By Jason Wojciechowski on March 14, 2013 at 2:27 AM
I've lost track of the links and whatnot, but the A's have lost Fernando Rodriguez for the year (and maybe a little of next?) to an elbow injury that will require Tommy John surgery. Any attack on the team's depth is a bad thing, of course, but bullpen depth is always the least bad of those things. As the 'pen stands now, even supposing Grant Balfour isn't ready on Opening Day, Rodriguez was at best the second righty and at worst more like the fifth (besides Ryan Cook, it can be argued that he was also behind Pat Neshek and Chris Resop -- every one of these pitchers has a better projected ERA by PECOTA, note). If Evan Scribner makes the team as a mop-up or middle or even long reliever in Balfour's theoretical absence, that's far from disastrous. (Scribner himself beats Rodriguez handily in PECOTA ERA, though his own major-league innings did not exactly come in pressure-packed situations.)
And of course if Balfour is ready for Opening Day, then all this has done is help clear an early logjam. I count anywhere from seven to 10 major-league quality relievers on the A's roster (depending on what you think of Jordan Norberto, Jesse Chavez, Scribner, and Pedro Figueroa). That was seven to 11 before Rodriguez went down.
Not that this is a good thing, really! The bullpen has enough players with options that I don't think the team is really hankering to get someone out of the way, especially given that it costs them a surgery to make it happen. It makes us rosterbaters breath easier because it's one less moving part to deal with mentally, but if you're the team or if you're purely taking the tack of "what creates the best odds of winning?" then this injury might reduce Oakland's overall chance of bringing home a trophy by a hundredth of a percent or so.
One does wonder whether the potential newly created 40-man spot will be used to add Mike Ekstrom or Hideki Okajima to the roster (or even Scott Moore or Luke Montz?), but that creates even further 25-man problems and still leaves the A's needing to clear a spot just a week or so into the season when Bartolo Colon's suspension ends. It'll be hard enough deciding which of Dan Straily or A.J. Griffin loses his rotation spot—adding a 40-man decision on top of that isn't something you necessarily do to yourself just so you can have Okajima in the bullpen.
On the other hand, hey Jesse Chavez, how you doin', you're still hanging around and I don't know why.