There's a good-news/bad news headline for you (more accurately a bad news/good news headline). In (supposedly) unrelated events, relief pitcher Michael Wuertz is having some problems with his shoulder and the A's signed relief pitcher Chad Gaudin. I do think that signing Gaudin was a good move independent of whether or not Wuertz starts the year on the DL, but to say that the questionable health of a key member of the bullpen didn't influence the A's into action just can't be true.
We'll know more in a day or two about Wuertz' health, so let's focus on Gaudin until we hear the results of Wuertz' condition. Gaudin began is big league career with the Rays as a 20 year old in 2003. He pitched effectively, especially for his age for the Rays for two seasons and then spent a mostly injured year with the Jays in 2005 before the A's acquired him for the 2006 season. He was with the A's from 2006-2008, spending 2007 as a full time starter, and was part of the deal that send Rich Harden to the Cubs. He spent last season with the Padres and Yankees and made 25 starts and 6 relief appearances for the two clubs.
His control is a little less than ideal, which is probably why he hasn't quite stuck in any team's rotation for more than a year. Despite his mediocre walk rates (career 4.27 per 9), he's performed solidly at all of his various stops and in all of his roles. Except for his 13 innings with the Jays, he's consistently put up FIP's in the mid 4.00s. (I'll frequently be referencing FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, which is both a better predictor of future ERA than past ERA and accounts pretty well for all the things a pitcher is control over. For a MUCH more detailed (and much better) explanation of FIP, click here).
Gaudin's versatility fits in well with the A's - and would really fit well on any staff. I can see him soaking up some starts should injuries to the usual suspects occur, the A's need to limit the youngsters' innings, or Braden's leg continue to get weird infections. He'd also be useful in relief, though by no means as good as Wuertz or Ziegler (or Bailey, of course).
The Gaudin pickup probably means that Jason Jennings will likely start the year with Sacramento unless Wuertz is ready to go on Opening Day. Replacing Jennings with Gaudin is an easy upgrade, he does everything the A's were hoping to get out of Jennings, but better. He's also younger and has a much better recent history of success and health, the latter of which seems to be in constant demand with our pitchers.