If I told you two months ago that the A's were going to sign a certain 6-foot-10, left-handed free agent pitcher this offseason to bolster the young staff, you would've been ecstatic, right?
Well they still can!
It turns out there are actually two men in the world who fit this description, and the A's are showing interest in the other one.
Let's look at two obvious positives here, before delving any deeper:
- Andy Sisco is the second-best 6'10" lefty in baseball.
- He's never assassinated a pigeon on the mound.
In all seriousness, I think that Andy Sisco has a decent chance of being the final player added to the team's roster before spring training. Almost 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery, Sisco will be throwing for scouts (including one from the A's) today. If he has regained his pre-injury velocity - sitting at 92-93, with a high of 95 - he will garner a Major League contract. If he's throwing in the mid-80s, he'll have to settle for a minor-league deal.
A 2005 Rule 5 Draft pick of the Royals, Sisco intrigues me for a variety of reasons. The A's have expressed an interest in adding a second lefty bullpen arm to complement Blevins, and the newly 26-year-old Sisco is the only name available that offers some upside. Here's the rest of the remaining lefty reliever market - the general description is aging LOOGY journeymen with low strikeout ratios.
In contrast to that uninspiring list of players, Sisco might still become something better than what he's been thus far in his career. His development path during the past four years with the Royals and White Sox is grounds for an early-career mulligan in itself.
After being used exclusively as a starter in high-A and appearing in only 26 games as a 21-year-old in '04, he was plucked in the Rule 5 Draft by the Royals out of high-A ball in 2005. And he did a terrific job - 75 innings, 76 K's, a 3.11 ERA and 3.79 FIP. His usage, however, was a bit of a cause for concern - changing roles and leaping from 25 high-A appearances to 67 big-league ones the following year. Might that radical change at age 21/22 have put added stress on his arm? Maybe.
Sisco regressed badly the following year and instead of sending him down to AAA, the Royals inexplicably let him "wear it" to the tune of a 7.10 ERA over the course of the '06 season in 65 more appearances of work.
The Royals then decided he needed to throw more, so they sent him to the Mexican League, where he was sent home after just two weeks for eating tacos during the first inning of a game.
Soon after he was traded to the White Sox for the '07 season, where he quickly found residence in Ozzie Guillen's doghouse (shocking!) and was sent down to AAA...where he should've been the year before. By the start of the '08 season, the injury was starting to nag him and he ended up having surgery before he ever pitched in an '08 game.
I go through all this to point out that maybe Sisco is more than just some ugly numbers and control problems, in hopes that you don't dismiss him out of hand when you see his stats. Extremely tall pitchers like Sisco are notorious for harnessing their mechanics later in their careers than their shorter counterparts do. Perhaps some newfound maturity, patient coaching, and a laid-back clubhouse will provide Sisco with the environment and the situation he needs to reach his potential.
If he demonstrates that his arm is back in today's open tryout, Sisco can stand out from that linked list of journeyman lefties in a several ways:
a.) By my calculations, he still has one usable option left. He spent less than 20 days down on the farm with the Royals in '06, preserving that option year, before the White Sox burned options on him in '07 and '08. That means that the A's would always have the flexibility to send him down to AAA and work out kinks if need be. It also gives them more roster flexibility to build a roster week-by-week that fits their needs (12 pitchers vs. 11 depending on looming off-days, etc. Players who can't be sent down like Casilla and Wuertz make this difficult, so it's crucial for teams to carry a few major-league quality pitchers who can shuttle back and forth between AAA and the bigs as necessary during the year).
b.) If he thrives, and proves to be a long-term asset, the team can offer him arbitration and has contractual control over him for a few years to come. Sisco isn't close to the requisite six years of service to become a free agent. This, in essence, could make him a potential future asset of the club via trade.
c.) His age (26) suggests that he may still have a few peak years in front of him. If Sisco can once again be the pitcher he was in '05, he won't need to be used merely as a LOOGY - he can be an effective reliever against all hitters and work a full inning each time out.
d.) He might give AL hitters a unique look that they simply don't see anywhere else in the league, making him difficult to hit.
e.) He'll come cheaply (less than $1M), due to the health and effectiveness concerns.
Clearly, my realistic vote for the final spot on the A's 40-man roster is Andy Sisco. What's yours, AN? Vote in the poll below.