Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Why did Rizzo expose Kimball to Waivers?


Fare the well Cole Kimball. Photo Robb Carr/Getty Images via

Surprising news hit today: per story-breaker Mark Zuckerman, both Cole Kimball and Corey Brown were waived off the 40-man roster earlier this week.  We got word today that Kimball was claimed by Toronto, while Brown passed through waivers and is now assigned to our AAA squad.

Why would the team choose to expose Kimball to waivers?

Possible reasons:

  1. The team figured they could gamble and slip Kimball through waivers by virtue of his surgery.  (Except that we have former employees scattered around the league who know our personnel, including one in Toronto)
  2. The team figures he won’t be ready by mid-2012, so he wasn’t worth keeping on the roster (hard to believe given his pre-injury performance for the team).
  3. Rizzo knows something the rest of us don’t.  Maybe Kimball’s injury is worse than we thought.  Maybe he’s assuming (a good assumption frankly) that hard throwers with shoulder surgeries don’t really come back that often.

However, what I don’t get about the move can be summarized in these points:

  1. The team was already sitting with 6 open slots on the 40-man roster, more than enough to add in what I figured would be most of their off-season work (adding a few rule-5 eligible players and signing a few free agents).
  2. The team could have easily shed a few more people off the 40-man by non-tendering Doug Slaten, designating Roger Bernadina or non-tendering Tom Gorzelanny.  Even Atahualpa Severino seemed to be less valuable than Kimball.
  3. Kimball could be stashed on the 40-man roster til April 1st of next year, then stuffed onto the 60-day DL until you needed him, thus freeing up the roster room at that point.

A curious move.  Either Rizzo was gambling and had his bluff called, or he knows something that the rest of us don’t.

Written by Todd Boss

November 16th, 2011 at 5:12 pm

16 Responses to 'Why did Rizzo expose Kimball to Waivers?'

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  1. Kimball threw hard and had a few games where he didn’t hurt the team. But for a guy who isn’t a big HRod fan, you are ignoring the fact that Kimball can’t find the strike zone. He averaged 5.5 BB/9 for his minor league career; it “improved” to 5.3 BB/9 at Syracuse in 2011. In DC it was 7.1 BB/9 – OK, a SSS, but it’s not like he was hitting the zone in the minors. His ERA was good, but so was Slaten’s in the early part of the season, remember? Kimball didn’t give up many runs in just 14 innings, but his WHIP was 1.357. Like Slaten, Kimball’s low ERA was simply not a good indication of how he pitched. Add a torn rotator cuff & surgery to the mix and it’s understandable why the Nationals were OK taking the risk and didn’t feel the losing him was a major setback.

    Kimball has some potential, and it would have been nice to be able to stash him someplace. But let’s not pretend he was expected to be a major force in the Nationals’ bullpen this year. And before we criticize this move at all, let’s see what other moves get made.

    John C.

    16 Nov 11 at 5:32 pm

  2. My guess is #3. There is likely something about his injury we don’t know


    16 Nov 11 at 5:40 pm

  3. I don’t think it’s all that curious. Kimball is 27-y.o. middle reliever recovering from rotator cuff surgery. Not TJ, which is fairly straightforward with a high rate of recovery. Presume 2012 is mostly lost as he recovers and builds strength, which means he’s in his age-29 season before he’s back in the majors at best. More than that, Kimball’s entire repetoire was predicated on a max-effort high-90s fastball. If he loses even 2-3 mph off the fastball as a result of the injury, he’s just another low-90s RHRP. Not wishing that on him at all and I hope he makes a full recovery and becomes Hanrahan II, but you can see how he’s not as valuable as he once was.

    I think it was probably a calculated risk – try to get him through based on the long recovery time and possibility that he never fully recovers and free up the spot. Personally, I’d rather see Brad Meyers get put on the 40-man and lose Kimball to waivers than leave Meyers exposed in the Rule 5 draft and lose him to a team willing to carry him as a long-man for the 2012 season.


    16 Nov 11 at 5:56 pm

  4. The team could have easily shed a few more people off the 40-man by non-tendering Doug Slaten, designating Roger Bernadina or non-tendering Tom Gorzelanny. Even Atahualpa Severino seemed to be less valuable than Kimball.

    This is so completely WRONG its not even funny. Go back and read what Mark had to say in the comments section. Sheesh.

    Both Shawn Hill and Chad Cordero WERE better pitchers than Cole Kimball. Did they ever recover from this injury? Look how long it took Wang and let’s face it he is not the same. He went from a #1/#2 starter to a #4/#5 at best.

    A left-handed starter/long reliever like Gorzelanny would get snatched if he were exposed to waivers. And non-tendering is a separate process involving a different set of rules. Gorzelanny is a health pitcher who could and would help the Nationals in 2012.

    Brain dead post.


    16 Nov 11 at 6:15 pm

  5. Gee Todd, I find myself agreeing with you more than any of the commentators.
    Kimball before Doug Slaton?

    Mark L

    16 Nov 11 at 8:41 pm

  6. Fair point. I’m not a HRod fan for the same reasons true … but probably more because I didn’t agree with the trade in the first place.

    But this wasn’t so much about Kimball’s effectiveness this year as it was about questioning why he was exposed to waivers in the first place. Did we really need to waive him in order to get that 8th free spot on the 40-man?

    Todd Boss

    17 Nov 11 at 8:26 am

  7. This wasn’t about questioning whether or not he’d come back from the injury. That’s a given risk, and a fair point. It was wondering why risk him in the first place, given that there’s still dead weight on the roster and PLENTY of room on the roster? You keep Kimball on the 40-man, throw him on the 60-day DL at the beginning of next season, and if he shows nothing then you cut him after NEXT season. What this move said to me was that there’s something more to the injury than has been made public knowledge (as NFA brian commented). If that’s the case, then so be it, but the face of this move is arguable.

    If your theory was true (i.e., we should just drop every pitcher who has shoulder surgery), why didn’t we cut him the second he got the surgery? Why did we waste $4M on Wang while he recovered? Why did we resign Wang since he’s clearly not recovered to the point where he was in 2006?

    And I stand by what I said above. Slaten was god-awful and should be let go. Bernadina has had 1000 major league at bats to show he’s not even worth keeping as a 4th outfielder, and Gorzelanny clearly is set to earn more than he should in arbitration based on his going from a starter to a middle-reliever and is very likely to be non-tendered (albeit with the goal in mind to probably re-sign him at a reasonable number).

    Todd Boss

    17 Nov 11 at 8:31 am

  8. His eventual recovery is all speculation. We have no idea if he’ll never throw again or if he’ll come back 110%. I’ll be honest; when it was announced he was getting shoulder surgery I immediately thought, “there goes his career.” But, its a guess. Unless Rizzo knows something from medical reports that hasn’t been made public….

    It had to be either a Calculated risk or there’s more to this story. Like i commented elsewhere, my post wasn’t questioning whether or not he’d likely recover. It was questioning the move, given the status of the 40-man. Its not like we were sitting at 39/40 with 4 guys we need to add to protect from rule5. We have a TON of room! What would the incremental cost of carrying one more non 25-man roster guy on the 40-man for a full season while you see if he recovers?

    Todd Boss

    17 Nov 11 at 8:34 am

  9. yeah … but nobody really addressed my points. Did we really need to move him off the 40-man? How much room does this team need for player movement? They have EIGHT spots open right now. That means they have room to add eight more players between FA signings and rule5 protections. And that’s before they non-tender one or two guys that they clearly plan on non-tendering.

    Serves me right for posting an opinion piece i guess.

    Todd Boss

    17 Nov 11 at 9:24 am

  10. Full disclosure, even though I don’t think Kimball is really a loss, I agree that the timing is odd. Heck, I questioned why the Nationals returned Elvin Ramirez to the Mets when they didn’t have to. I guess because I don’t view Kimball as that much of a loss I’m not going to be that spun up about it, because it wouldn’t take much of a reason to overcome the cost.

    And I think the real reason is that Rizzo has something else in the fire in addition to clearing space for the Rule 5 eligibles.

    John C.

    17 Nov 11 at 9:48 am

  11. Kilgore’s report on it after Zuckerman broke the news may have very well solved the mystery. His story seem to indicate (using unnamed Nats officials) that Rizzo and the team was trying to “sneak him through waivers.” So they gambled and lost.

    Even more to your point. I agree with the weird timing of the rule5 return as well. all reports seemed to indicate Ramirez was throwing easy and hard in instructionals … then suddenly he was returned home.


    Todd Boss

    17 Nov 11 at 10:22 am

  12. Actually there are reports Rizzo is talking to a lot of teams prior to the meetings coming up. There may be a lot of multi player trades to get what we want and they think they may need the space to push all the pieces around transaction wise.

    Rob J.

    17 Nov 11 at 1:38 pm

  13. Possibly … but he already had six spots open! Is he trading one veteran for 5 other guys on 40-man rosters? I doubt it; if anything he’ll probably be trading multiple current Nats for someone else that we covet.

    As I said earlier in comments, it seems that Kilgore has the answer. Rizzo gambled that he could sneak the guy through and lost. It was a lower risk gamble (a hard thrower with a shoulder injury who is certainly no sure thing to come back), and perhaps one that won’t be penalized. But still a gamble that he could have made later on, or made AFTER he cut guys off the 40-man who clearly are not in the future plans of the team or who have consistently shown they are not MLB calibre players.

    Todd Boss

    17 Nov 11 at 3:04 pm

  14. Actually, now was the right time to take that type of gamble. Teams have to get their Rule 5 rosters in order. By trying it now, Rizzo was likely gambling that teams would be more concerned with protecting their own guys vice grabbing guys off of waivers.


    17 Nov 11 at 3:33 pm

  15. Fair enough on the timing. I’m going to be even more questioning of this move if the team only adds 3-4 rule5 avoidance guys and signs 1 FA.

    Good to hear from you though. I hope the new profession goes well and eventually gives you the time to return to blogging, even if its not the break-neck pace you were doing before.

    Todd Boss

    17 Nov 11 at 7:32 pm

  16. […] is back, two days after we lost him on a waiver gamble.  Clearly the team values him, though now my post questioning the move and all the subsequent arguing in comments is moot and seems […]

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