Posted by: Larry Smith Jr. | March 6, 2010

Red Sox Claim Fien From Tigers

On Monday the Boston Red Sox claimed relief pitcher Casey Fien off of waivers from the Detroit Tigers.   Fien spent the last four seasons toiling in the Detroit Tigers minor league system before finally getting a cup of coffee with the team last season.  He was designated for assignment to make room on the forty-man roster for Johnny Damon.   In order to make room for Fien, the Red Sox designed pitcher Gaby Hernandez for assignment.

Before getting into the nuts and bolts of what essentially is a very small deal, I must remark that I find it interesting how seemingly minor chains of events affect people’s lives.   I can’t pretend to know what is going on behind the walls of 2100 Woodward in the Detroit Tigers offices or what they think.   Following them closely for as long as I have and combining that following with some common sense I can venture educated guesses, but I cannot know for certain.   It seems to me that if Brandon Inge and Scott Sizemore both entered Spring Training completely healthy, that Casey Fien would still be in the organization today.   However, with Inge recovering from off-season knee surgery to help with the tendonitis that plagued him in the second half of 2009, and Sizemore recovering from ankle surgery to repair a fracture suffered in the Arizona Fall League, the Tigers are very close to being “forced” to keep utility player Don Kelly on the forty-man roster in the event that either player recovers from their injury a little bit more slowly than could be expected.    While the Tigers may legitimately value Kelly over Fien, it seems to me that Fien is a generally more valuable player, but the Tigers have many relief pitching options and virtually no legitimate options to fill in should Inge or Sizemore fall to injury (besides possibly Kory Casto at third base only, for Inge).

If you are to believe this is so as I do, and follow this logic out, then essentially because someone slid into Scott Sizemore during the Arizona Fall League this past November, Gaby Hernandez is among the ranks of the American unemployed.   Interesting how small things can have large effects on others beyond what can possibly be predicted.

In any event, I’m sorry to see Fien leave the Tigers as I believe he could be a useful major league reliever, but the fact is that there was probably no role for him on the Opening Day roster in Detroit, he’s becoming dangerously old to be a “prospect” (he’ll be 26 this season), and the Tigers have scads of other relief options even at the AAA level.   With the 40 man roster full of players that are younger or have other utility to the team (Brad Thomas notwithstanding), the only player that Fien truly deserved to have his spot over potentially was Kelly, but as mentioned above, Kelly is the best injury insurance that the Tigers have at this stage.

For their part, the Red Sox made an astute waiver claim.  I imagine based on last year’s record that the Sox were near the end of the waiver claim process, and therefore many other teams passed over Fien before Boston made their claim.   This leads me to believe that they definitely believe they can find a role for him, and the Boston media has already surmised that he is very much in the mix for the final spot in their bullpen.   For a guy with generally middle-of-the-road “stuff” but outstanding performance in his minor league career (consistently low FIP, K/9 of 9.7 and BB/9 of 2.0, 3.04 ERA in 222 career innings pitched) who is 26, three years away from arbitration, and has two remaining minor league options, the Red Sox very well may have stolen themselves another young, cheap, valuable player yet again.   At worst, for the low cost of free plus a few tens of thousand dollars in salary they’ve given themselves another arm to take a look at during this Spring and to populate their roster at Pawtucket.

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