This is the final installment in our Market Snapshot series. Let’s check in on the array of possibilities for teams looking at rotation improvements.
Teams In Need
There are few teams that won’t at least consider some kind of tweaks to their rotation mix in any given offseason. Some, though, stand out as worthy of particular attention.
A variety of contenders will be looking to get better and perhaps also boost depth. The Astros, Angels, Athletics, Yankees, Nationals, and Braves all have needs. It’s possible the Phillies, Cardinals, and Red Sox could look to improve, even if they could also might largely hold pat. We’ve heard plenty of suggestions that the Padres and Reds are serious about getting new rotation pieces in place.
The Brewers held off on any major improvements last winter but tried to add Yu Darvish, so could again seek arms. Similarly, the creative Rays have some money to spend and surely wouldn’t mind adding productive starters at a good value despite the successes of their non-traditional staff management. Though their anticipated competitiveness may be somewhat in doubt, it’d be unwise to count out clubs such as the Blue Jays, Twins, Pirates, Giants, Diamondbacks, and Rangers. Even clubs like the White Sox and Royals could at least go looking for depth, while serving as wild cards to do more.
Frontline: Clayton Kershaw is still the big name to watch, assuming he opts out as expected. While he won’t take home the kind of whopping deal that once seemed possible, he’ll still draw plenty of attention — if he doesn’t work something out with the Dodgers in advance. Patrick Corbin is coming off of a huge season at relatively youthful age and figures to be of keen interest. The somewhat older and generally more accomplished Dallas Keuchel is also in line for a big contract, but perhaps doesn’t have the earning upside of Corbin. Charlie Morton could ring up a big payday, though his own geographical and competitive preferences may lead him to feature as a nice value.
Mid-rotation: Nathan Eovaldi is arguably the most fascinating pitcher to watch, given his age, loud stuff, and recent success after a run of health issues. Another wild card could be coming from Japan in the form of southpaw Yusei Kikuchi, who may well be posted.
As they did on the trade market, J.A. Happ, Cole Hamels (if his option isn’t exercised), and Gio Gonzalez can offer quality veteran frames. Hyun-Jin Ryu has had major injury issues but has also been excellent when healthy. You could probably debate how to categorize Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill, and Derek Holland, but we’ll keep them here since all have solid cases for multi-year commitments.
CC Sabathia can still get the job done, though he’ll likely go for another single-year pact. It’ll be interesting to see how the market treats Anibal Sanchez after his stunning bounceback year in Atlanta, but it’s hard to ignore his numbers.
Back-end: Wade Miley and Lance Lynn also had interesting seasons. The former had great results that aren’t fully backed by peripherals (at least, if you don’t believe he can sustain his home run suppression), while the latter was dinged for nearly 5 earned per nine on the year but put up some impressive peripherals after being traded to the Yankees.
Other pitchers that had at least reasonably productive 2018 seasons, but otherwise come with some less desirable features, include Brett Anderson, Clay Buchholz, Jeremy Hellickson, Edwin Jackson, Tyson Ross, and James Shields. Bounceback candidates include Drew Pomeranz, Ervin Santana, Jaime Garcia, Marco Estrada, Matt Moore, and Martin Perez, while Garrett Richards seems situated to ink a two-year deal while he finishes his Tommy John rehab.
Top targets: Contenders will see how a new Mets front office feels about Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler, with a feeding frenzy sure to ensue if they’re made available. It’s perhaps equally unlikely that the Giants will put Madison Bumgarner up for option, but he’d be a fascinating player to see the market value given his outstanding track record and more recent warning signs. It seems reasonable to anticipate that the Diamondbacks will market Zack Greinke, who’s awfully pricey but is now playing on a three-year term and is still very good.
Mid-rotation targets: We’ve already seen clear indication that the Yankees will try to find a taker for Sonny Gray after a rough campaign. Andrew Cashner (Orioles), Ivan Nova (Pirates) and Tanner Roark (Nationals) are other potential trade candidates who have of innings. None of these pitchers is cheap, but all are available on one-year commitments.
The Blue Jays would get plenty of interest if they decided to move on from Marcus Stroman, though it’s not clear that’ll happen. Likewise, Arizona hurlers Robbie Ray and Zach Godley would be of interest elsewhere. Other talented pitchers who have struggled recently include Dylan Bundy of the Orioles and Danny Duffy of the Royals.
Other pitchers could come available if teams like the Red Sox, Braves, and Phillies seek upgrades, though it’s hard to guess at the possibilities at this point.