Key word here: “attempting.” To be honest, I don’t see any logical reason why the Twins would have wanted these two guys and passed on another reliever that was recently claimed as well. Anyway, here’s what I think.
Matt Maloney is a soft-tossing LHP that was claimed from the Cincinnati Reds, and is coming off a terrible 2011 season, at least in the major leagues. He only threw 18.2 innings and had a 9.16 ERA, mainly from allowing over 3 home runs per 9 innings pitched, and a .396 (!) batting average allowed. His numbers were much better in the minor leagues, and I think that’s why the Twins felt the need to add him to the organization. In 81.1 innings at Triple-A, Maloney was 7-1 with a 2.99 ERA, while exhibiting good control. Career numbers for Maloney:
Matt Maloney: 5.40 ERA, 5.48 FIP, 6.08 K/9, 1.91 BB/9, .300 AVG
Huh. Left-handed, good control, allows plenty of fly balls and home runs, and doesn’t throw hard (averaging 87.1 MPH on his fastball for his career). This sounds an awful lot like Chuck James, doesn’t it? You know, the same Chuck James that was removed from the 40-man roster just before the end of the 2011 season? If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear that they were twins (okay, I had to do that pun).
As for Jeff Gray, he’s a RHP that has a low-to-mid-90s sinking fastball and a high-80s slider. Despite the velocity, he has exhibited an inability to strike out many hitters. This seems to further confirm that the Twins are going in a new direction when it comes to building a bullpen, where they are trying to amass as many hard-throwing relievers as they can. Unfortunately, these flamethrowers are all lacking upside. Here are the career numbers for some of the newest Twins relievers.
Lester Oliveros: 4.64 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 5.48 K/9, 4.64 BB/9, .263 AVG
Jim Hoey: 7.02 ERA, 5.37 FIP, 5.80 K/9, 5.49 BB/9, .300 AVG
Esmerling Vasquez: 4.66 ERA, 4.50 FIP, 7.88 K/9, 5.26 BB/9, .242 AVG
Jeff Gray: 4.57 ERA, 4.47 FIP, 5.08 K/9, 3.15 BB/9, .280 AVG
Not a looker in the bunch, really. Gray does have the lowest BB/9, Oliveros has the lowest FIP (boosted by the fact he hasn’t allowed a single HR in his career yet), Vasquez has the K rate, and Hoey has… nothing. Maybe the Twins know something that we don’t, but I see these 4 guys as being redundant. If I was Bill Smith, I would keep one or two of these guys, not all four.
Finally, there’s the guy I would have loved the Twins to claim but they failed to do so, and that is sidearming reliever Darren O’Day. He started his career with the Angels in 2009, and then joined the Mets in 2010. They didn’t seem to like what they saw, and the Rangers ended up claiming O’Day off waivers, and Texas is where his career took off. Even though he struggled last season (somewhat due to a partial labrum tear in his hip) and he barely averages over 85 MPH on his “fastball”, his career numbers are significantly better than any of the pitchers mentioned above.
Darren O’Day: 2.89 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 7.37 K/9, 2.44 BB/9, .222 AVG
Yet the Twins didn’t want him. Even though they had first crack at claiming O’Day off waivers, they let him go while taking Maloney and Gray just days earlier. I don’t know the thought process of the front office, but this just seems so… wrong! Claiming low-upside pitchers while letting the high-upside one go through? Okay, I get that hard-throwing relievers will always be considered as having upside, but if they’re not striking anyone out, I don’t see the point in carrying them on your roster. Maloney just doesn’t make sense, period, though.
I don’t see Maloney making it through the entire season on the roster, and while Gray might stick, I do feel that he may also be designated for assignment at some point during the 2012 season. I do understand that their acquisitions may have simply been depth moves, but I don’t see why they needed to be given 40-man roster spots. Both pitchers fit the description of “replacement level,” but the Twins didn’t seem to get that. I do hope that either or both of these pitchers contribute significantly to the Twins next season, but I’m not expecting it. What I am expecting is that the front office comes to its senses and realizes that neither of these pitchers are actually needed.