Put me in the group of fans disappointed that Chad Gaudin was not given the chance to fight for the #5 spot in the A's rotation. I don't mean he should have been handed the job, or that it should have been "his to lose" (see Joe Kennedy, who has done so well with that). I just thought Gaudin was going to be in the original mix of candidates, and as spring training progresses hindsight seems only to be making the idea look better and better. Specifically:
* The four candidates (Halsey, Kennedy, Komine, Windsor) have ranged from underwhelming to downright awful. That's partly because none of them has anywhere near Gaudin's potential for 2007, lacking either the stuff, the experience, or both.
* There are questions around whether Gaudin would succeed as a starter, because he is currently a two-pitch pitcher (fastball, slider) with inconsistent control. Yet a pitcher can weather spotty control better as a starter than as a high-leverage reliever, while Jeremy Bonderman has demonstrated that the ceiling for starters with a power fastball and power slider is actually pretty high. So while I'd like to see Gaudin develop a changeup, and while I'd like to see him throw more strikes in whatever role he assumes, as the pitcher he is--two pitches, high potential, already some major-league success, needs to throw more strikes--Gaudin could easily be as good a #5 as any of our "four stooges," and he could actually be far better.
* I'd like to see the A's hang on to Jay Marshall, who has pitched well (especially considering he has never thrown above single-A) and who, by virtue of being lefty and having a tricky delivery, has intriguing potential as a cheap LOOGY. I actually think if Gaudin were starting, it would be easier, not harder, to keep Marshall. This is because Kennedy offers more long-relief help than Gaudin does, whereas Gaudin further crowds the "righty middle relief" corps in the bullpen--giving you tremendous depth but not filling a long-relief slot (enter Halsey or an equivalent, exit Marshall?). I would feel very good about a bullpen that had Kennedy (as a long reliever), Embree (as the established lefty), Street, Duke, Calero, and Witasick (providing ample depth from the right side), and Marshall. Especially if our #5 starter wasn't getting shelled every time out.
The question is, why did the A's brass decide not to give Gaudin that look in 2007? Did they not feel he has that potential yet as a starter? Did they feel they had a competent starter in one of the four stooges? Did they feel Gaudin was too valuable in his current bullpen role (we call this "the Duke excuse")? And most importantly, if the A's brass held any or all of these beliefs in January, are they still feeling the same way today?