Changes in pitching usage seem likely to shake up the player market — but how? Jayson Stark of The Athletic takes a look at the question, which will in no small part be answered in this winter’s free agent market, in a subscription piece. The broad takeaway is that back-of-the-rotation starter types will still find a market, but perhaps won’t be pursued as forcefully in years past. (It seems fair to add that such pitchers may still be valued for their ability to eat innings, but may also not be asked to gobble up quite as many in hopes that they’ll be more effective.) Meanwhile, teams will perhaps be more willing than before to pay up for highly talented pitchers with durability questions.
Here’s the latest market chatter:
- The Phillies intend to pursue Japanese hurler Yusei Kikuchi, according to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. It bears noting that the Philadelphia organization is also said to be interested in quite a few other appealing free agent hurlers, but it’s particularly notable that the Phils like Kikuchi after watching him pitch in his native Japan. Per a report from the Japan Times, it seems that Kikuchi’s formal posting will be processed sooner than later.
- If there are several starters on the menu for the Phillies, it seems they could also play at the upper reaches of the relief market. Morosi tweets that they are at least looking into top available closer Craig Kimbrel. Elsewhere, while a reunion between Kimbrel and the Red Sox can’t be counted out, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suggests that it does not seem particularly likely, either. The vibe of the post is that the Boston organization is probably not preparing to out-bid the market on the veteran closer. Though Kimbrel would obviously still have appeal at a reasonable price, Cafardo seems to hint at relatively tepid interest. For instance, he writes, “Red Sox officials usually shrug their shoulders when asked about Kimbrel’s future.”
- Starter J.A. Happ is a popular early name on the market. The Twins can be counted among the many teams with interest, per Jon Morosi of MLB.com (via Twitter). It’ll be interesting to see whether the southpaw ends up signing relatively early in the winter. The lefty has been much more than a steadying presence in recent season, with intriguing peripherals that suggest he’s better than ever even at 36 years of age. You can track all the prior and future rumors on Happ right here.
- Veteran lefty Andrew Miller is “definitely seeking [a] multiyear commitment” in free agency, Andy Martino of SNY.tv tweets. While some have guessed Miller might seek to reestablish some value with a pillow contract, that doesn’t seem to be his preference. There’s also solid early interest. Martino (here) and Morosi (Twitter link) each tie Miller to the Mets, with Martino also noting that the Yankees also are interested. More broadly, Martino writes that the Mets are looking into the entire free agent market for relief help, including the best (and most expensive) arms available. It is difficult to guess at this point how things will turn out, particularly since the Mets have so many bullpen openings. MLBTR gave its best guess recently, though, predicting the Mets would land a pair of notable relievers. As for Miller, we expect he’ll have strong, multi-year offers to choose from.
- The Athletics have interest in a reunion with Edwin Jackson, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription link). The 35-year-old still managed to average better than 94 mph on his four-seam fastball and got good results from a cutter that became his most-used pitch. One would think he will have multiple suitors after throwing 92 innings of 3.33 ERA ball, though the interest will be tempered by less-than-exciting peripherals (6.7 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9, 36.4% GB) that left ERA estimators rather unimpressed by his 2018 effort (4.65 FIP, 4.88 xFIP, 4.98 SIERA). The Oakland organization secured excellent results from several bounceback hurlers this year and will surely weigh retaining at least some of them, even as it also seeks new possibilities.
- Right-hander Spencer Patton could weigh a return stateside after two campaigns in Japan, per Robert Murray of The Athletic (via Twitter). The 30-year-old may have found another gear while pitching for the Yokohama Bay Stars. He worked to a 2.64 ERA in his 116 innings over the past two seasons, recording 10.3 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9. Patton failed to hold down a big league job despite receiving some opportunities in the past, though he is said to have found some added velocity of late. It seems he’s hearing from a few interested MLB organizations as the offseason gets underway.