East teams driving starting-pitcher market
The East divisions are the center of the starting-pitching market this offseason.
The Yankees and Nationals are two large-market teams known to be looking for rotation help, and their neighbors are interested, too.
• Latest Hot Stove rumors
The Phillies would like to add a veteran starter to a mostly young, right-handed rotation that struggled down the stretch in 2018. The Red Sox hope to re-sign Nathan Eovaldi or replace him with a proven Major League starter. The Braves have room in their projected rotation for one starter from the outside, although they are currently focused on needs at catcher and in the outfield. And the Mets have touched base with some of the top free-agent pitchers during the first offseason of Brodie Van Wagenen's tenure as general manager.
Left-hander Patrick Corbin is viewed as the top available starter by most in the industry, and he's drawing interest from the Yankees, Phillies and Nationals, among others. The Mets also could trade Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard and sign Corbin or another free agent, if they aren't optimistic about coming to terms with deGrom or Syndergaard on long-term contracts.
The presence of high-end trade candidates has incentivized GMs to refrain from making large offers to free agents until the cost-controlled trade options can be assessed. Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner, Mariners left-hander James Paxton and D-backs starters Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray are available, sources have said. The Indians will listen to offers for right-handers Corey Kluber (under control through 2021) and Carlos Carrasco (under control through '20), as ESPN first reported, although the asking prices are high.
The D-backs consistently are described as one of the most active sellers on the trade market in the early stages of the offseason. Arizona club officials have indicated to other teams that they aren't prepared to include cash in a trade to offset Greinke's salary, nor do they plan to package Paul Goldschmidt with Greinke in order to make Greinke's financial obligation more palatable.
The Phillies' interest in adding a prominent starting pitcher may surprise some, given the club's apparent focus on free-agent position players Bryce Harper and Manny Machado and organizational rotation depth. Of the 10 pitchers to start at least one game for Philadelphia this year, only Jacob Arrieta was in his age-28 season or older.
However, a slumping rotation was one reason the Phillies' postseason hopes faded in August and September. Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez all pitched to ERAs north of 5.00 after the All-Star break. And Philadelphia utilized a left-handed starter (Ranger Suarez) in only three of its 162 regular-season games in 2018, underscoring the value of a veteran southpaw like Corbin or Dallas Keuchel.
On the trade market, the Phillies are among a relatively small group of teams with a strong farm system and enough payroll capacity to accommodate the money left on Greinke's contract: three years and more than $90 million. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler also knows Greinke, as the two overlapped for one year with the Dodgers during Kapler's tenure as director of player development in Los Angeles.
The Astros, Padres, White Sox, Reds and Twins also are among the teams pursuing starting pitchers this offseason. Houston has been more active recently in trade conversations than free-agent negotiations, one source said Thursday.
Notes on the Hot Stove
• The Marlins and Astros have remained in contact regarding a possible trade of catcher J.T. Realmuto, and Miami's asking price remains unchanged. One source said the Marlins have maintained that outfielder Kyle Tucker (ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Astros' No. 1 prospect) or right-hander Forrest Whitley (Houston's No. 2 prospect) would need to be part of any package for Realmuto.
• The Brewers also are involved in the pitching market and have interest in free agent Anibal Sanchez, according to sources. Sanchez, who turns 35 in February, has pitched out of the bullpen but experienced a renaissance while starting for the Braves last season, posting a 2.83 ERA in 136-2/3 innings.
• One source said the Dodgers are proceeding with their offseason catching plans as if they do not expect free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal to return. Grandal rejected a qualifying offer from the Dodgers earlier this week. According to MLB Pipeline, two of the Dodgers' top five prospects are catchers, Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith.