Spring Training is in full swing, and as clubs continue to roll out their prospective rotations, three of this winter's top free-agent starters remain available.Several clubs are still seeking rotation help, and Jacob Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb could each fill those voids. Here is the latest buzz on the
Spring Training is in full swing, and as clubs continue to roll out their prospective rotations, three of this winter's top free-agent starters remain available.
Several clubs are still seeking rotation help, and Jacob Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb could each fill those voids.
Here is the latest buzz on the trio.
Widely viewed among the top free-agent starters of this winter's class, along with Yu Darvish (who signed with the Cubs), Arrieta has been linked to multiple clubs, with traction gaining steam as recently as this week, most notably with the Phillies and Nationals. Most reports have said that the Phillies aren't willing to go beyond a three-year commitment for Arrieta, who is believed to be seeking a longer-term deal.
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Washington is believed to be in the market for adding to its already loaded rotation, and Arrieta remains the club's "top prize," according to a report on Wednesday from USA Today. The Nats have been engaged with Arrieta, though USA Today reported that they are also monitoring the rest of the market. However, a report from the Washington Post indicated the Nats' talks with Arrieta haven't been as aggressive of late.
Arrieta did play under new Nationals manager Dave Martinez the last three seasons when Martinez was the Cubs' bench coach.
Arrieta's agent, Scott Boras, has publicly put Arrieta in the realm of Zack Greinke, David Price and Max Scherzer (also a Boras client), who each have what Boras describes as "prestige value," having pitched in the postseason and won Cy Young Awards. The comparison is also assuredly related to each of the starter's contracts of more than $200 million. Darvish's deal was for six years and $126 million. Some have speculated that the Cubs opting for Darvish over Arrieta could be a red flag for the right-hander.
Arrieta turns 32 next week and has shown significant velocity decline, with less swing-and-miss stuff and more hard contact, which may have led clubs to have pause over projections of his long-term sustainability. He did rebound from a poor first half in 2017 to finish 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA, and he gave up just one earned run in 10 2/3 postseason innings.
Lynn has reportedly been seeking at least a three-year deal in the $15-20 million per year range, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. That would be even more costly for an acquiring club given the Draft pick compensation attached to him having turned down a $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals.
Feinsand suggested that Lynn's market may have been stalled until Darvish and Arrieta signed to gauge Lynn's value -- he and Cobb are considered in the next tier of available starters, not quite among the very best available. Feinsand also pointed out that the contracts signed in recent years by Ian Kennedy (five years, $70 million), Wei-Yin Chen (five years, $80 million), Mike Leake (five years, $80 million) and Jeff Samardzija (five years, $90 million) may be in the neighborhood of what Lynn and Cobb are seeking.
However, many of Lynn's suitors -- including the Orioles, Twins, Phillies and Brewers -- are waiting for his asking price to decrease, according to a report from The Athletic.
The Phillies have been in contact with Lynn's camp in recent weeks, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, however the club doesn't seem inclined to go beyond the value of the contract Tyler Chatwood earned with the Cubs (three years, $38 million), per MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. The Twins' interest isn't believed to be as high at this point. A reunion with the Cardinals has been speculated, particularly with a potential spot in their rotation, but nothing beyond MLB Network insider Jon Heyman's recent prediction that he will eventually land there has had much substance.
Lynn, 30, tied for the National League lead with 33 starts in 2017, his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, and he finished 11-8 with a 3.43 ERA and 153 strikeouts. Aside from his elbow injury, he's been one of the Majors' more consistent pitchers, having pitched at least 175 innings in each of his last five full seasons, with a career record of 72-47 and a 3.38 ERA.
Cobb, who has also undergone Tommy John surgery, has been linked to the Twins, Orioles, Phillies and Brewers, though, per The Athletic, each club is reportedly seeking him at a lower asking price. The Cardinals and Rangers have also been linked to Cobb, and the Cubs were the popular projection before they signed Darvish. The Mets were also a possible suitor, per Heyman, but that seems off the table after they acquired Jason Vargas.
And such has been the tale for Cobb. As clubs fill out their rotations with more affordable options or through the trade market, which has been robust this offseason, the opportunities for Cobb appear to have dwindled.
Last year with the Rays, Cobb set career highs in wins (12) and innings (179 1/3), and pitched to a 3.66 ERA with a 2.91 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.