Multiple reports have indicated that the demand for starting pitching is huge this offseason and one player that could benefit is right-hander Seth Lugo. In an appearance on Foul Territory, Robert Murray of FanSided reports that Lugo’s market is extensive and “more than half the league” has checked in on him.
Lugo, 34, spent most of his career in the bullpen with the Mets but reached free agency last winter and drew plenty of interest from clubs who thought he could return to the rotation, as he had done years before. The Padres were ultimately the one to take a chance on Lugo, signing him to a two-year, $15MM deal with an opt-out opportunity midway through.
The experiment worked quite well, as Lugo was ultimately able to throw 146 1/3 innings over 26 starts. He missed about a month due to a calf strain, but apart from that, the larger workload didn’t seem to impact his results. He posted an earned run average of 3.57, striking out 23.2% of batters, limiting walks to a 6% rate and keeping 45.2% of balls in play on the ground.
Now that he has proven himself capable of filling a starting role, his market should be even stronger this offseason than it was a year ago, making it an easy decision for him to opt out and retry free agency. Murray notes that Lugo’s market is vast and that he would not be surprised to see Lugo get a three- or four-year deal. At the start of the offseason, MLBTR predicted Lugo for a three-year, $42MM pact, which would be $14MM per year.
Given his age, it would be hard for Lugo to go too far beyond that. But that ceiling is perhaps why so many clubs are interested. Aaron Nola already secured himself a seven-year, $172MM deal to return to the Phillies and nine-figure deals should also be available for guys like Blake Snell, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Jordan Montgomery. The appetite for starting pitching is high but not every club will be able or willing to pay those kinds of prices, leaving them looking to guys like Lugo.
To this point in the offseason, Lugo has been specifically linked to the Tigers but it seems his market is far wider than that. He will likely require a modest average annual value, relative to some of the other free agents, which makes him a speculative fit for a far greater number of clubs. Even mid- or small-market teams need to give out eight-figure contracts from time to time and the widespread demand should help Lugo earn a much greater guarantee than he got a year ago. It was recently reported that nearly half the league had checked in on Yamamoto, but he is widely expected to get $200MM or more. Since Lugo is perhaps looking at getting a quarter of that, it stands to reason that he has even more clubs calling him up.