Sep 16, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Pedro Figueroa (65) pitches the ball against the Los Angeles Angels during the eighth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
It’s been quite the offseason for Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics. The acquisitions of Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson, Craig Gentry, Scott Kazmir, and Drew Pomeranz have created a buzz around Oakland. The days of player going out of town with high-return prospects coming back have gone by the wayside. Billy Beane is back working his magic and winning every move.
Well, not quite all of them.
On Thursday, the Athletics lost left-hander Pedro Figueroa on waivers to the Tampa Bay Rays, and it this may be one of those players that Beane regrets letting go. Oakland placed Figueroa on waivers on December 20th in order to make room on the 40-man roster for claimed catcher Chris Jimenez.
The 28-year-old Figueroa has spent his entire professional career in the Athletics organization, after signing with the organization as a teenager in 2003. He peaked in 2009, when he went 13-6 with a 3.38 ERA over 27 starts at two levels of A-Ball. Unfortunately, an elbow injury sacked his 2010 and 2011 seasons, eventually requiring Tommy John surgery.
As a converted reliever, Figueroa bounced back with a fantastic 2012 season, posting a 2.62 ERA and an 8.1 K/9 ratio at Triple-A Sacramento. The performance earned him a promotion to Oakland later that season and he didn’t miss a beat. He posted a 3.32 ERA in 19 appearances, but a troubling 6.2 BB/9 ratio sprouted up and combined with a diminished K/9 ratio of just 5.8 to cloud that jump.
Figueroa’s control would again get the better of him, both in the majors and back in Sacramento. He would make just 5 appearances for the A’ in 2013, posting an ungodly ERA of 12.00 and a BB/9 of 9.00 in just 3 innings of work. The numbers would improve in Triple-A again, with Figueroa throwing out a 4.10 ERA and a 7.4 K/9 ratio, but the walks were still high at 5.0.
That likely became the best reason for the A’s to risk putting Figueroa on waivers. A lot of talent but at this age, control becomes tough to teach.
That’s where the Rays come in to play. If there is any organization that has made a habit of finding a diamond in the rough (read here as Bullpen), it is Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays. And of course, one has to now ask the question of if the Rays see something in Figueroa, did the Athletics miss something?
Well, after 10 years in the farm system, it is likely that Billy Beane’s crack development team has a pretty thorough book on Figueroa, as well as a fairly decent handle as to his floor and his ceiling. This team has a fairly decent track record of developing pitching and spotting potential, so if they chose to take the risk, they fully accepted the possibility of losing him to another team and felt comfortable with the outcome.
Figueroa’s potential is of course there, but there seems to be a sizable hurdle that has prevented him from translating that solid start to 2012 to a steady hand at the Major League level. Perhaps Tampa is able to dig into his head and fish out the potential again, mining another diamond in the process.
In the meantime, the A’s will feel comfortable in their beds knowing that they have assembled on of the best bullpens in recent memory and can weather the loss.