Tuesday, May 24, 2005

the danny graves experiment

in a morally admirable move yesterday, the cincinnati reds designated their closer danny graves for assignment, the first step to dumping him from their squad. graves' behavior has been a sticking point with cincinnati management, and follows a catastrophic may for the pitcher (9 IP, 20 H, 4 HR, 11.00 ERA).

this cub team is as direly situated for bullpen help as any in the league, and i for one believe that it needs to take some chances to improve. almost no one in baseball is going to deal meaningful players in may when they know that, by hanging on to the seller's market of the trade deadline, they can drive up the value of their assets. that makes the availability of a veteran player like graves at this point in the year all the rarer.

but it must be said that graves isn't perfect -- he openly admits that an experiment with starting in 2003 took several miles an hour off his fastball. he saved 41 for cincy while posting a 3.95 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP, but that deceives from the nature of his problem. his splits from last year are more telling:

pre-asb: 49 G, 33 SV, 49.2 IP, 48 H, 29 K, 2.72 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, .253 BAA
post-asb: 19 G, 8 SV, 18.2 IP, 29 H, 11 K, 7.23 ERA, 1.98 WHIP, .349 BAA

overuse from 2003 compiled with 49 first-half appearances in 2004 have probably ruined graves' arm for a while to come. he is just probably not an answer for this year, i'm afraid. what he likely needs is time off, not to be tossed into the closer's cauldron to work it out.

if the cubs go and get graves, i'll be happy they did -- the cubs need to take a chance. but there's no way to expect him to jump into the ninth for this team and produce. there's a ten-day period in which the reds have the right to trade him, following which they are obligated to release graves. the cubs will then be free -- if no one trades for him -- to bargain for his services without having to adopt his $5.75mm 2005 contract. graves doesn't have much of a leg to stand on and will come cheap.

the cubs should be the team he comes to. but cub fans should be prepared for him to end up in iowa or worse.

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