Right-hander Blake Parker rejected an outright assignment from the Twins and has instead elected free agency, the team announced to reporters (Twitter link via Betsy Helfand the St. Paul Pioneer Press).
The 34-year-old Parker was non-tendered by the Angels last winter and went on to sign a one-year, $1.8MM deal with the Twins. Parker is still a bit shy of five years of MLB service time, meaning his decision to opt for free agency will actually result in him surrendering the remainder of that contract in exchange for a return to the open market. He’ll look to latch on with another club in hopes of a quick return to the big leagues.
Parker logged a 4.21 ERA in 36 1/3 innings with the Twins but struggled more than that number would indicate. The right-hander’s velocity dipped to its lowest mark since 2014 (91.5 mph average fastball), and he averaged four walks per nine innings pitched — the worst mark of his career excluding a small 17-inning sample in 2016. Parker’s overall strikeout rate, his swinging-strike rate and his first-pitch strike rate were all down from his 2017 peak with the Halos, and he gave up far too much hard contact; Statcast put his 42.9 percent opponents’ hard-hit rate in just the 10th percentile among MLB pitchers and felt that he was actually fortunate to escape with a .246/.331/.442 opponents’ batting line (based on the quality of the contact he allowed).
Parker turned in an outstanding 2017 season with the Angels when he logged 67 innings of 2.54 ERA ball with 11.5 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9 with a 47-percent grounder rate. But after striking out more than a third of batters he faced that season, Parker whiffed just 21.7 percent of opponents this year, and his walk rate jumped four percent as well. Between the diminished K/BB numbers and a career-high 1.73 HR/9, fielding-independent metrics like FIP (5.35), xFIP (4.79) and SIERA (4.58) were all rather bearish on Parker’s performance.