Why Seth Etherton?

I’ve been meaning to comment on this for awhile, and I’m sorry it’s taken me so long. On November 1, the A’s signed minor league free agent Seth Etherton. It was a move that went relatively unnoticed, and where it was noticed, it seems to have been met with confusion. The only two major A’s weblogs to have mentioned the deal were Barry Zito Forever (which simply asked “Why?”) and Elephants in Oakland (who commented, “The A’s added Scott Etherton for some reason, hopefully somebody knows.”)

Anyway, I’d like to clear up some confusion: It’s yet another shrewd move by Billy Beane.

Yes, Seth Etherton (not Scott) has a horrible major-league track record — in 18 career starts, he has a 5.98 ERA and 20 homers allowed in 90.1 innings. But in 26 combined starts between AAA Louisville and AA Chattanooga in 2004, Etherton was brilliant. He posted a magnificent 156-41 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 152.1 innings, and his 3.37 runs per game was 38% better than the league average. He’s also only 28, and in my estimation, he is the best minor league free agent pitcher this winter.

Will Etherton even make a start for Oakland in 2005? Maybe, maybe not. But he has a chance to be a real diamond in the rough, and Billy Beane was smart to snatch him up before Los Angeles and Boston did — because they surely would have.

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