Reports suggest that there are three teams currently pursuing free agent righty Yovani Gallardo. We heard yesterday that the Rockies were lining up to participate in talks, and SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo suggested today on Twitter that the Orioles and Astros have also remained involved.
But Baltimore executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette said earlier this morning that the club is strongly disinclined to part with its top draft choice (currently 14th overall). And the club does not appear willing to go to a fourth year for Gallardo, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. Houston, too, would need to punt a valuable pick (18th overall). While it’s long been expected that those clubs would consider starting pitching additions, and could still stand to do so, that added disincentive poses a significant barrier.
As for the Rockies, Gallardo’s agent, Bobby Witt, tells MLB.com’s Thomas Harding that his client would “be happy pitching for any of the three teams” — apparently suggesting that the specter of Coors Field won’t deter the veteran. Indeed, the Rockies are participating in “serious” talks with Gallardo, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports on Twitter. But he adds that the club does not currently have an offer outstanding, and GM Jeff Bridich downplayed the link in public comments.
Unlike the other two teams, the Rockies would not have to give up their top choice — the fourth selection in this summer’s draft — to add Gallardo, who requires compensation because he turned down a qualifying offer from the Rangers. Attracting pitchers to throw at altitude has always been a challenge, of course, but that beneficial draft situation and a somewhat slow-to-develop market for Gallardo could leave the Rockies in solid position to make a move.
The fit for Colorado is obvious: while the organization has some potentially valuable arms, their rotation is as unsettled as any in the majors. There are questions up and down the staff: Jorge De La Rosa is steady but aging; Jordan Lyles and Tyler Chatwood are coming off of significant injuries; and Chad Bettis had a surprisingly solid 2015 but hardly has a deep track record. Younger options such as Jon Gray, Eddie Butler, and Tyler Matzek have shown talent but are hardly sure things, while Jeff Hoffman, Tyler Anderson, and others may be in need of further seasoning before they’re considered at the MLB level.
From a payroll perspective, the Rockies already have about $91MM on the books for the coming season and will still need to add the arbitration salaries of Charlie Blackmon (between $3.9MM and $2.7MM arb filings) and DJ LeMahieu ($3.3MM vs. $2.8MM). Of course, after signing Gerardo Parra, the club seems in position to deal an outfielder, and that could bring some salary relief along with a return in players. The team has never reached the $100MM threshold on an Opening Day roster.
Gallardo, who’ll soon turn 30, has turned in excellent results of late and is quite durable. But his peripherals are on the decline — in particular, a plummeting strikeout rate — and he’s now one of only three starters among MLBTR’s top fifty free agents who have yet to sign. (The others, Mat Latos and Doug Fister, figure to be available on shorter deals.) MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted a four-year, $52MM salary entering the winter. It is fair to note that we’ve seen other pitchers — Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza — reach that level of salary at this stage of the offseason or later. And there’s no denying that the market for starting pitching has been robust.