In the beginning of the 2007 season, the Orioles claimed a former top pitching prospect off the waivers from the Cleveland Indians who had run out of options. Things have seemed to work out pretty well, as Jeremy Guthrie has gone on to go 7-4 with a 3.44 ERA and the peripherals to back it up. If not for the emergence of Erik Bedard as one of the best pitchers in baseball, Guthrie might even be considered the team's ace.
Earlier this week, the Orioles claimed another former top pitching prospect from the Cleveland Indians in the hopes that it could work out in a similar fashion. As recently as 2006, Fernando Cabrera was considered one of the top relief prospects in the game. The 25 year old right-hander operates with a fastball that routinely hits in the mid-90's with plenty of movement. He also has a second plus pitch in a splitter that dives away from fellow right-handers. Far from a situational reliever, Cabrera was considered to be the Indians' closer-in-waiting. Only the further development of his slider and/or changeup was holding him back. Even those pitches showed flashes of being solid third and fourth offerings, he just needed to gain consistency.
Flash forward to August of 2007 and Cabrera has yet to make a successful transition to the major leagues. While he has struck out 39 batters in 33.2 innings this season, and 145 batters in 130.1 total major league innings, his lack of command has led to an uninspiring 4.35 ERA. With the Indians having completed their rebuilding cycle and in a position to contend, they were left with the difficult decision of losing a talented player with no options remaining who they felt could not help them in 2007.
Enter the Orioles.
Baltimore is fortunate in that they have the opportunity to sign Cabrera to a minor league deal. Though he will be given some time to work out his command problems away from the limelight, Orioles officials do not believe he is that far from contributing at the major league level. The addition of Cabrera to an organization with a pitching coach as well reputed as Leo Mazzone is particularly intriguing.
One thing is for sure; Fernando Cabrera has the same high-end potential as Jeremy Guthrie. Any time you can add that type of talent for nothing but a waiver claim, it's a no brainer. Even if it doesn't work out, fans should be encouraged by the Orioles' new aggressive approach to the waiver wire. If lightning does strike twice, then the big league bullpen will add a power arm with a higher ceiling than any of the famed trio of relievers added this past winter.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via e-mail at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com