Eveland DFA'd; Pitching Dominoes Starting to Fall?

The Orioles have designated Dana Eveland for assignment. Dan Duquette traded for Eveland in his first real move with the Orioles this past winter.  The trade, which sent minor leaguers Jarret Martin and Tyler Henson to the Dodgers, was largely panned at that time.  Eveland owns a career 5.52 ERA over parts of seven seasons and spent the majority of the 2011 season with the Dodger’s AAA affiliate in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The consensus at the time of the trade was that giving up two players (even two as expendable as Martin and Henson) for Eveland, having him take up a 40 man roster spot, and paying him $750,000 was all simply too much.  Duquette responded to such criticisms by noting that Eveland had “learned how to pitch” during his time in Albuquerque and would provide the O’s win additional depth in the rotation or bullpen.

As the offseason went on, the Eveland trade continued to draw criticism.  The O’s signed Tsuyoshi Wada and Wei-Yen Chen, both of whom at the time of their signings were expected to be in the Opening Day rotation.  This gave the O’s upwards of ten starting pitching candidates and additional offseason signings further crowded the bullpen.  It seemed at points during the winter that Eveland might end up taking away a pitching spot from a more deserving player.  The idea being that the O’s would be slow to give up on a pitcher they had traded for just months earlier.

Well, those fears appear to have been unwarranted with news of Eveland being designated for assignment this afternoon.  Yes, the O’s still gave up to minor leaguers for a guy who at best will open the season pitching for AAA Norfolk and at worst, will be out of the organization entirely.  I am sure a lot of fans will still view the Eveland trade as a waste of a trade and in a lot of ways, they are right.  However, the bottom line is that the team took a risk, perhaps one that didn’t need to be taken, and in the end won’t be any worse for wear.

Eveland being designated for assignment might be the start of a series of dominos falling over the next week (25 man rosters must be set by 5 PM a week from yesterday).

  • This news coupled with Tsuyoshi Wada’s performance this week has all but sealed a spot in the rotation for Brian Matusz.  Matusz has certainly earned it and I readily admit that I wouldn’t have bet money on him being in the Opening Day rotation when Spring Training began.
  • One major roadblock to Troy Patton making the pitching staff has just been cleared.  It was unlikely that the O’s would carry three lefties and not even a guarantee that they would carry two.  If Wada does indeed start the season in Norfolk’s rotation (which seems likely given that Buck has indicated his preference is for Wada to start), then the path is completely cleared for Patton to be part of the Opening Day bullpen.
  • The battle for the final pitching spot therefore appears to be down to Alfredo Simon and Pedro Strop, with Zach Phillips and Darren O’Day having an outside shot (Phillips and O’Day have a minor league option which will no doubt make it tough on their chances of making the team).  Roch Kubatko is convinced that a trade will happen between now and the start of the season.  Both Strop and Simon are the most likely trade candidates.  My gut tells me that the O’s might prefer to trade Simon and that Simon might even have more value, given his larger major league resume and experience as both a starer and a reliever.
  • Let’s say for a moment that Eveland passes through waivers and begins the season in AAA.  Now let’s also imagine that Simon is indeed traded for minor league depth.  That would mean the O’s only “lost” one pitcher (Simon) and even then, they got something back for him.  I have to admit, I thought that Dan Duquette’s pitching depth plan was ill-conceived and that due to contract considerations, most of that depth would be gone by the start of the season.  Instead, most of it has remained in tact, with only one major injury contributing (Zach Britton) and only one underserving pitcher making the staff purely on the basis of his contract (Kevin Gregg).  The O’s could very well begin the 2012 season with Eveland, Jason Berken, Brad Bergeson, Armando Galarraga, Chris Tillman, Wada, O’Day, and Phillips all providing depth in AAA.  There is no denying that the pitching depth is much stronger going into this season than in any year in recent memory.
  • Lastly, the Eveland move allowed the O’s to claim Zelous Wheeler off of Waivers.  The 25 year-old infielder has a good OBP in five minor league seasons and will provide yet another option for the team at 3B and possibly even the middle-infield.  This move would seem to spell the end for Josh Bell’s days with the Orioles, as eventually a 40-man roster spot will need to be cleared up for Ronny Paulino and/or Nick Johnson.  Bell is the likely victim of that move, with Wheeler sliding into his spot as the Tides’ starting third baseman.