With spring training right around the corner, the time for teams to make meaningful additions to their rotations by way of free agency has likely passed. There are very few starters remaining on the open market, though there’s a possibility – albeit slight – that pitcher-needy clubs could strike it rich on buy-low candidates. There are at least a handful of somewhat intriguing names left, as you’ll see below…
Taijuan Walker, RHP:
- It’s hard to believe Walker is still just 27 years old. He’s a former standout prospect with the Mariners who was a quality major league starter as recently as 2017, when he fired 157 1/3 innings of 3.49 ERA/4.04 FIP ball as a member of the Diamondbacks. Walker also averaged a hair under 94 mph on his fastball that year. He’s now stuck without a job after injuries cut him down over the previous two seasons. Walker underwent Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow in April 2018, thereby limiting him to 13 innings that year, and couldn’t rally back last season on account of shoulder troubles. He wound up tossing just one inning, in the Diamondbacks’ regular-season finale. Since then, the D-backs have non-tendered Walker (in lieu of paying him around $5MM), and just the M’s and Twins have been linked to him. Walker recently held a workout for teams “in front of about 20 scouts,” according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
Matt Harvey, RHP:
- Harvey’s still relatively young (31 in March), but it seems like ancient history when the ex-Met was one of the absolute best starters in the game. Various injuries have helped destroy his career since 2015, the Dark Knight’s most recent ace-like showing. Going back to 2016, Harvey ranks third from the bottom among all qualified starters in ERA (5.65). The 5.00 FIP he has put up in the same span doesn’t inspire much more confidence, nor does the dismal showing he had with the Angels last season before they deemed him and his $11MM contract such a poor investment that the starter-light club released him in late July. That said, Harvey still threw upward of 93 mph last season and isn’t far removed from logging decent production with the Reds in 2018.
Danny Salazar, RHP:
- Salazar has been electrifying at times, and he recently turned 30, but the former Indian only threw a combined four innings (all last season) from 2018-19. Shoulder woes have been a key culprit in knocking Salazar’s career off the rails, and it’s rather alarming that his fastball averaged around 86 mph in last season’s one-game comeback after sitting around 95-96 in prior years. However, in fairness to Salazar, he was dealing with groin troubles in that contest; problem is that it went down as the latest injury in a career loaded with them.
Aaron Sanchez, RHP:
- Sanchez looked like a budding star in 2016, during which the former Blue Jay notched 192 innings of 3.00 ERA/3.55 FIP ball and induced grounders at a 54.4 percent clip. Little did anyone know Sanchez’s effectiveness would fade so severely after that, owing in part to multiple injuries. Last season, which he divided between the Jays and Astros, Sanchez posted a woeful 5.89 ERA/5.25 FIP over 131 1/3 frames. Sanchez underwent shoulder surgery toward the end of September, so he’ll miss some portion of the upcoming campaign. The Astros non-tendered him as a result, as opposed to paying him approximately $5.6MM in arbitration. Sanchez is still young (27), though, and continued to average around 94 mph on his fastball last season.