Pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Spring Training in about three weeks but a slow offseason means there are still plenty of free agents out there. MLBTR already took a look at the top catchers, first basemen, third basemen, shortstops and center fielders still available. Here’s a rundown of the top starting pitchers who’ve yet to sign.
- Blake Snell: The two-time Cy Young Award winner has reportedly been seeking a deal worth $200MM or more. The Yankees are said to have offered Snell something in the vicinity of $150MM over a six-year term, but it’s understandable if Snell and agent Scott Boras are aiming higher coming off the lefty’s NL Cy Young win. The Yankees gave a larger contract to Carlos Rodon last offseason despite a shorter track record. Snell’s shaky command has been a talking point throughout his free agency, but an elevated 13.3% walk rate didn’t hinder him much in 2023 when he pitched 180 innings of 2.25 ERA ball and whiffed 31.5% of his opponents. Snell made the easy call to reject a qualifying offer. He’ll eventually land a nine-figure contract, in all likelihood. Beyond the Yankees, he’s been connected to the Giants, Angels and Blue Jays.
- Jordan Montgomery: Montgomery’s climb from Tommy John rehab to bona fide playoff starter was steady and arguably under the radar — at least until last year’s postseason heroics. The 31-year-old has posted a sub-4.00 ERA and started 30-plus games in each of his three full seasons back from Tommy John surgery, steadily adding more innings each season. Taken in total, he’s pitched 524 1/3 innings of 3.48 ERA ball since Opening Day 2021, highlighted by a career-best 3.20 earned run average in a career-high 188 2/3 frames in 2023. Add in the 33 2/3 postseason innings of 2.67 ERA he’s chipped in, and the profile looks even better. Montgomery isn’t a flamethrower but is a durable arm with average strikeout and ground-ball rates, strong command and a repeated ability to manage hard contact. The Rangers want him back but are facing some financial questions regarding their television broadcast outlook. Other teams to which Montgomery has been tied include the Red Sox, Yankees and Cardinals.
- Mike Clevinger: Fans who remember Clevinger’s peak days in Cleveland probably value him more than the current market does. The now-33-year-old righty had a brief but excellent peak in 2017-20 when he tossed 489 1/3 innings and logged a 2.96 ERA. Clevinger missed the 2021 season following Tommy John surgery, however, and had a pedestrian 2022 campaign in San Diego. Last year’s 3.77 ERA in 131 1/3 innings with the White Sox was a step forward, but since returning from surgery Clevinger touts a lackluster 19.4% strikeout rate. His velocity is down a mile per hour from its peak, and he’s allowing more hard contact than ever — as well as more fly-balls than ever. Clevinger made 32 starts and pitched 200 innings in 2018. He’s never reached 25 starts in another season. He can improve the back of most teams’ rotations, but counting on him for more than 120 innings is tough.
- Michael Lorenzen: A big first half with the Tigers and a memorable no-hitter in his second start following a trade to the Phillies looked to have positioned Lorenzen for a sizable contract this winter. Things went south in a hurry following that no-hitter for the 32-year-old righty, however. Lorenzen hadn’t topped 100 innings since his rookie season and looked to hit a wall following that hitless gem. He allowed 23 runs in 26 innings over his next five starts, was dropped to the bullpen and immediately tagged for four runs in one-third of an inning. Lorenzen pitched 30 1/3 innings following the no-no and yielded an 8.01 ERA. Even prior to his slowdown, Lorenzen was sporting a well below-average strikeout rate. With last year’s 153-inning performance and 4.18 ERA fresh in mind, he’s a candidate to serve as a fourth starter somewhere.
- Hyun Jin Ryu: Many of the numbers for Ryu in his return from Tommy John surgery last year looked good: a 3.46 ERA, a 6.3% walk rate, a 45.6% ground-ball rate. Ryu, however, fanned only 17% of his opponents — a far cry from his 27.5% peak. He also managed only 52 innings in 11 starts — an average of about 4 2/3 frames per outing. Ryu only recorded an out after the fifth inning one time in 2023, and he had only 33 plate appearances in which he was facing his opponent for the third time in a game. His 88.8 mph average fastball was a career-low. Ryu can still help a rotation, but it’ll be hard to treat him like more than a pure five-inning pitcher, given last year’s usage.
- Clayton Kershaw: In early November, Kershaw announced that he’d undergone surgery “to repair the gleno-humeral ligaments and capsule” in his left shoulder. If that sounds ominous, it is. He’s expected to be sidelined into the summer of 2024 at the very least. Kershaw was also a free agent last offseason, and the prevailing wisdom was that he’d re-sign with the Dodgers or sign with his hometown Rangers, whose stadium is just a few miles from Kershaw’s offseason home. The Dodgers have said they want Kershaw back, but all parties are taking their time as he mends from that surgery. Once he’s ready to make a decision, it seems like it’ll come down to L.A. and Texas once again.
- Brandon Woodruff: The longtime Brewers co-ace was non-tendered after undergoing shoulder surgery that’s expected to sideline late into the 2024 season. Woodruff would’ve been a free agent following the 2024 campaign anyhow, and the Brewers were understandably wary about paying him a projected $11.6MM in arbitration when he can’t even be considered a lock to pitch this year. Woodruff is a candidate to sign a high-priced two-year deal that’d allow him to spend the bulk of the 2024 campaign rehabbing. In an ideal scenario, he’d return late in the year to get some innings in before stepping back into a full rotation role in 2025. He fits best with a deep-pocketed team willing to take a chance on his 2025 season and capable of absorbing the financial hit if he can’t return to form. From 2018-23, Woodruff pitched 637 1/3 innings with a 2.98 ERA, 29.7% strikeout rate, 6.4% walk rate and 42.4% ground-ball rate.
Former Dodgers hurlers Trevor Bauer and Julio Urias are both unsigned but could be long shots to return to MLB. No team signed Bauer last offseason after his record suspension under the league’s domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy was lifted; he’d been given a 324-game ban after sexual assault allegations arose, but that ban was reduced to 194 games after an appeal. The Los Angeles district attorney’s office declined to pursue criminal charges but did not proclaim Bauer innocent; rather, the DA’s office stated that proving the charges “beyond a reasonable doubt” was not feasible. Bauer signed with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and made 19 starts for their big league club, totaling 130 2/3 innings with a 2.76 ERA.
Urias, meanwhile, is currently under investigation after the DA declined to pursue felony charges following abuse allegations against the pitcher. He was referred for misdemeanor consideration, and the case is ongoing. Urias was allegedly captured on video in a physical altercation with a woman following an LAFC Major League Soccer match back in September. MLB has yet to conduct its own investigation while waiting for the legal process to play out. He finished the season on paid administrative leave. If the league eventually brings forth a suspension, Urias would become the first player to ever be suspended twice under MLB’s joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy.