Former Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal’s progress from Tommy John surgery appears to be progressing nicely, as the right-hander took to Twitter today to announce that he’s planning an October showcase for interested clubs. Rosenthal has tweeted a few clips of himself pitching over the past month and included another with today’s announcement.
Details of his showcase aren’t yet clear, but it stands to reason that virtually every team in the Majors will at least have a scout on hand to watch the former All-Star. By the time October rolls around, Rosenthal will be 13 months removed from the operation he underwent late last August — closer to 14 months if he waits until the end of the month. He’ll be a full 18 months removed from surgery by the time pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training next February.
Rosenthal had multiple options in free agency this past offseason. Some hurlers in similar situations of late have inked modest two-year deals, locking in some earnings but also leaving plenty of upside on the table. Instead, Rosenthal will pursue much the same route that fellow closer and fellow Scott Boras client Greg Holland took after having Tommy John surgery late in the 2015 season. Holland sat out the 2016 campaign entirely and signed a one-year, $7MM deal with heaps of incentives and a vesting player option.
Unlike Holland, who was 29 when he had his surgery and 31 by the time he signed with the Rockies, Rosenthal will have relative youth on his side. He underwent surgery at the age of 27 and won’t turn 29 until late next May, so he’ll be considerably younger than Holland was. Rosenthal was also on the upswing at the time he was hurt, whereas Holland had struggled and lost velocity while evidently pitching through injury.
Still, the Holland contract could serve as something of a barometer when trying to gauge Rosenthal’s earning power this offseason, and it’s likely encouraging for Rosenthal’s camp that in spite of last year’s free-agent freeze, relief pitchers as a group were generally still well-compensated. It seems likely to expect that, if all goes well at his showcase, he’ll be in position to command a big league deal with a fairly significant salary in addition to performance incentives. If Rosenthal shows the same stuff he did in 2017 — when he averaged 98.8 mph with his fastball and generated a 15.9% swinging-strike rate — then there could be a bidding war.
Rosenthal’s track record will obviously also be a factor. While his tenure with the Cardinals had its ups and downs, his collective body of work in St. Louis was unquestionably impressive. In 325 innings out of the Cardinals’ bullpen, Rosenthal pitched to a 2.99 ERA and racked up 121 saved. Along the way, he averaged 12.1 K/9 against 4.0 BB/9 and 0.47 HR/9 with a 44.6 percent ground-ball rate. Rosenthal’s fastball averaged 97.4 mph in his time with the Cardinals, and he generated a healthy 13.1 percent swinging-strike rate and a 30.3 percent chase rate on pitches out of the strike zone.