The pool of pitchers shrinks in free agency while the lefty bats are still available

The free agent market for starting pitching has shrunk considerably in the past few weeks while the left-handed bats are all still available. Pitching is the need that every team has, and most cannot compete in the deep end of the swimming pool. That leads to more competition for the middle of the free agent market.

Right-handed starting pitcher, Marcus Stroman, was signed yesterday by the Yankees, Shota Imanaga by the Cubs went earlier in the week, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Shohei Ohtani both went to the Dodgers. Seth Lugo, Lucas Giolito, Eduardo Rodriguez and Sonny Gray were all signed last month, leaving just Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery as the only starting pitchers remaining in free agency who were ranked in the MLBTR Top-20.

Most likely Snell and Montgomery, two Boras clients, will be headed to top contenders, and the Washington Nationals might very well find the pickings to be slim at this point. Our pick for the Nats was Michael Wacha — and he went to the Royals on a 2-year $32 million deal. That seemed like one of the bargains of free agency for a pitcher ranked 24th by MLBTR of all free agents.

“I think you are seeing everyone’s needs are the same. Everyone needs starting pitching in the whole sport. We are no different. You can never have enough of it, and we’re in search of it.”

“I think we’re going to be aggressive again this year looking for a bat and then we’ll resort back to getting more pitching.”

— General Manager Mike Rizzo said at the Winter Meetings

So who is left for the Nats at this point? After Snell and Montgomery, there is Yariel Rodriguez as the highest ranked free agent starting pitcher at this point. He is ranked 28th by MLBTR followed by Mike Clevinger at 30th, and Michael Lorenzen 34th. That is it for the ranked starting pitchers, and of course there are honorable mentions like Clayton Kershaw and James Paxton. Cases could be made for Brandon Woodruff and Alex Wood too. You can read about a few of them and look at charts on this link.

On the left-handed bats, all of the players we identified are still available. That market has barely budged and interestingly, Joey Votto emerged to add some humor to his free agency on social media. His underlying stats really surprised me with his .830 OPS on the road last year. He actually hit much better when he wasn’t in Cincinnati. The other Votto stat with reverse splits is that he hit lefties better than right-handed pitching. While Votto has been besieged with injuries, he might be a good pickup as a part-time player. A change of scenery might really help him also.

If you want to read back to Don’s piece on left-handed bats, they are all available. Rumors of Brandon Belt and Votto retiring is still a possibility. Washington could be a nice lowkey spot for both veteran players. Joey Gallo certainly seems like the type of player general manager Mike Rizzo would pursue given his age and upside potential. One other name that we have heard is Eddie Rosario.

With a look back to this time a year ago, some would say the Nationals were more aggressive last year when they signed Jeimer Candelario, Trevor Williams, Dominic SmithErasmo Ramirez, and Corey Dickerson to MLB deals. Okay, in hindsight only Candelario worked out — but truth be told, Williams was very good to start April and May, and Smith filled a key role as a team leader and defensive whiz at first base. Dickerson was a complete flop as it turned out; however, he was considered a smart signing at the time.

This year so far the MLB signings have been  Nasim Nuñez, Nick Senzel, and Dylan Floro. That is it. But in Rizzo’s defense, he still has a month before pitchers and catchers have to report to Spring Training camp in West Palm Beach, Florida.

What can we expect? To meet Rizzo’s own goals, he needs to sign a starting pitcher and a left-handed bat. Who they will be is anyone’s guess — and the two names might just be in this article. We will give the Nats a lot of credit for keeping their chatter private as our sourced reports only led to names on lefty bats, and silent whispers on starting pitchers. The Nats could very well emerge as a name on a player as a mystery team. Expect a signing or two in the next two weeks per a source.

This entry was posted in Analysis. Bookmark the permalink.