8:45am: Free-agent right-hander Trevor Rosenthal is holding a showcase for Major League clubs at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens today, tweets Jon Heyman of the New York Post. It stands to reason that scouts from the majority of teams will be in attendance to gauge the former All-Star’s readiness to return to a big league mound.
A healthy Rosenthal can be one of the game’s most effective relievers, as he’s shown at multiple times in the past. Unfortunately, good health has eluded him in recent years. Rosenthal underwent Tommy John surgery partway through the 2017 season, which wiped out the entirety of his 2018 campaign. He returned with the Nats and Tigers in 2019 and had lost all semblance of control over the strike zone, walking 26 of the 85 hitters he faced that season (30.6%) and plunking another four.
On the heels of that alarming season, Rosenthal settled for a minor league deal with the Royals heading into the 2020 season and quickly reestablished himself as a dominant late-inning powerhouse. He pitched just 23 2/3 innings due to the shortened 60-game schedule, but Rosenthal overwhelmed opponents with a 1.90 ERA, an elite 41.8% strikeout rate and a strong 8.3% walk rate — all while averaging 98.1 mph on his heater.
Despite that dominant showing, Rosenthal didn’t find the weighty multi-year deal he sought early in free agency, and he eventually took a one-year, $11MM from a surprise suitor: the A’s. Unfortunately for Oakland and for Rosenthal, injuries again derailed his 2021 season. A groin strain slowed Rosenthal early in Spring Training, and shoulder troubles shelved him to begin the season. Eventually, it was revealed that Rosenthal required surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome. Over the summer, while working toward what he hoped would be a late-season return, a torn labrum in his hip required yet another surgery.
Rosenthal’s career numbers — 3.36 ERA, 132 saves, 31.2% strikeout rate, 11.3% walk rate, 44.3% grounder rate, 98.1 mph average fastball — all speak to the sheer talent in his right arm. (It’s a 2.91 ERA and 10.1% walk rate if you toss out the anomalous 2019 season.) However, he’s now pitched just 39 innings since undergoing Tommy John surgery way back in Aug. 2017.
Bullpen help is always in demand, and virtually every contending team (and likely several non-contenders) will want to get a look at Rosenthal in hopes of bolstering their relief corps for the season’s second half. Given the lengthy injury layoff, he’s unlikely to command a multi-year pact, so signing Rosenthal figures to be — at worst — a short-term risk with plenty of upside. It’s not clear just yet when Rosenthal would be ready to step onto a big league mound. He’ll presumably require a minor league tune-up to reacclimate to game settings and build additional arm strength, but if he’s ready to audition for MLB clubs, he and agent Scott Boras can’t feel he’s too far off.