MLB owners and general managers are meeting this week which means the annual stream of often-absurd hot stove rumors are starting to fly around and hopefully some actual moves shouldn’t be too far behind. But there isn’t much buzz surrounding the A’s right now and I don’t really expect that to change much anytime soon which leaves me a little bored. So bored that I’m blogging about Phil Humber.
That’s right, I am investing time that I’ll never get back on a guy who went 0-8 with a 7.90 ERA for the Astros while giving up a .950 OPS to opposing batters. I’m probably really going to regret this when I’m on my death bed thinking about all the amazing things I could have done with my free time if I valued it a lot more. But after signing on the dotted line as a free agent, Humber’s part of the Oakland Athletics organization which makes him a person of interest to this crazy A’s fan.
Smart money says Humber’s just a warm body with MLB experience who can eat up some innings in spring training and Sacramento. Realistically, the best case scenario is that he serves as cheap insurance if injuries crop up and the A’s need someone to slot into the back of the rotation for a few weeks and save Oakland the trouble of rushing a prospect and burning up valuable service time (that’s if Humber even makes it out of spring training with the organization). Humber may also be cut in a couple of weeks when someone on waivers piques the front office’s interest. I know that, you know that, we all know that. But as I wait for the things to heat up for the A’s in the hot stove league I can’t resist killing a little time sifitng through Humber’s stats and letting my imagination run wild.
Let’s face it, I drank the green and gold Kool-Aid a long time ago so at this point it’s just second nature for me to overthink the moves the A’s make and see at least a shred of potentially intriguing value in every transaction by Beane and Co.
The main reason I’m wasting more than fleeting thought on Humber is that the A’s briefly snagged him on waivers in 2010 and Beane has a knack for seeing something in a player and keeping them on his radar until he can finally get a hold of them. There has to be some value in Humber that everyone else has missed, right?
Does a 30-year-old who spent 2013 putting up a horrible stat line for an equally horrible team deserve more than the 13 words devoted to him on the A’s transaction page? No, of course not. But like I said, idle time has set me in motion here until some real A’s news or entertaining rumors flood my Twitter timeline.
The A’s need to add starting pitching depth regardless of whether they re-sign Bartolo Colon and that’s the obvious no-risk, low-reward angle to taking a harmless flier on Humber. But the A’s also need a little bullpen help with Grant Balfour taking his rage to a yet-to-be-determined free agent destination. And that’s where Humber, for some odd reason, mildly interests me.
Am I crazy enough to see him as the next great, cheap closer for the guys in green and gold? No. I may drink way too much green and gold Kool-Aid but I don’t sniff glue or smoke crack (I swear). But if the A’s simply hand the ninth inning over to Sean Doolittle and move Dan Otero and Ryan Cook up an inning, that leaves a hole in Bob Melvin‘s late-inning routine. That’s where I see Humber potentially enjoying a career boost by morphing from a largely ineffective starting pitcher into a reliable ROOGY for a contender.
What the heck am I seeing in a guy who stunk it up Houston last season? I see a guy who held right-handed batters to a .588 OPS in 2013, a .647 OPS over the past 3 seasons, and a devilish .666 OPS on his career. Why the heck can’t Humber make a late-career change and specialize in getting right-handed batters out as a reliever? We know the A’s love their platoons, so why not take advantage of Humber’s splits and platoon him out of the pen?
Is there any reason Curt Young can’t teach Humber a new pitch and make a couple of minor mechanical adjustments to breathe some new life into the guy’s career? Combine that with the ability to air it out in relief vs. pacing effort over the course of a 5-plus inning start and you could have the makings of a livelier fastball and nastier breaking pitches from Humber to shut down right handers.
Crazier things have happened, and isn’t that why we love baseball? If there’s one place in the league where pitchers can can go from the scrap heap to the top of the hill, it’s Oakland. When the A’s first signed Bartolo Colon did you see an All-Star season coming? Did you see four consecutive 20 win seasons coming from Dave Stewart or a Hall of Fame run as a closer coming from Dennis Eckersley? Did you ever imagine former first baseman Sean Doolittle could become a dominant relief pitchers or Dan Otero would emerge as a reliable late-game option for the A’s in the playoffs?
Yeah, I know it’s nuts to stretch my imagination far beyond the realm of reasonable possibilities and envision Phil Humber being a valuable member of a dominant 2014 A’s team. But it beats contemplating a potential Brett Anderson trade (I hate the idea) or wasting my time hoping that Tim Hudson will return to Oakland as a free agent (I love the idea).
So there you have it, more words than you’ll probably ever see written about Phil Humber again … unless he has surprisingly effective year with the A’s in 2014 at which point I’ll go nuts and ramble about the guy all over again.