M’s Sign Jody Gerut And Nate Robertson
Let’s start with Robertson, since he’s probably the more likely of the two to make the team out of spring training. I’ve been a fan of his for a while (here’s an article I wrote about him as a buy-low opportunity two years ago), and while he hasn’t exactly made me look like a genius, I still think there’s potential there. He was a pretty good starter for the Tigers from 2004-2006, running ground ball rates near 50% and K/BB ratios of around 2.00. Pitchers who can do both of those thing simultaneously are tough to find, especially from the left side.
He started heading down hill in 2007, as his walks went up and his ground balls went down. 2008 was a total disaster from a results perspective (6.35 ERA), and was the season that cost him his spot in the starting rotation, but his underlying performance was still okay. Rather than bouncing back in 2009, he ended up in the bullpen, had surgery on his elbow, and ended up only throwing 40 innings in what was essentially a lost year. He got shipped to the Marlins last spring, and while he wasn’t good, he was a semi-useful innings sponge.
He also has a pretty similar skillset to Chris Capuano, who we talked about a few weeks ago as a possibility for the M’s. Like Capuano, Robertson’s fatal flaw is giving up home runs to right-handed batters. 141 of the 160 home runs that Robertson has allowed have been to righties. For his career, he’s at 0.60 HR/9 vs LHB, and 1.46 HR/9 vs RHB. As we’ve noted many times, righties don’t hit for a lot of power in Safeco, so the park could mask Robertson’s big flaw. He’s unlikely to be an ace, but the team could do worse than to give him 150 innings at the back of the rotation and let Safeco make him look like a pretty capable #5 starter. If one of the young kids pushes him out of the rotation, he’s got the skillset to be a tough left-handed reliever, though he’s been resistant to the role in the past. He’s starting to run out of options, though, and the team might be able to convince him that he could extend his career in the big leagues by becoming a solid lefty relief option if it comes to that.
Gerut’s a little bit different, in that his decline from being a good player is easily explained – he tore his knee to shreds in 2004 and essentially lost three years out of the prime of his career. ACL surgery cost him most of 2005, then recovering from more knee surgeries cost him 2006 and 2007 as well, but he reappeared on the scene out of nowhere in 2008 to post a +3 win season in just 100 games. He hit .296/.351/.494 while playing half his games in Petco, no easy feat. He hasn’t been able to repeat that success, though, and at 33 years old, he probably won’t ever do that again. That said, he’s a pretty decent defensive outfielder with some pop in his bat from the left side, and if healthy, he could provide a little bit of offense as a part-time player.
The problem with Gerut is fit on the roster. As a left-handed hitting outfielder, he’s not really an option to share time with Michael Saunders, as the team needs a right-handed stick for the role that will likely be vacated by Milton Bradley. Gerut falls into the same kind of problem that Ryan Langerhans has run into, in that he’s useful but that he duplicates some of what Saunders offers, only while lacking the athleticism and potential of the younger version. Unless the team decides Saunders needs more time in Tacoma, there’s probably not a spot on the roster for Gerut right away. But, if he agrees to go to Tacoma and stays healthy, he could be a solid fill-in later in the year if needed.
It’s nice to see the organization making nifty little moves like this. With pickups like Brendan Ryan and Adam Kennedy, the team had given themselves depth and options at the middle infield spots, and now they’ve created competition for the outfield and left-handed pitcher spots as well. Since both new guys are in on minor league contracts, the team is shouldering no risk, and can bring them to Peoria and see what they have. They might not be the kinds of guys that create headlines, but they’re interesting depth guys to have around. The M’s are a little bit better today than they were yesterday.