Last year at around this time, the Braves and Royals engaged in a waiver war over right-hander Jairo Cuevas. The Royals, guided by former Atlanta assistant GM Dayton Moore, claimed him from the Braves on Oct. 24, the Braves reclaimed him on Nov. 27 and the Royals reclaimed him on Dec. 10.
The Royals ended up winning the battle, as they were able to non-tender Cuevas and then re-sign him on Dec. 13, allowing them to keep him in the organization without using a 40-man roster spot on him. Cuevas went on to miss the entire 2009 season after recovering from shoulder surgery, and he’ll be back in Royals camp as a non-roster player next year.
There will be no waiver war this time. However, there could be some controversy over the fate of one Juan Abreu. The Royals’ Double-A Northwest Arkansas affiliate announced Friday that Abreu had been re-signed to a minor league contract.
The Braves, apparently, disagreed. They announced the signing of Abreu to a major league contract on Tuesday and added the 24-year-old right-hander to their 40-man roster.
Time will tell if Abreu is worth the fuss. He can reach the mid-90s with his fastball and he’s struck out 10.9 batters per nine innings during a four-year minor league career, but his command is awful and he struggled in his first attempt at Double-A last season. Overall, he had a 3.67 ERA and a 53/36 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings between high-A Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas last season. He’ll almost certainly open next year back in Double-A.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.