Quality crop of potential free-agent pitchers could create a busy offseason for MLB
Without a doubt, pitching is paramount in baseball. Starting pitchers and relievers are in high demand. The MLB trade deadline this season is August 31.
There are some quality pitchers who could become free agents this offseason. Perhaps this is the time a team should trade in for a pending free agent pitcher and extend the pitcher’s contract or check him out for an off-season contract offer.
Given the millions of dollars that major league franchises are set to lose this season, money from free agent contracts could be negatively affected. However, Mookie Betts certainly found a huge salary from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
There may still be teams that wish to strengthen their pitching teams by entering the free agent market. San Francisco and Houston, as well as Boston, may think it’s a good time to pay an acceptable rate for a free agent pitcher.
The Cincinnati Reds and Minnesota Twins might be in the market to add a quality pitcher.
The Chicago White Sox have aggressively tried to prosecute free agents over the past two years. Will they test the free agent pitching market? Additionally, the Los Angeles Angels might need some help with their rotation, and there are plenty of free agent pitchers that might be of interest to them.
Before one of the top pitchers with expiring contracts hits the open market, their current team may attempt to sign the pitcher for an overtime. The New York Yankees are perhaps the team most affected by free agent pitching decisions.
Here are some of the more well-known launchers who could become unrestricted free agents. Their current salary is noted.
RHP, Cincinnati Reds, $ 17.5 million
Bauer was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the third overall pick in 2011. His UCLA teammate, Gerrit Cole, was ranked first overall. Bauer signed for $ 3.4 million. Cole received $ 6 million for being picked twice ahead of Bauer. Something says it stuck in Bauer’s womb for all these years.
Bauer was traded from the Diamondbacks to the Indians, then to the Reds. He has always preferred to sign a one-year contract, confident that his value as a pitcher will increase each year.
The Reds, long a rather frugal franchise, have started investing heavily in their team’s payroll.
Bauer will be 30 next season. He might be able to sign an extension with Cincinnati. Will he work on another one year contract, or will he follow Cole’s path and sign long term?
Bauer has a wide variety of locations that he uses regardless of the number. He trusts his business. In fact, Bauer has become a mentor to pitchers with a similar vast repertoire. They trust what Bauer knows about the pitch and his ability to convey that information.
Cole signed for nine years at $ 324 million with the New York Yankees. Some say he’s the best pitcher in baseball. There are scouts and analysts who believe Bauer has not hit his cap. They think he can be dominant for years to come. Will he sign a long term deal like Cole?
LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks, $ 9.4 million
Robbie Ray has been a big disappointment this season. He’s one of baseball’s real puzzles. There is no doubt that he has a strong arm and some great stuff. But throughout his career, in Detroit and Arizona, Ray struggled to consistently throw strikes. When he falls behind in the accounts, Ray compensates and takes up too much space. Home runs follow. In that short season, Ray had seven home runs in 17 innings.
Signed by the Washington Nationals in 2013, Ray was traded to Detroit before pitching a major league baseball inning. After one season, the Tigers traded him to the Diamondbacks in a three-team deal.
With Arizona, Ray had some brilliant moments. He was All Star in 2017, but he couldn’t repeat this beautiful year.
So far in this young season, Ray has walked an average of 7.4 batters per nine innings, while striking out 12.2 per nine.
San Francisco would be a great place for a pitcher like Ray. Or maybe even the Yankees.
LHP, New York Yankees, $ 12.5 million
James Paxton missed the start of this short MLB season after having a cyst removed from his back. It is the latest in a series of injuries that followed his career.
Now back in the rotation, Paxton has had mixed results. He was very bad, and he was very good. This has been normal for the course of Paxton’s inconsistent career. He spent six years with the Mariners before being traded to the Yankees in November 2018.
It’s hard to believe Paxton will be 32 next season. He has never pitched more than 160 innings in a season, having only done it once. There should be a lot of sleeves on that left arm, if it can stay healthy.
If they can come to an agreement, the Yankees will certainly want to keep the southpaw in their rotation.
RHP, New York Yankees, $ 23 million
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka was an international acquisition from the Yankees of Japan. In 2014, he rotated with the Yankees and became an All Star at the age of 25. The performance came after he pitched seven-season games in the Pacific and Eastern Japanese leagues. Tanaka was also an All Star last year, at the age of 30.
The baseball world wondered if a frayed ulnar collateral ligament in Tanaka’s right elbow would ultimately require Tommy John surgery? His elbow didn’t seem to get worse. The only recent injury hiccups came when he was hit on the side of the head with a Giancarlo Stanton punch line in mid-July. He’s back now and takes the ball every five days.
Tanaka is a real wonder. It looks like whatever he throws is moving down.
He throws one of the best split-finger throws in the game, using the court almost a third of the time. It prompts the batter to drive the ball into the ground or make weak contact.
Using a fastball, slider, curve, and split finger, Tanaka is a master at keeping the batter off balance and guessing.
Already expensive, it remains to be seen what happens to Tanaka in the future. Is his elbow a cause for concern in the free market?
LHP, Chicago Cubs, $ 11.5 million
In early July, Jose Quintana underwent surgery for a cut on his left thumb. He suffered a laceration while washing the dishes at home. He did not pitch in the 2020 season. His return to the Cubs rotation has not been announced.
Quintana was the focal point of a trade between the White Sox and the Cubs in July 2013. To get the starter the Cubs needed, they traded leads Dylan Cease and Eloy Jimenez to the White Sox’s south side to get Quintana.
Now in its seventh season in the big leagues, Quintana will turn 32 in January, still young enough to offer value to a club looking to bolster their rotation. The fact that he throws with his left hand could increase his value.
All Star in 2016, Quintana has been inconsistent in his career. He doesn’t have dominant ground, but his arsenal is deep with a fastball, a change, a cutter and a curveball. It’s hard to be a “guessing” hitter with Quintana because he uses his repertoire fairly evenly.
RHP, Oakland Athletics, $ 6.3 million
Liam Hendriks pitched for ten seasons in the big league baseball. He pitched for four different teams. Now, at the age of 31, Hendriks could become a free agent if Oakland does not extend his contract.
A reliever for Athletics, Hendriks saved 25 games last year. Originally from Australia, he is already one of the save leaders this season.
In general, the compositions of the bullpen appear to be less permanent than the starting rotations. Adding and subtracting pitchers from pens is not unusual. Because the last three outs in a game are often the toughest, closers like Hendriks don’t have much job security. Many are on short leashes. However, closures with Liam Hendriks’ reputation and track record are in high demand.
Hendriks uses a wide range of terrain, including a 95 mph fastball, slider, and curveball. Hendriks is averaging 13 batters per nine innings, a very positive statistic for a closer incoming free agency.
He is probably a candidate for a handsome salary from a club looking to improve the background of their bullpen.
RHP, Toronto Blue Jays, $ 9.6 million
Like Liam Hendriks, Ken Giles is an experienced and quality relative. He will enter next season at the age of 30.
Giles pitched for Philadelphia, Houston and now Toronto, all as a reliever. Last year, he saved 23 games for the Blue Jays. At the end of July this season, he suffered a strained right elbow, sending him to the injured list. He has had elbow pain before during his career.
Giles has only had 1.2 innings of work so far in 2020, collecting one save.
Giles threw his fastball between 95 and 98 miles an hour throughout his career. He relies on a two-pitch fastball / slider combination to send the hitters off, with a ten-mile-per-hour difference in the shots.
Teams can be wary of the elbow issues Giles has faced. But when it is healthy it is a closer to the best quality.
Other notable free agent launchers include:
- Marcus Stroman, RHP, New York Mets (retired from 2020 season)
- Blake Treinen, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (relief)
- Alex Colome, RHP, Chicago White Sox (relief)
A team is unlikely to trade for a potential top pitcher without acquiring a contract extension. However, contract extensions for these solid pitchers may not be out of the question. We’ll have to wait and see what the market dictates regarding average annual wages.