Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pitcher gone? Not quite

Last week, when the Twins designated Esmerling Vasquez for assignment, I titled the post about the move "One pitcher gone."

Turns out that was premature. Vasquez slipped through waivers unclaimed. The Twins have assigned him to their Triple A roster and issued another spring training invitation. That makes, I believe, 66 players to be in major league camp, and 33 of them pitchers. It's a lot to sort through.

But to get back to the subject of waivers: I should have realized that Vasquez was relatively likely to go unclaimed. Follow the logic:

Vasquez was waived in the final week of the regular season by Arizona. Waiver priority go by league; since Arizona, the waiving team, is in the National League, every NL team had priority over any American League team. (The Twins, with the worst record in the AL, had the top priority in the AL.) Vasquez went unclaimed by the entire National League -- at a point in the baseball calendar when all claiming him required was making room on the 40-man roster.

There being little reason at this point for NL teams to have concluded that passing on him in September was a mistake, the most likely claimants would be AL teams. But with spring training just ahead, teams are more focused on their eventual 25-man rosters than on filling out their 40s -- and with Vasquez apparently out of options, a team would probably have to see him winning a 25-man spot to put in a claim.

So the Twins retain Vasquez. And now they have no problems sending him to the minors this spring.

Which is the likely outcome of all this maneuvering. It is, again, tinkering on the edges of the roster (in this case, off the edge of the roster). Vasquez has good stuff and subpar command of it; he needs to establish that he knows what to do with his stuff. Until then, he doesn't matter much to a major league team.

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