It seems like every spring that a team makes a demotion that leaves you shaking your head. The Miami Marlins are that team this year. They are sending pitcher Wade LeBlanc to the minors, after Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen had called him the Cy Young of the Grapefruit League.
However, Guilen didn’t think enough of LeBlanc to want him on the opening day roster. LeBlanc was 2-1 with a 1.31 ERA that best in the NL and fourth best in the majors this spring. LeBlanc was only allowed to start two games this spring, showing that the Marlins were not going to give him a full shot at a starting job. He had been acquired from the San Diego Padres in exchange for catcher John Baker.
LeBlanc pitched 20.2 innings this spring, allowing 3 earned runs, 10 hits, 19 K’s and 2 walks. He limited opposing batters to a .139 batting average the best in the NL and second best in baseball. His 0.58 WHIP was the best among all pitchers this spring. His 19-2 strikeouts to walks ratio is outstanding, but he is doomed to start the 2012 season in the minor leagues.
Does this mean that five starters pitched better than LeBlanc this spring? No, as matter of fact nobody won more games, than LeBlanc or posted a lower ERA.
Josh Johnson starting is a no-brainer with his 2-2 record and 2.42 ERA and should be the ace again this year. Rickey Nolasco is 1-0 and has posted a 3.79 ERA. Then comes Carlos Zambrano and his 0-2 record and 5.09 ERA. Anibal Sanchez was 0-1 with a 6.52 ERA. Mark Buehrle has not been effective this spring with a 1-1 record and a 7.30 ERA.
It is all about the money, not how well a pitcher pitched. Josh Johnson will earn $13.75 million this season, Mark Buehrle is earning $6 million this season, but is owed another $48 million over the next three seasons. Ricky Nolasco is owed $9 million this season and $11.5 million next season. Anibal Sanchez is earning $8 million this season. Carlos Zambrano is earning $18 million this season, with $15 million of it being paid by the Chicago Cubs.
The five starters will be earning a combined $54.75 million this season. LeBlanc had no chance of being a starter, with that huge investment in the five starters. Instead LeBlanc will be going to a AAA team that will probably pay him no more than $5,000 a month and maybe even less. LeBlanc would have been better off to have stayed with the Padres, where he would have almost been guaranteed a starting spot. His only hope to play in the majors is if one of the starters is injured.
LeBlanc is just one more example of a player having a great spring, but still being sent down to earn minor league pay. I am hoping LeBlanc makes it back to the majors this season, but right now it is not looking good.