Will Royals Get the Last Laugh with Laffey?

The first post-season addition by the Royals was to collect Aaron Laffey off the waivers scrapheap.

Those hoping KC will add significant starting pitching help won’t bat an eye at this signing. But what does the addition of Laffey mean for the 2012 Royals, if anything?

Laffey was waived twice at the end of the season. Neither of those moves speaks well for the lefthander – he was let go by the horrible Mariners, then he was deemed unworthy of the late-season expanded roster of the Yankees.

But things haven’t always been so bleak for Laffey. His career started well enough. In 2007, at just 22, he went 4-2 as a starter for the Indians, and even pitched four scoreless innings of relief in a playoff game that fall.

Laffey spent two more full season with Cleveland pitching as a starter. His ERA and WHIP were decent. But he moved to the bullpen and soon his walks to strikeouts were about even, while his WHIP continued to climb.

At just 25, Cleveland gave up on him.

The Indians thought so little of Laffey, they traded him just prior to last season for an unknown minor leaguer. He pitched unspectacularly out of the pen for Seattle, until they let him go. The Yankees scooped him up for the playoff push in August. He was used sparingly and unceremoniously dumped before the playoffs.

Laffey has strangely gotten worse with every season. While his ERA in 2011 (3.88) was lower than his career ERA going into the season (4.41) he did pitch fewer innings than in any season before. His WHIP has, remarkably, increased every season.

Does that mean he offers nothing to the Royals?

Well, the Royals may hope Laffey can be an improvement over their lefty relief options from last year – Tim Collins and Everett Teaford. But Laffey’s typical numbers are not as good as what Collins and Teaford posted last season.

The one thing he does bring, however, is experience. Laffey has pitched in 126 games in his career, logging 373.2 innings. Collins and Teaford together combined for 111 shaky innings in 2011.

When Laffey was regarded as a top prospect, scouts liked his ability to induce ground balls with his offspeed stuff. Never overpowering – he traditionally allows better than three base runners per strikeout – Laffey will have to bring crafty situational stuff to the table to compete with Collins and Teaford.

Since the Royals will be reluctant to spend much money this off-season, Laffey will probably find a role in the KC pen. But if you asked Cleveland, Seattle and the Yankees, they don’t figure the addition will be of significance.

We’ll see if they’re right.

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