But that’s exactly what the Twins did with Vance Worley when they traded him to the Pirates for cash considerations.
The interest was understandably minimal, said Twins assistant GM Rob Antony, after the 26-year-old right-hander passed through the waiver system unscathed but, based on his age and his past track record, there were several teams that inquired about him.
“There was some (interest) right after he cleared waivers, some teams looked at him as their reclamation project,” said Antony. “So there were a few teams that expressed interest. I wouldn’t say anybody was jumping through the phone. I think everyone was looking at him the same way we were: What happened to this guy? We used to have really good reports on him but now they are not so good, otherwise they would have claimed him.”
With the Rochester rotation as crowded as it is and Worley’s rapid descent on the organization’s depth chart, the Twins recognized it was in the best interest of the player to allow him to re-establish his value elsewhere. The Pirates are known for their interest in groundball pitchers and Worley, despite all of his struggles last year, demonstrated a high worm-burner rate of 47%.
“I told him when we outrighted him that if somebody came and I saw an opportunity for him, a better path back to the majors, that I would try to do something for him,” Antony admitted. “I think maybe a change of scenery would be good for him or gone well for him. Sometimes it starts to snowball on you and you look for a fresh start.”
Earlier in the spring, Worley acknowledged that he struggled to keep the ball down in the zone, a fact that was punctuated with the sound of loud impact. In 10 starts last year, opponents banged him around to the deafening tune of .381/.427/.557. When opponents put the ball in play (and they did so a lot considering he missed very few bats), they were able reach safely over 40% of the time -- the highest in the game with a minimum of 40 innings pitched.
“For whatever reason, he didn’t throw the ball as hard as he could in the past, he couldn’t get the ball down in the zone and he couldn’t figure out why. I think there was some mechanical things we tried to do with him that he wasn’t able to do, to change some of things that he knew he had to change.”
This spring was more of the same. While there were issues identified, Worley struggled to correct them.
“You’d see him throw some good pitches with angle down in the zone and the next batter he’d elevate and they’d hit it in the gap. There just wasn’t consistency.”
Remaining down in the zone regularly was Worley’s biggest issue both last season and this spring. Reviewing the data from ESPN/TruMedia, we find that Worley’s location was indeed higher in the strike zone than his previous seasons. In 2011, he was up in the zone on just 29.1% of his pitches. The next season that dropped to 26.8%. This past year, however, a whopping 36% of his offerings were elevated.
His two-seamer with run was now not moving with the same arm-side run that he displayed in 2012. He was not working pitches down in the zone with the same frequency. As a result: Whammy.
How does a pitcher go from the Opening Day starter one season to being someone else’s reclamation project the next?
“We were going off his past successes as much as what we saw in the spring last year,” Antony replied. “He didn’t pitch like a guy who should be handed the ball on Opening Day but that was the way it stacked up and he had been there and I think it tells you a little bit about the state of our pitching last year. I just don’t think you can run scared of that. The guy was two years removed from being third in the National League Rookie of the Year.”
The Twins could be facing another deal similar to Worley's if Scott Diamond, who was reportedly put on waivers on Wednesday, slides through unclaimed. Like Worley, Diamond has dealt with minor ailments and poor results that have devalued his stock.