The curious departure of Chris Leroux


(Editor’s Note: John had this article ready in a timely fashion after we lost Chris Leroux to the Pirates. I’m posting it now because it is interesting, but my apologies for having it be untimely. -MJ

On Monday, the Marlins designated Chris Leroux for assignment.  This was not a move made to clear a room on the 40 man roster; Not only have they still yet to call up somebody, they could also move Chris Coghlan to the 60 day DL to clear a spot.  We can assume they made the move now because they recognized they would DFA Leroux this offseason, so they tried to do it now while every team’s 40 man roster is full from September call ups and hope he slipped through.

The question is, why DFA him at all?  The Pirates, who have the first rights to claim him, snatched him up quickly and for good reason.  Leroux is not exactly a special prospect but he isn’t a nobody: Going by the scouting community, he’s right on the edge of a C/C+ prospect; Going by the numbers, he’s at a C+.  Going into the season, he was ranked out 18th best prospect by Baseball America (5th reliever); John Sickels had him at 15 (4th reliever).  The projection systems weren’t too high on him going into the season, but they’re normally harsh on players in AA.  His season in AAA was poor going by ERA (6.95), but was actually a successful campaign going by his peripherals; he posted a 2.86 K/BB (20.4% K rate) and a 50.7% GB rate.  CHONE’s updated projections now have him as being an average reliever: They have him at a 4.01 FIP, and there’s room for improvement in their 1.81 K/BB.  He has a mid-90’s fast ball that – thanks his size – gets a ton of ground balls, a tight slider to get strike outs, and a change up that’s just good enough to keep him from being a ROOGY.

He is not a make-or-break player.  But he should be at least an average bullpen arm and could emerge as something more.  For a team with a bullpen as destructive as the Marlins’, it’s a rather strange move.  It also wouldn’t be much of a question if the move was made to make room on the 40 man for somebody superior.  However, most of the Rule 5 eligible players were already added to the 40 man roster and the only player that really needs to be added left is Osvaldo Martinez.  There is also a ton of other players that could be moved from the 40 man this offseason that are of worse value than Leroux, are free agents, or are non tender candidates: Will Ohman (FA), Chad Tracy (FA), Hector Luna (Arbitration), Jose Veras (Arbitration), Jorge Sosa (Arbitration), Andrew Miller (Arbitration), Taylor Tankersley (Arbitration), Brad Davis, Chris Hatcher, Mike Rivera, Tim Wood, Brett Sinkbeil, Adalberto Mendez, and Jay Buente.  That is 14 players that I count who will either be gone from free agency, are non-tender candidates, or are worse in value (Both in scouting and in the numbers) than Leroux.

I have to assume there is more behind the story, something the front office knows that we don’t.  An example of this would be Jay Voss; After being traded for Nate Robertson, he has struggled mightily this year thanks to a loss in velocity.  The front office likely knew about that loss, and traded him at his highest value.  Considering Leroux’s injury history (He dealt with an inflamed shoulder last year and a strained elbow this year), there might be something there to consider.  However, he was still sitting around 95 MPH in his 3 September games, going by PitchFX.  What I really hope is that they didn’t make a judgement based off his AAA ERA and small sample size in the majors.  Leroux might not become anything, and even if he does losing him is not a franchise-changing loss.  But it is losing somebody of potential value and getting absolutely -nothing- in return, with no reason to lose him in the first place.  That is what’s questionable.