By Jim Callis
December 13, 2004
Nine months after the Cubs took lefthander Luke Hagerty 32nd overall in the 2002 draft, he looked like a steal. He tore through hitters in his first spring training, and scouts whispered that he looked more deserving of being the No. 1 overall pick than his former Ball State teammate Bryan Bullington, who had gone first in the draft to the Pirates. Then Hagerty blew out his elbow warming up for his final spring start, and he had Tommy John surgery that kept him out for the entire 2003 season.
Hagerty’s career took another detour on Monday. He pitched just 23 innings in 2004, none above short-season Boise, and the Cubs gambled that they could slide him through the major league Rule 5 draft after opting not to protect him on their 40-man roster. But the Orioles selected him, then traded him shortly afterward to the Marlins for a player to be named later.
If the 23-year-old Hagerty can regain the stuff he had before surgery, he can pitch at the front of a major league rotation. He was throwing a mid-90s fastball and a nasty slider when he got hurt, and his 6-foot-7, 230-pound frame made him all the more intimidating. Hagerty showed flashes of his previous form this summer, but the Cubs shut him down after four outings as a precaution because he had been working nonstop on his rehab for 14 months. Under the Rule 5 guidelines, the Marlins must keep him on their active major league roster. If they want to send Hagerty to the minors, they’d have to offer him back to the Cubs for half of his $50,000 draft price and then pass him through waivers.
Update: Because the Marlins returned Hagerty to the Cubs, they didn’t send a player to the Orioles for their part in this transaction. Florida did reimburse Baltimore for the $50,000 draft cost.