I believe in the importance of giving when you can to make life better for others. Whether that's donating clothes and toys to Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul, or dumping a bunch of cold water over yourself to convince others to give money to ALS research, or putting a couple bucks in the Salvation Army ringers' bucket around the holidays. It's important that we try to take care of one another at least a little. It's good to be charitable.
That doesn't mean I want the Twins to get into that same spirit of giving, however, as they did over the weekend with Samuel Deduno. I can't believe, two days after it happened, that I'm still this upset over losing a guy with a 4.60 ERA, but clearly this is not a normal situation.
For one thing, they got absolutely nothing back. Deduno was placed on outright waivers, meaning the Twins couldn't pull him back once the Astros put in a claim on the righty. Unfortunately, this meant that the Twins just gave him away.
Is that really such a big deal, though? Taking his ballpark into account, Deduno's 2014 ERA is 13 percent above the AL average. According to FanGraphs, he has actually been below replacement level in 2014 (-0.1). Deduno should be the very definition of a replacement level player whose loss we shouldn't mourn, right?
Not exactly. Deduno started the year in the bullpen but moved into the rotation for a disastrous eight-start stretch in May and June during which he allowed 29 runs in 38 innings, with 19 walks and 23 strikeouts. It was excruciating. But rather than dropping him at that low point, to their credit the Twins moved Deduno back into the bullpen where he was incredibly effective. As a traditional long reliever, Deduno was incredibly effective, throwing 53 innings in 22 appearances, striking out 51 and walking 22, while giving up just four homers. His 3.21 ERA out of the bullpen would put him right in the middle of the pack (57th) out of the 104 relievers to toss more than 50 innings this year. In the Twins bullpen, among guys who made at least 20 appearances, Deduno's 3.21 ERA and 8.6 K/9 ranks second behind only Glen Perkins.
So, no. Samuel Deduno was not a replacement level pitcher. He was a below replacement-level starter, and an above replacement-level reliever. True to form, his final appearance as a Twin had him throwing 2.1 innings in a blowout and striking out five batters while giving up a run. He had something like talent, was cheap, and could easily be a part of the Twins' bullpen in 2015, or traded to another club for something.
Instead, he was waived. And frankly, I can't understand why. For one thing, at the time Deduno was placed on waivers, the Twins bullpen was not overworked. Aside from Thursday's extra innings win, the Twins hadn't needed more than two of their eight relievers in any games since last Sunday. Indeed, even in that extra-inning game, no reliever was forced to work more than an inning. Plus, what's the point of having that grotesque eight-man bullpen if it can't absorb a couple extra days off from the club's long reliever. And even if it were a little taxed at that prospect, rosters expand today. Reinforcements are on the way. Aaron Thompson, who the club added to the 40 man roster and promoted in Deduno's place could have been up today anyway. After all, the Twins had two open spaces on that 40 man roster. There simply was no crunch that forced Deduno off.
Plus, Thompson is the very definition of replacement level. In four seasons, he has a 3.52 ERA at triple-A, including a 3.98 mark this year. He struck out 51 in 52 innings (essentially matching Deduno's strikeout rate, by the way), while walking 26. Aside from being left-handed, there's nothing to distinguish him from Deduno except for the fact that Thompson has never demonstrated any success in the majors.
I want to be clear that we may not be working with all the information that the Twins have here. Maybe Deduno requested another chance to start or balked at having his role reduced in September. Maybe he was disruptive in the clubhouse somehow (though nobody ever reported on it). Short of that, however, this move is simply inexplicable and a bad sign that the Twins are again focusing on the wrong things after a strong performance at the trade deadline.
No, Deduno wasn't a great pitcher. He wasn't even really a great reliever. Losing Samuel Deduno is not going to make or break the Twins in 2015 or 2016. But he was good-ish. Adequate. He did well in his role, which is really all you can ask of a guy. He had value, if not to other clubs, then to the Twins as a cheap bullpen arm. And smart teams cannot simply give away guys who have value. Even C-student teams would make sure to get something for their trouble. Not the Twins. The Twins had something and gave it away. It makes them charitable, I suppose, but I'd prefer they gave more money to ALS research than donating warm bodies.