in six Spring appearances (7.1 IP).  After two adequate years for the Brewers in 2008 and 2009, and being a year younger than Stults, McClung looks like a better option for a Japanese team.

McClung may yet catch on with an MLB organization, but he should consider going to Japan long and hard, because it might ultimately be the best way to have a successful professional career.

The Cubs released Kevin Millar.  He wasn’t having a good Spring (.242 batting average) but he wasn’t terrible either (.769 OPS).

He’s 38 now, and this probably means the end of his professional career. Economic times such as these are especially hard on older players.  There seems to be something of an unwritten rule about how little a major league team can pay a veteran like Millar.  As a result, when times are tight, the clubs prefer to go with younger, cheaper players.

However, for a player who got his professional start in the lowly Independent A leagues, Millar had a helluva career with a lot of exciting moments.  It’s hard to feel too sorry for him.

The Mets did indeed waive Pat Misch.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Mets are reportedly hoping to slip him through waivers so they can send him down to AAA where he’ll be on standby until some of the pitchers the Mets take north develop sore arms.

Finally, the Tigers sent Nate Robertson and $9.6 million of the remaining $10 million on Robertson’s contract to the Marlins for minor league pitcher Jay Voss.  Robertson is 32 this year, and he sure looks like a pitcher whose best days are well behind him.  I guess the Marlins want him for depth in their bullpen.

I actually kind of like Jay Voss.  He’s only 23 this year, and in 40 relief appearances mostly at the AA level in 2009, he pitched well, with an ERA under 3.00 and roughly a strikeout per inning pitched.  He’s projected as a left-handed short man at the major league level, but at his tender age, he’s still a legitimate prospect.  However, he probably isn’t worth Nate Robertson and $9.6 million.