So who’s left on the pitching front? Where can teams turn for rotation help?
Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn have been signed, and we’re waiting for Alex Cobb to land somewhere. But beyond that? Teams could hold their breath and sign Scott Feldman or Jake Peavy.
And if teams are waiting to spend on starting pitching next offseason, the only legitimate ones we see are Dallas Keuchel, J.A. Happ, Patrick Corbin, Charlie Morton, Drew Pomeranz, Garrett Richards, Adam Wainwright, Gio Gonzalez, and Lynn. We doubt the Giants won’t pick up a $12 million option on Madison Bumgarner, or that David Price will opt out of his lucrative Red Sox deal, or that Clayton Kershaw will leave the Dodgers with his opt out.
Here’s who’s still available in free agency and trades:
No. 1 target: Cobb
All of the top free agent pitchers have had to settle for less than what they expected and Cobb will be no different, especially this late in the game. He’ll have to make a decision soon if he wants to be ready for the start of the season. Cobb fits a lot of teams — the Brewers, Yankees, Phillies (yes, even with Arrieta), Nationals, Padres, Giants, and Cardinals among them.
No. 2 target: Chris Archer
He’s been in the rumor mill for two years and he hasn’t gone anywhere despite the Rays trading away a lot of their pitching and positional talent. Archer would go if somebody meets the Rays’ price, which understandably is high for their biggest asset. At some point, a team like the Phillies, Braves, Cardinals, or Yankees — all of whom have a nice stable of prospects — will meet the Rays’ demands.
The Rays are so thin with starting pitchers that they plan to throw a bullpen game in Game 3 of the season against the Red Sox. We suppose this is a reason why the Players Association accused the Rays of not spending their revenue properly.
No. 3 target: Danny Duffy
The Royals haven’t been offered a package that would entice them to part with their ace. Duffy is 29 and in the middle of a five-year, $65 million deal, which is attractive to other teams.
The Royals want to stay somewhat competitive, but a rebuild is a rebuild and Duffy could be dealt. It seems as if every team seeking a starter has taken its best shot at him. The feeling now is Duffy could be a July trade chip.
No. 4 target: Michael Fulmer
He’s probably not someone the Tigers want to move, but given their rebuilding state, why not? If they can add to their arsenal of prospects, they would likely entertain it.
Fulmer is only 25. The righthander had surgery on his pitching elbow in September but has proven he’s healthy this spring and has been identified by manager Ron Gardenhire, along with Francisco Liriano, as the only starters set in the rotation. Fulmer could be the perfect guy for a team like Milwaukee that needs that extra arm.
No. 5 target: Dan Straily
The Marlins righty is on everyone’s radar. While certainly not a front-end starter, he can give you consistent effort and performance. The Marlins are listening on everyone, so it would not be surprising if they traded Straily before July.
No. 6 target: Collin McHugh
The Astros’ rotation is deep and their current plan is to put McHugh in the bullpen. Houston won’t necessarily deal him as he’s good injury insurance for the rotation, but general manager Jeff Luhnow has received inquiries. McHugh hasn’t had a good spring training.
No. 7 target: Jason Hammel
The Royals would deal the 35-year-old for young players, but he’s coming off a poor season (8-13, 5.29 ERA). Why would anyone want him? He’s perfectly capable of turning things around and providing veteran depth, someone in the mode of Doug Fister.
No. 8 target: Ian Kennedy
Kennedy has thrown well this spring for the Royals, and like Hammel he’s looking for a comeback season after a miserable 2017 (5-13, 5.38 ERA). He’s durable with eight straight seasons of at least 30 starts.
No. 9 target: Ubaldo Jimenez
He can be really bad, but every so often he’ll mix in a gem. That’s what you get with Jimenez. Is he worth a minor league contract? Sure, why not?
Apropos of nothing
1. Minor league baseball has become the test lab for MLB in trying to speed up games. This year’s minor league rule change puts a runner at second base from the 10th inning. Seriously? When I first saw this in play at the World Baseball Classic last spring, I thought it was a joke. I haven’t come across any players, management, or scouts who think this is a good idea. What MLB shouldn’t want to do with pace-of-play reforms is change the basic framework of the game. And this certainly does that.
2. The Blue Jays can field an infield of sons of major league players: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at third, Bo Bichette at shortstop, Cavan Biggio at second, and Kacy Clemens at first. Guerrero’s offensive potential is off the charts, according to Jays third base coach Luis Rivera. Guerrero hit .323 with 13 homers and 76 RBIs at two levels last year. Bichette hit .362 at two levels of A-ball. Both will start this season at Double A.
3. Both the Brewers and Diamondbacks are trying to trade outfielders for starting pitching but are having problems making it happen. Milwaukee is making Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton available, while Arizona would move Yasmany Tomas, who hit 31 homers in 2016 but slumped through an injury-plagued 2017 and no longer has a starting job.
4. The Royals would like to improve their middle relief and may try to pick off someone in free agency, perhaps Drew Storen or Jason Grilli.
5. The Marlins would love to move Brad Ziegler or Junichi Tazawa, who are both in the final years of their deals. But Ziegler is making $9 million while Tazawa is making $7 million.
6. Koji Uehara, 42, tried to get a major league job but decided to return to Japan to play for the Yomiuri Giants, with whom he pitched for 10 years before moving to MLB.
7. Butch Hobson is 43 wins shy of 2,000 for his professional managing career and he may reach that mark this season for the Chicago Dogs, a new franchise in the independent American Association. Hobson, 66, spent last season managing the Diamondbacks’ Single A Midwest League team. The former Red Sox third baseman and manager said he’s scheduled to get his degree in December from the University of Alabama, where he starred in football and baseball. “I’ll be a 67-year-old college graduate,” Hobson mused. The Dogs will play at brand-new, 6,300-seat Impact Field in Rosemont, Ill., which cost $60 million ($55 million funded by the city). The team is owned by Shawn Hunter, the former president of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.
8. There are a lot of former Red Sox players coaching in the minors and majors: Pitching coaches — Frank Viola (Mets), Bob Stanley (Blue Jays), Jeff Fassero (Reds), Jeff Suppan (Royals), Danny Darwin (Reds), Brian Shouse (Rangers); Hitting coaches — Rich Gedman (Red Sox), John Moses (Braves), Phil Plantier (Yankees), Brian Daubach (Nationals), Lee Tinsley (Angels), Roger LaFrancois (Cardinals); Other coaches — Rico Brogna (Phillies), Joe Thurston (Mariners), Mike Lansing (Diamondbacks), Willie Harris (Giants); Managers — Damon Berryhill (Braves), Doug Mientkiewicz (Tigers), Ricky Gutierrez (Reds), Spike Owen (Rangers), Todd Pratt (Marlins), Jim Pankovits (Cubs), Mike Benjamin (Diamondbacks), Bill Haselman (Dodgers), Dave Stapleton (Angels), Danny Sheaffer (Rays). This list does not include minor league coordinators such as Jody Reed (Yankees).
9. Pretty impressive survey on Expedia.com, which surveyed 1,000 people about their favorite smaller towns, cities, and areas to visit in America. Cooperstown, N.Y., came in second behind Cape Cod.
Updates on nine
1. Curtis Granderson, LF/DH, Blue Jays — He hit .212 (with 26 homers) for the Mets and Dodgers last season, but the Jays feel Granderson still has something left. He has impressed this spring with his swing and ability to catch up to fastballs. More importantly, the Jays needed that clubhouse presence that Granderson brings, and he’s done a good job with that, according to a team source.
2. Jose Bautista, OF/DH, free agent — The former Jay remains unemployed, though the Rays are still fishing for information on him. Bautista, who lives in the Tampa Bay area, hasn’t received much in the way of offers and would have to accept a deal in the range of $1 million if he wants to resume his career.
3. Trevor Cahill, RHP, free agent — Cahill remains an intriguing pitcher on the market. He had an injury-filled season last year, but he threw for teams this offseason and was throwing at 93 miles per hour. Cahill’s agent, John Boggs, said he’s still holding out for a guaranteed major league deal. Those are getting harder to come by.
4. Deven Marrero, INF, Red Sox — Marrero is drawing interest from teams as he’s out of minor league options. Alex Cora said the other day that he would not need to carry an extra infielder who can also play third base, even with concerns about Rafael Devers’s defense. Neither Brock Holt nor Eduardo Nunez are considered good fielding third basemen. Marrero was terrific there last season.
5. Phil Hughes, RHP, Twins — Hughes will be the No. 5 starter to start the season, but when Ervin Santana returns, Hughes’s spot on the team could be in jeopardy. Hughes’s velocity has not returned to the level he was at before having thoracic outlet surgery. Hughes, 31, is owed $13.2 million both this year and next.
6. Joe Mauer, DH/1B, Twins — All indications are that, barring a disastrous season for Mauer, he will be re-signed on a one- or two-year basis after his mega-deal ends this season. The feeling is Twins ownership wants Mauer to be a franchise lifer. It’s assumed Mauer, who turns 35 next month, wants to continue playing.
7. Chase Utley, 2B, Dodgers — It’s no secret why the Dodgers brought Utley back. His presence on and off the field is something they value. Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers, who was an assistant hitting coach with the Dodgers last season, said Utley picks up on things during games that others just don’t see. Utley runs the bases after a round of batting practice, which used to be common but is now passé. “Because Chase did it, everyone on the team started doing it. He explained why it was important and everyone bought into it,” Hyers said.
8. John Farrell, pitching evaluator, Reds — Farrell was hired to not only assess the Reds’ pitching at all levels, but also to monitor pitching around baseball. Farrell is a friend of Reds manager Bryan Price, a former pitching coach himself who managed Farrell’s son Luke last season. Some have chosen to frame this hire as Farrell being the manager-in-waiting if management moves on from Price, but that has been denied by Reds officials. Farrell is still being paid a hefty sum by the Red Sox, estimated in the $3 million range. Farrell was a finalist for the Phillies’ managing job that went to Gabe Kapler.
9. Greg Holland, RHP, free agent — Holland amazingly remains on the open market with teams like the Rangers, Cardinals, Astros, Nationals, Twins, and Orioles possibly being interested in a short-term deal.
From the Bill Chuck files — “For the first time in the modern era, baseball had fewer than 1,000 sacrifice bunts last season with 925. The prior record was 1,025 in 2016.” . . . Also, “In Jose Quintana’s first MLB season in 2012 with the White Sox, he went 6-6. Last season, pitching for both Chicago teams, he went 11-11. His career record now is 57-57, making him the active .500 pitching leader; next is Drew Pomeranz, who is 42-42. Charlie Hough is the all-time .500 pitching leader, going 216-216 from 1970-94.” . . . And, “On pitches under 90 m.p.h. last season, Giancarlo Stanton led the majors with 27 homers, followed by Mike Moustakas with 23, and J.D. Martinez with 22.” . . . Happy 42nd birthday to Tomo Ohka, Corky Miller, and Scott Podsednik.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.