Liam Hendriks is a pitcher about whom I once wrote this sentence: "You can't spell 'Chris Davis Grand Slam' without Liam." That was before the Orioles home opener this season, a game started by Hendriks, who was on the Twins. Davis hit a grand slam in the game, although not off Hendriks. So it's not with a lot of excitement that one can read the news that the O's have claimed him off waivers from the Cubs on Monday.
How did he get from the Twins to the Cubs? Well, the Cubs claimed him off waivers from the Twins on December 13, meaning he was a Cub for all of ten days. What do the Orioles want with a guy who even the Cubs didn't want for more than ten days? As my friend and co-manager Stacey Folkemer said to me, it's like the Orioles decided, "We're getting an Australian if it's the last thing we do!" Hendriks, like free agent closer Grant Balfour, is Australian.
The press release from the Orioles announcing the roster addition includes the optimistic note that when Hendriks makes his Orioles debut, he'll be the third Australian-born player in O's history, joining John Stephens (2002) and Damian Moss (2003), both such distinguished parts of O's lore. Not if, but when!
On a less optimistic note, there's Hendriks performance at the MLB level, which includes 30 games and a 6.06 ERA in 156 innings. He's accumulated that over three seasons, largely because he's never been good enough to stick at the MLB level. He is the kind of pitcher about whom you can say that he provides depth, but it is depth in the way quicksand provides depth, in that when you experience it, your hopes are dead.
He has allowed 30 home runs in those big league innings. That's about what you'd expect for a right-handed pitcher whose fastball averages 90 miles per hour.
Duquette says Hendriks gives #orioles more pitching depth. Could be spot starter/long relief. O's still looking for a starter.— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) December 23, 2013
This is pretty standard stuff from Duquette. Hendriks may not even make it to the start of spring training before being sent to the great DFA in the sky. He is the kind of pitcher you can have on the roster when there's extra space and cut loose when there's no space.
Maybe the Orioles scouts saw something that they think could be salvaged with Hendriks, who did accumulate a 2.99 ERA in six seasons as he moved through the minor leagues. He has one option remaining, meaning that they can keep him at Norfolk while they try to wring something else out of him. He'll be 25 in February.
That keeps him past his prospect days, but it's not so late for him that he can never be a good MLB pitcher, provided he shows better than he has so far, if he is capable of doing that. After all, Newton's First Law of Baseball says that a pitcher who sucks will continue to suck unless acted upon by an outside force.
As recently as 2012, Hendriks was ranked as the #7 prospect in the Twins organization by Baseball America, rating as having the best control in their system. Whether that was high praise or not, who knows.
It's great that the Orioles recognize they still need to be looking for a starter, though we all know they're not getting Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Masahiro Tanaka, or anyone else who matters.