With Nathan Eovaldi agreeing to a deal with the Rangers, the top remaining starting pitcher on the free agent market (per MLBTR’s rankings) is Michael Wacha. In fact, Wacha is the only remaining starting pitcher left from the Top 50 free agents.
As things stand, the Orioles are the only known team to have checked in on the 31-year-old, who’s coming off his best season in a while for the Red Sox. Wacha made 23 starts for Boston last season, working to a 3.32 ERA across 127 1/3 innings. That mark did come with a fairly pedestrian 20.2% strikeout rate, and a solid 6% walk rate. Further, his .260 opponent BABIP suggests a bit of good fortune was involved, and sure enough Wacha’s FIP sat at 4.14 for the season. Nonetheless, it was a far more improved showing than in recent times for Wacha.
Between 2020-21, Wacha tossed 158 2/3 innings for the Mets and Rays, working to a 5.39 ERA. Those two seasons came with better strikeout rates, but his HardHit% were comfortably the highest of his career, as were his home run rates.
Wacha was once a highly touted prospect in the Cardinals system. Drafted 19th overall in 2012, Wacha made his big league debut as a 21-year-old in 2013. Over his first three seasons, he’d toss 353 innings of 3.21 ERA ball, and picked up the 2013 NLCS MVP award for his efforts in that series against the Dodgers. He was never a big strikeout pitcher, but kept the ball on the ground enough, limited the walks and induced enough soft contact to be a highly effective starter.
Those three seasons turned out to comfortably be Wacha’s best, and since the 2016 campaign he’s hurled 800 2/3 innings of 4.42 ERA ball. He’s signed one-year deals the past three seasons, but that solid campaign last season could well see him get a modest two-year guarantee this winter. MLBTR predicted a two-year $16MM pact for Wacha and there certainly seems a good chance he matches that at least, particularly given how well starting pitching has done in free agency this winter.
As for who could be interested, the Orioles are not only the only reported team to have checked in (though there have surely been others), but they do make a lot of sense as well. They have been linked to a number of mid-tier starters this winter, and signed Kyle Gibson to a one-year, $10MM pact. Still, the backend of their rotation has a few options but most are light on MLB experience and adding someone like Wacha would provide them with a bit more stability.
The Angels and Padres were both linked to Eovaldi before he signed with the Rangers, so it makes sense to take a look at them as possible fits for the next best option. The Angels have a pretty solid five-man rotation, with Shohei Ohtani and Tyler Anderson at the top, and southpaws Reid Detmers, Patrick Sandoval and Jose Suarez rounding it out. LA has often worked with a six-man rotation to manage Ohtani’s workload though, and Wacha could fit in nicely as another starting option for them.
The Padres, too, appear to have the foundations of a starting five in place, but like the Angels could do with a sixth option. Joe Musgrove, Blake Snell and Yu Darvish are locked in to the first three spots, with Nick Martinez and Seth Lugo penciled in to fill out the rotation. Reports have suggested San Diego plans to utilize the latter two as starters, but both have typically worked as relievers recently, so adding Wacha could give them some insurance against those two failing to lockdown a starting spot.
A return to Boston could also be an option. They do have Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, James Paxton, Nick Pivetta and Garrett Whitlock lined up to handle the starting duties. Yet Sale and Paxton have had a wretched run of injuries (and the team is reportedly listening to offers on Sale), while Whitlock has fared much better in the bullpen. Youngster Brayan Bello is also an option to join the rotation at some point, so there’s not a clear need to add someone like Wacha, but it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if he did wind up back in Boston.
While those three teams all have ambitions to compete in 2023, Wacha could also be a fit on rebuilding teams. Even if it requires a two-year deal to sign him, a rebuilding club could hope that he builds off his solid 2022 campaign and turns himself into a valuable trade chip either at the deadline or next winter. At worst, it’s unlikely it’d be an onerous commitment to sign him and even if he doesn’t pitch himself into a trade chip he could still work as an innings-eater for a rebuilding team with a younger roster.
In that case, perhaps a team like the Reds could be amenable to bringing him in if the price is right. Luis Cessa is the veteran in the Reds’ rotation as things stand, but he’s typically worked as a long reliever. Outside of Cessa, it’s a young rotation for all of uncertainty, and adding a veteran like Wacha could solidify things and take a bit of the pressure off their younger arms.
There’s a fair few other possible fits, and any of the Twins, Royals, Tigers, and White Sox could make some sense. Where do you see Wacha signing this winter?
hey Pirates made it to a survey here!!! big step up
This one belongs to the Reds
So did the Reds. Holy cow! (with apologies to Cubs fans and the spirit of Harry)
I voted for the Reds. I feel like it is going to be one of those under the radar teams that are hoping to flip him.
This one belongs to the Reds
I did too. Probably wishful thinking but what the hey.
Wacha talkin’ bout?
Never mind all this stuff. I want to know what’s going on with Carlitos.
The Baseball Fan
Angels or Orioles
No way Boston.
We see what the Red Sox offered him last year which was a one-year make good, establish value contract for not much money.
Michael Wacha wants way more than that this time since he pitched pretty well. Red Sox are out on this guy.
Well given he signed that contract imply that was his market value? And I get expecting BOS to be cheap but seeing as he’s sat on the market it’s hard to imagine teams are braking down his door.
Yes good point but I think a team will give him more than what Boston did last year. He just wants a lot more I guess.., or more than just a one-year deal.
Boston gave him what, 7 million one year contract? I’m sure he’ll get 10 out there for one year but maybe he’s looking for 2and 15?
I’ve seen Sale’s potential as a trade candidate come up several times now, but isn’t he a 10/5 guy? He’s got more than ten years and he’s been with Boston for more than five seasons now, correct? If so, he should have automatic veto rights for any trade and I don’t recall that being mentioned.
I could be wrong on Both accounts, however.
He does. However I think Sale is fiery enough where he would approve a trade to a team he believes is more competitive.
Buuba ho tep
Thinking he is a perfect fit with the Orioles.
Zach Davies is > and played last year for peanuts… I’d sign Davies before Wacha to be .. and probably at 1/$5mil or lower
I would contend Wacha has higher upside but you might be correct that Davies median is higher.
Wacha ended his season in disastrous fashion. His final two starts were abysmal. So he definitely did not leave a good lasting impression on potential suitors.
But 5 straight QS’s right before those two bad starts.
Dun dun dunnnn
Since the Red Sox having done much to improve the rotation, would love to see him in Boston. They don’t want to spend big on top free agents, but he would come at a good rate
I can’t believe the Sox haven’t brought him back. He did a great job last season. But then again the Sox have surprised many people this off-season.
Last year there were 159 pitchers who had 200+ PA without the shift. Wacha ranked 159th in xwOBA and 148th in wOBA..
In contrast, the free agent who was second-best without the shift (after Rodon) was … you got it, Kluber.
I’m not particularly high on either one of them.
Kluber is barely tossing 89Mph these days. He is a control specialist and knows how to pitch. He doesn’t have much left to lose on that fastball though.
I think Wacha is asking for more than he’s worth. I’d give him something like Kluber got. I think the 2 are pretty close in actual value.
If Sox haven’t checked in yet, then I’m voting O’s
DeGrom Texas Ranger
He would have been a huge upgrade to Martin Perez. Now, Texas is stuck throwing away 20 million on a guy with a career 1.446 WHIP, a 4.43 ERA, and a 1.93 K/BB ratio. Without that fluke year, his ERA would be at 4.71. Wacha would at least fit the trend of getting high K/BB ratio pitchers who don’t live off double play balls to clean up their messes.
Signed with east coast teams all 3 trips into free agency. I think the As should do it but considering the east coast trend I’ll guess a return to the Red Sox
The Yankees new ace of the staff.
I’d Wacha mile to know what the hell that means, Old York.
Orioles. He won’t cost them a fortune and he’d be a good veteran influence on the young pitchers.
I think Gibson can provide the veteran presence. If Wacha will take a similar deal to him—sure. If not, I’ll pass.
C Yards Jeff
Rubber arm Miley over Wacha in Baltimore? As of now, no definite Lefty in rotation … at least at start of the season. Means on DL, Rom in minors, Hall wild. Plus, can definitely get Wade on a 1 yr. Looks like Wacha is in line for 2 yrs?
Pulling for orioles for some reason. Just sign him!
Wouldn’t mind him back in Boston but could also see a team like the Nationals signing him for a year and trying to flip him at the deadline if continues to perform as well as he did last season
110 twins fans still holding out false hope that their FO still has a pulse
Anywhere but Baltimore please.
Davies? Miley? Cueto? Seems the Orioles are going to add one more starter by FA or trade. If it is a FA, who would you choose instead of Wacha?
I doubt it will be with the O’s unless Wacha will settle for a 1 yr. deal. O’s really need a solid innings eater, and it would be surprising to see Wacha take a 1 yr deal…. and it would be even more surprising to see the O’s sign a starter to anything more than a 1 yr deal, especially considering the starting pitching free agents left on the market.
Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal have made great progress in re-building the farm system and working on a steady pipeline of talent ready for opportunities. Looking forward to seeing what Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall can do.this season. Seth Johnson should be up at some point in 2023. John Means should be back mid-season. Should be interesting for the O’s and O’s fans to see the talent in the farm come up to the big leagues and get their opportunity within the coming years. Staying hopeful and optimistic about the O’s – but when hope springs eternal.
I would bet against Seth Johnson pitching MLB this season, especially considering it was August 3rd when he had TJ. My wager is that it’s more likely he will not pitch an inning at any level in 2023.
Means might be back in August. Again I think the estimate is the best, best possible scenario, not an average timeframe.
GrOD is GOD!
In the 2nd paragraph, Simon says the O’s were the only team known to have checked in. Then, in the 5th paragraph Simon says they’re not the only team, although there could be others. Even if “not” was a typo, the sentence still wouldn’t make sense. Simon says…I’m not a good writer.
coop, I had to read the second sentence twice, but he repeated the contention that they were the only team to check in: “. . . the Orioles are not only the only reported team to have checked in (though there have surely been others), but they do make a lot of sense as well.”
“Not only the only” is easy to misread. In fact, the A.I. autocorrect function highlighted it as possibly erroneous (it’s not).
What I found more dubious was this sentence:
“Those two seasons came with better strikeout rates, but his HardHit% were comfortably the highest of his career, as were his home run rates.”
What does “comfortably” mean in this context? Clearly, a pitcher (or an interested team) should not be comfortable with high rates of hard hits and home runs. I have to guess that he meant “easily the highest of his career.”
Bart Harley Jarvis
Nippon Ham Fighters.
Naw. The Hiroshima Fighting Carp are all-in on Wacha
Seriously, Wacha is a guy who I thought was going to be the next big thing after his first couple seasons in St.Louis.
Just never know
Injuries happen. Some never fully gain what they once were.
He’ll always be the guy that gave up Ishikawa’s pennant winner homer to me.
I’m hoping the RS. We need another 230 IPs by my estimation. He’d be good for 140 of them.
The phenom whom the leagues figured out. Needs more adjustments, ie cut fastball and sliders to be relevant.
Cubs should sign him a la John Lackey
Nah. They already have seven or eight starters that are as good on the North side. Hole is at first base. If position players have career year, rotation holds up, and pen is good they will give Cards a run for the division. On the improve while Milwaukee fades.
Am I the only one who feels that Wacha is not a prize, but rather a problem if you’re putting your eggs in that basket?
I see him signing with a team that’s not a contender. Trade bait at the deadline but not a lifeline.
The better question is what is he worth
Where is the ‘No one cares’ selection?
Wacha should be on the Pirates radar. I am not very confident Rich Hill can be in the rotation at the age of 43 years old. Wacha would be a nice extra insurance policy just incase Hill really shows his age or if one of the other 6 fall victim to injury during spring training. Worst case scenario, Wacha or Hill find themselves in the Pen or a team trades for one of the two during spring training. Usually a team looks for a dependable arm to start the season when one of their own goes down during spring training. Pirates should be calling this guy’s agent.
He’ll sign with the Chocolate Factory.
“The Padres, too, appear to have the foundations of a starting five in place, but like the Angels could do with a sixth option.”
“The Padres also appear to have the foundations of a starting five in place, but like the Angels, could do with a sixth option.”