Previewing The 2022-23 Free Agent Class: Starting Pitcher

MLBTR has gone around the diamond with a position-by-position look at this winter’s free agent class. With all the hitters now covered, we turn our attention to the pitching. This offseason’s starting pitching class features a handful of the game’s highest-upside arms at the top and a seemingly endless supply of back-of-the-rotation innings-eaters beyond them.

Opt-Out Aces

When healthy, deGrom is the best pitcher on the planet. His fastball regularly pushes triple-digits, and he backs it up with a power slider that averaged an absurd 92.6 MPH this past season. No pitcher comes close to matching deGrom’s ability to miss bats, and the two-time Cy Young winner has never posted a single-season ERA higher than 3.53. This year’s 3.08 ERA through 64 1/3 frames is actually the second-highest mark of his career, but that’s largely attributable to some late-season homer troubles that aren’t likely to alarm teams. He fanned 42.7% of opposing hitters against just a 3.3% walk percentage.

While there’s no question about deGrom’s performance, he’ll hit the market with some concerns about his durability. He missed over a full calendar year between July 2021 and this past August due to various arm issues. After battling elbow discomfort late last season, he lost the first half of the 2022 campaign to a stress reaction in his scapula (shoulder blade). deGrom returned brandishing the same otherworldly raw stuff and finished the season healthy, but between the truncated 2020 schedule and the various ailments the past two years, he’s made just 38 combined starts since the start of 2020.

Between the injury history and deGrom’s age — he turns 35 next June — it remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to top three years on the open market. There’s no question he’ll find one of the loftiest average annual salaries ever, and he’ll have a strong case to top teammate Max Scherzer’s $43.333MM AAV for the all-time record. deGrom is a lock to opt out of the $32.5MM remaining on his deal with the Mets before receiving and rejecting a qualifying offer.

Rodon had a breakout 2021 season with the White Sox, pitching to a 2.37 ERA while striking out 34.6% of opponents. He missed a few weeks late that summer with shoulder soreness, though, and his velocity was down a few ticks when he made his return. It earned him an All-Star nod and a fifth-place Cy Young finish, but there seemed enough trepidation about the health of his shoulder he didn’t find a long-term deal to his liking.

The southpaw bet on himself, signing a two-year deal with the Giants that allowed him to opt out after the first season. His season in San Francisco was arguably even better than his final year on the South Side of Chicago. Rodon avoided the injured list (aside from a season-ending stint related to a pre-planned innings limit) and made a career-high 31 starts. Through 178 innings, he posted a 2.88 ERA while punching out more than a third of opponents. His fastball velocity held steady in the 95-96 MPH range, and he got swinging strikes on more than 14% of his offerings for a second straight season.

This time around, Rodon should find the megadeal that eluded him last winter. He’s certain to decline the final $22.5MM on his deal with San Francisco and set out in search of a five-plus year pact that tops the deals awarded to Kevin Gausman and Robbie Ray a year ago. Rodon will receive and reject a qualifying offer from the Giants.

Verlander missed almost two full seasons from 2020-21 working back from Tommy John surgery. The Astros kept close tabs on his rehab and were sufficiently bullish on his outlook to guarantee him $25MM to return for this season. That deal also contained a $25MM player option conditional on reaching 130 innings, but there’s no chance Verlander exercises that. The Astros’ bet on Verlander paid off better than even the club could’ve reasonably expected, as he’s likely headed to a third Cy Young after pitching to a 1.75 ERA over 175 frames.

While his strikeout rate was down a few points relative to his pre-surgery form, Verlander still fanned a strong 27.8% of opponents against a tiny 4.4% walk rate. His fastball velocity was back in the 95 MPH range. He missed a few weeks late in the year with a calf issue but returned to help the Astros to an American League pennant.

It was a remarkable age-39 campaign, and Verlander joins deGrom in hitting the market with a reasonable shot at topping Scherzer’s all-time AAV. He rejected a qualifying offer last offseason and won’t be eligible for another this winter. Verlander is five years older than deGrom and three years older than Scherzer was last winter, making his free agency even more unprecedented than Scherzer’s. Will there be a three-year deal that takes the future Hall of Famer through age-42 and pushes his overall guarantee north of $100MM?

His Own Bucket

The future Hall of Famer is no longer the best pitcher on the planet, but Kershaw still provides ace-caliber production on a rate basis. Signed to a $17MM guarantee to return to Los Angeles last offseason, he responded with a 2.28 ERA through 126 1/3 frames. Kershaw punched out 27.8% of opponents and continued to demonstrate elite command while walking fewer than 5% of batters faced. Even with a fastball that averages just north of 90 MPH, he has no difficulty missing bats in bunches.

Injuries have been problematic for Kershaw in recent years. He ended 2021 on the IL with a forearm issue, and he dealt with back and hip problems this year. He’s not going to make 30+ starts annually at this stage of his career, but few pitchers are as strong a bet for 20 excellent outings. The three-time Cy Young winner has indicated he’s likely to continue pitching in 2023. The Dodgers can technically make him a qualifying offer but appear unlikely to do so as they give him time to weigh his options; they’ll assuredly look to bring him back in free agency.

NPB Star

Senga is an international free agent and will be a Wild Card entrant into this offseason’s class. He’s never played in the majors but has indicated his desire to make the jump from Japan’s NPB to the big leagues. An 11-year member of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, Senga has a career 2.59 ERA in Japan’s top level. He posted a sterling 1.94 mark through 144 innings this year, striking out an impressive 27.5% of batters faced against a manageable 8.6% walk rate. Teams’ evaluations of Senga figure to vary depending on their scouts’ determination of his arsenal and command projection, but a club that thinks he’s capable of stepping right into the middle of an MLB rotation could have him as the fourth or fifth-best starter on the market.

Mid-Rotation Veterans

Bassitt has been a durable, above-average starter for four straight seasons. He’s posted an ERA of 3.81 or lower every year since 2019, relying on a deep repertoire and plus control. Bassitt handles hitters from both sides of the plate, generally avoiding hard contact and pounding the strike zone. He’s consistently posted low averages on balls in play and hasn’t allowed opponents to reach base at better than a .303 clip in any of the last four years.

His 93-94 MPH fastball is solid, but Bassitt has never gotten huge swing-and-miss or chase rates. He’s not overpowering, but he’s demonstrated a consistent knack for keeping batters off balance and limiting damage. He’s earned playoff starts in both Oakland and Queens in recent years and fits well in the middle of a contending club’s rotation. Headed into his age-34 campaign, Bassitt may be limited to three-year offers, but he should find a strong annual salary over that shorter term. He’s a virtual lock to receive and decline a QO.

Eovaldi is wrapping up a four-year deal with the Red Sox. He rebounded from a tough 2019 campaign to post a sub-4.00 ERA in each of the past three seasons. That includes a 3.87 mark this past season, one in which he logged 109 1/3 innings. Eovaldi has never posted the elite strikeout numbers one might expect for a pitcher whose fastball typically lives in the mid-upper 90s, but he does punch batters out at a slightly above-average clip. He also has elite control and has walked fewer than 5% of opponents in each of the last three seasons. He’s a bit home run prone at times but his strong strikeout and walk profile props up solid mid-rotation production overall.

While Eovaldi has averaged north of 97 MPH on his heater for much of his career, his fastball took a slight step back to 95.7 MPH this year. Paired with his age, that’s at least a bit of a warning sign, but he still throws sufficiently hard and had a solid 2022 season when healthy. Eovaldi did battle a pair of injuries, landing on the IL twice due to inflammation in his back and throwing shoulder. The Red Sox can and seem likely to issue him a qualifying offer.

Third Tier Mid-Rotation Types

Anderson worked as an innings-eater with the Pirates and Mariners last year. After signing a one-year deal with the Dodgers over the offseason, he continued to soak up innings while pitching to a career-low 2.57 ERA. Anderson’s 19.5% strikeout rate is fairly modest and right in line with those of previous seasons, but he’s an excellent strike-thrower who excels at getting hitters to chase pitches outside the zone. He doesn’t throw all that hard and he’s soon to be 33 years old, although he consistently thrives at avoiding hard contact. He’s a borderline QO candidate and could land a three-year deal this winter.

Clevinger was a high-end starter during his best days with the Indians, posting an ERA between 2.71 and 3.11 each season from 2017-19. Dealt from Cleveland to San Diego midway through the 2020 campaign, the right-hander required Tommy John surgery (the second of his career) that cost him all of 2021. He made it back to the mound this year but didn’t look much like his former self, posting a 4.33 ERA with an 18.8% strikeout rate that’s nearly ten points lower than his 2017-19 mark. Clevinger was also hit hard in his two postseason outings, making it an inopportune time to hit the market. On the plus side, he still averages north of 93 MPH on his fastball and has strong control. A team that thinks he can bounce back to more closely approximate his pre-surgery form could offer multiple years.

Heaney has long tantalized teams with quality strikeout and walk numbers, but homer troubles have led to some inconsistent ERA’s over the years. That wasn’t the case in 2022, as Heaney turned in a 3.10 ERA over 72 2/3 frames on a one-year pact with the Dodgers. He flashed elite swing-and-miss stuff, fanning 35.5% of opponents on a massive 16.8% swinging strike rate. It wasn’t quite a breakout season, as the southpaw lost a few months to repeated shoulder issues. When healthy, however, he showed top-flight bat-missing ability that should land him a solid multi-year pact this offseason. He’s a borderline QO candidate.

Generally a solid mid-rotation starter in Oakland, Manaea went to San Diego during Spring Training as part of the A’s teardown. His first (and likely only) campaign as a Padre didn’t go as planned. The southpaw started the season fine but was knocked around in the second half en route to a career-worst 4.96 ERA in 158 innings. Manaea still had decent strikeout and walk numbers and an above-average 12% swinging strike rate, giving some hope for a bounceback. He’s consistently given up his fair share of hard contact, but that wasn’t so much an issue in Oakland’s spacious home ballpark. There’ll be multi-year deals out there based on his general decent track record and strikeouts, but it doesn’t seem out of the question he may prefer a one-year pact to rebuild value after a tough final few months.

A former top prospect, Perez has gotten plenty of opportunities from teams searching for the breakout season. The Rangers, his original organization, brought him back last winter and were rewarded with the awaited career year. He made 32 starts and narrowly fell shy of 200 innings while posting a stellar 2.89 ERA. The southpaw’s 20.6% strikeout rate and 8.4% swinging strike percentage were still each below-average, but he showed strong control and induced grounders on over half the batted balls against him. Perez has played his way into a multi-year deal, and the Rangers could tag him with a qualifying offer. Both sides have expressed interest in hammering out an extension that keeps him in Arlington.

One of the game’s most durable and consistent starters during his peak with the White Sox and Cubs, Quintana’s production slipped in 2019 and his shortened 2020 season was mostly wiped out after a hand injury that required stitches prevented him from throwing. A 2021 rebound effort with the Halos didn’t pan out, but Quintana bounced back to his vintage form in 2022. Tossing a combined 165 2/3 innings between the Pirates and Cardinals, he logged a 2.93 ERA, 20.2% strikeout rate and 6.9% walk rate. It’s enough to put Quintana back in the mix for a two-year deal as a solid mid-rotation option.

Smyly missed more than a month of the 2022 season due to an oblique strain and averaged fewer than five innings per start when healthy enough to pitch. His results were solid, however, with a 3.47 ERA, a 20.4% strikeout rate and a terrific 5.8% walk rate. Smyly was a buzz name coming off a 37.8% strikeout rate through 26 1/3 innings with the Giants during the shortened 2020 season, but he’s notched a 4.02 ERA in 233 innings since that time. That said, Smyly’s swinging-strike rate (12.4%) and chase rate (36.4%) in 2022 suggest there could be more punchouts in the tank.

A valuable swingman for years with the Dodgers, Stripling had a tough season-plus in Toronto following a 2020 trade. Forced into the rotation on a full-time basis in 2022 when Hyun Jin Ryu required Tommy John surgery, Stripling was a godsend. The right-hander finished out the year with a 3.01 ERA in 134 1/3 frames, with 24 of his 32 appearances coming as a starter. Stripling has a below-average strikeout rate but showed elite command in 2022. He probably won’t replicate a 3.7% walk rate, but his career 5.7% mark shows that his plus command is real. He has a strong case for a full-time rotation job somewhere in free agency.

A borderline ace during his top seasons in Queens, Syndergaard rode an upper-90s heater and a power slider to a 3.31 ERA in 716 career innings through the end of the 2019 campaign. In Spring Training 2020, he was diagnosed with an elbow strain that required Tommy John surgery. He missed almost all of the next two years, returning for a cameo late in 2021. The Angels signed him to a $21MM deal last offseason in hopes he’d recapture his prior form, but Syndergaard served more as a solid mid-rotation control artist than a bat-missing ace. Between Anaheim and Philadelphia, he put up a 3.94 ERA over 134 2/3 frames. He only punched out 16.8% of opponents, but his 5.5% walk percentage was excellent. Syndergaard’s fastball was down to the 94-95 MPH range and his slider came in just under 85 MPH. He wasn’t his peak self, but he was still an effective starter. At age 30, there’s still a chance he regains some of his pre-surgery form as he pulls further away from the procedure, but it wasn’t the dominant 2022 showing Syndergaard or the Angels were hoping to see 12 months ago.

The No. 2 overall pick in 2010 and long one of MLB’s premier pitching prospects, Taillon has put his 2019 Tommy John surgery (the second of his career) in the rearview mirror. Teams will have concerns surrounding any two-time Tommy John patient, but Taillon has pitched 321 2/3 innings over 61 starts since being traded to the Yankees two offseasons ago. In that time, he’s logged a 4.08 ERA with slightly below-average strikeout numbers and strong walk rates. Taillon has never put together an elite season as many hoped during his prospect days, but he’s also never had a truly bad season when healthy. He’s settled in as a solid third or fourth starter and should be popular among teams seeking rotation help but unwilling to spend at the top of the market.

A former first-round pick and top prospect, Wacha battled injuries through his arbitration years in St. Louis. He’s signed a trio of one-year, Major League deals in free agency despite pitching near replacement level from 2019-21. He rewarded the Red Sox’ faith, however, by tossing 127 1/3 innings of 3.32 ERA ball. Like many in this tier, Wacha has a below-average strikeout rate (20.2%) but strong command (6% walk rate). He missed more than a month this summer with shoulder troubles — not a new issue for him — but was sharp when on the mound. Several Boston beat writers have pegged Wacha as a qualifying offer candidate, and if the Sox make that $19.65MM offer he should take it. If not, he could find a multi-year deal.

Reliever/Starter Hybrids

A longtime starter with the Tigers, Boyd underwent flexor surgery late in the 2021 season. Detroit non-tendered him as a result, and he worked in relief for the final month this year with the Mariners upon returning to health. The southpaw had wobbly control but missed bats at a slightly above-average rate, as he has throughout his career. With a healthy offseason upcoming, he can could get new rotation opportunities this winter.

Eflin has been a stable back-of-the-rotation starter for the Phillies for the past five years. He’s a quality strike-thrower who generates a decent number of grounders with a slightly below-average strikeout rate. As one of the younger arms on the market, he looked on his way to a strong free agent deal. Unfortunately, he missed a good chunk of this past season with a right knee injury. That’s a continuation of career-long knee issues, as Eflin has undergone surgery on both knees and been open about his longstanding battle with pain in the joints. Upon returning late in the season, Eflin has worked out of the bullpen as a reflection of the shorter rehab time. He’s been a trusted high-leverage reliever for the Phils during their postseason run. He’ll likely look to get another rotation job heading into next year, but the bullpen could be a solid fallback if he again is faced with injury setbacks.

A longtime reliever, Lorenzen set his sights on a rotation spot in free agency last winter. He got that shot with the Angels, with whom he wound up making 18 starts. The right-hander posted a 4.24 ERA with worse than average strikeout and walk numbers, although he held his mid-90s velocity in longer stints and did a decent job turning lineups over multiple times in a game. He’ll probably find some teams interested in moving him back to the bullpen, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he gets another rotation opportunity.

Strahm came out of the bullpen 50 times for the Red Sox this year, posting a 3.83 ERA across 44 2/3 innings. He punched out almost 27% of opponents, while showing solid control and a deeper repertoire than that possessed by most relievers. That’s relevant since Strahm has spoken about a willingness to consider rotation opportunities if those are presented. He’ll certainly draw interest as a left-handed bullpen option, but there may be enough interest to get him his first extended look as a starter since 2019, as there was with Lorenzen last winter.

Short-Term Former Stars

Cueto signed a minor league deal with the White Sox last offseason after a six-year run with the Giants. The veteran made it to the majors in mid-May and surprisingly served as one of Chicago’s more consistently effective starters. He posted a 3.35 ERA through 158 1/3 innings, averaging more than six innings per outing over his 25 appearances. Cueto only struck out 15.7% of batters faced, but he demonstrated elite control and kept the White Sox in the game more often than not. Between his age, lack of missed bats and a fastball that averaged just over 91 MPH, he won’t land a huge deal, but he’s certainly pitched himself into a guaranteed rotation spot on a higher base salary than the prorated $4MM he made in Chicago this past season.

A likely future Hall of Famer, Greinke is now a reliable back-of-the-rotation option. His fastball is below 90 MPH and he struck out a career-worst 12.5% of opposing hitters during his return to the Royals this year. It certainly wasn’t a vintage Greinke performance, but he walked fewer than 5% of opponents and posted a strong 3.68 ERA. Even at 39 years old, the six-time All-Star will receive major league offers and a rotation spot next year.

Kluber missed a good chunk of the 2021 season with the Yankees, leading to an $8MM guarantee with $5MM available in incentives on last winter’s deal with the Rays. The two-time Cy Young winner stayed healthy all year and made 31 starts, triggering all his incentives by soaking up 164 innings. He posted a 4.34 ERA but walked a minuscule 3% of batters faced. Kluber’s fastball is down to around 89 MPH, but he still generated swinging strikes on more than 11% of his offerings and was adept at getting opponents to swing at pitches outside the strike zone. He has a good chance at beating last offseason’s $8MM guarantee as a result.

Depth Types

  • Chris Archer (34): After a few seasons affected by injury, Archer managed 25 starts this year with the Twins. He worked to a 4.56 ERA through 102 2/3 innings with worse than average strikeout and walk numbers. His days as an upper mid-rotation arm are behind him, but he could find another big league contract as a back-of-the-rotation type.
  • Zach Davies (30): Davies started 27 games for the Diamondbacks, pitching to a 4.09 ERA. He doesn’t miss many bats but he’s typically been a durable source of back-of-the-rotation innings.
  • Kyle Gibson (35): A 2021 trade deadline pickup after a strong start with the Rangers, Gibson has underperformed in Philadelphia. He has a 5.06 ERA in 43 starts as a Phillie. His peripherals are more solid: a quality ground-ball rate and solid strike-throwing paired with slightly below-average swing-and-miss numbers. Gibson’s a capable fourth/fifth starter.
  • Rich Hill (43): Even headed into his age-43 season, Hill plans to continue pitching. He signed with his hometown Red Sox last winter and provided a 4.27 ERA across 124 1/3 innings. His swing-and-miss rate and velocity are below-average, but he’s a respected veteran who throws strikes and has generally kept runs off the board since his late-career renaissance.
  • Wade Miley (36): Miley was one of the more effective starters in the National League a season ago, pitching to a 3.37 ERA over 163 innings in 2021. Claimed off waivers by the Cubs last winter, he battled injuries throughout the season and was limited to 37 innings.
  • Trevor Williams (31): Williams pitched in a swing role with the Mets, starting nine of 30 outings. The veteran right-hander had a 4.19 ERA as a starter but posted a much more impressive 2.51 mark in 51 innings of relief.

Minor League Deal Candidates

  • Chase Anderson (35): Anderson spent the bulk of the season working in Triple-A, but he picked up nine late-season appearances with the Reds. He posted a 6.38 ERA through 24 innings.
  • Kohei Arihara (30): A mid-rotation starter in Japan, Arihara signed a two-year deal with the Rangers over the 2020-21 offseason. He managed only a 7.57 ERA in 15 appearances over two years in Arlington. Arihara will be looking at minor league offers from affiliated teams, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he explores NPB opportunities.
  • Tyler Beede (30): A former first-rounder and well-regarded pitching prospect, Beede mostly worked out of the bullpen with the Giants and Pirates this year. He did pick up five starts in 31 outings and posted an overall 5.14 ERA before clearing waivers late in the season.
  • Chi Chi Gonzalez (31): Gonzalez suited up with three different teams in 2022, bouncing around on waivers and via minor league deals. He made five starts in seven appearances and posted a 5.87 ERA across 23 frames.
  • Drew Hutchison (32): The Tigers turned to Hutchison for his greatest workload since 2015. He soaked up 105 1/3 innings in a swing role, managing a 4.53 ERA.
  • Dallas Keuchel (35): The 2015 AL Cy Young winner has fallen on hard times in recent years. He bounced between three clubs this past season but was tagged for a 9.20 ERA through 60 2/3 frames.
  • Chad Kuhl (30): Signed to a $3MM guarantee by the Rockies last winter, Kuhl got off to a strong start in Colorado. He was hit hard in the second half and finished the year with a career-worst 5.72 ERA across 137 innings.
  • Mike Mayers (31): A productive reliever for the Angels from 2020-21, Mayers had a rough season. He posted a 5.68 ERA over 50 2/3 innings and was waived twice during the year. He did make a trio of big league starts, topping out at 5 1/3 innings in an outing, but he figures to draw more bullpen interest as a minor league free agent.
  • Michael Pineda (34): Typically a solid back-of-the-rotation strike-thrower, Pineda had an injury-plagued 2022 season with the Tigers. He was limited to 11 starts by a hand fracture and some triceps soreness. The non-competitive Detroit club released him before the end of the season to get a longer look at some of their controllable arms.
  • Josh Rogers (28): Rogers had an impressive five-start run late in 2021 to earn a season-opening roster spot in Washington. He couldn’t carry it over in 2022, posting a 5.13 ERA through 26 1/3 frames as a swingman before being cut loose. He spent the rest of the year in Triple-A with the Marlins.
  • Joe Ross (30): Ross has flashed mid-rotation potential at times in his career, but he hasn’t posted a sub-4.00 ERA since 2016. He underwent Tommy John surgery this summer and might be looking at minor league offers while he rehabs. He won’t be ready for Opening Day, but a late-season return in 2023 doesn’t seem out of the question.
  • Aaron Sanchez (30): The former AL ERA champ has settled into journeyman territory at this stage of his career. He started 10 of 15 games for the Nationals and Twins this year, putting up a 6.60 ERA across 60 innings of work.
  • Anibal Sanchez (39): Sanchez returned after a year away to start 14 games for the Nationals. The veteran righty posted a respectable 4.28 ERA but struggled with walks and home runs.
  • Devin Smeltzer (27): Smeltzer picked up 12 starts in 15 appearances for the Twins in a depth capacity. He worked to a 3.71 ERA but only struck out 13.2% of opponents while working with a fastball that averaged just north of 89 MPH. He went unclaimed on waivers at the end of the season.
  • Jose Urena (31): Urena latched on with the Rockies midseason and made 17 starts. The former Marlin right-hander posted a 5.14 ERA across 89 1/3 innings, although he did show his typically strong velocity and ground-ball proclivities.
  • Vince Velasquez (31): Velasquez has continued to get opportunities based on his mid-90s velocity and decent ability to miss bats. Home runs have been a constant issue, however, and he’s battled plenty of command inconsistency. He worked in a swing role with the White Sox this year and put up a 4.78 ERA across 75 1/3 innings.
  • T.J. Zeuch (27): A former first-round pick of the Blue Jays, Zeuch has seen brief MLB action in four seasons. He was hit hard in three starts with the Reds in 2022.

Players With Opt-Outs/Player Options

  • Nick Martinez (32), can opt of final three years and $19.5MM on contract with Padres, $1.5MM buyout

Martinez has worked in a swing role during his first season with the Padres. After starting 10 of his first 12 outings, he moved full-time to the bullpen in June. He didn’t miss many bats in either role but he showed much stronger control as a reliever and posted a 2.67 ERA over 54 innings out of the bullpen. He’d reportedly prefer another chance as a starter, which could lean him towards triggering his opt-out. Martinez has yet to establish himself in an MLB rotation, but he was excellent over three years in the rotation in NPB and showed the ability to handle MLB bats in relief this year.

The hefty buyout figure on Odorizzi’s option means he’d only need to top $6.25MM in free agency to make testing the market a reasonable decision. Even still, he may elect to stick with the Braves after a rough second half. Acquired at the trade deadline, the veteran right-hander posted a 5.24 ERA over 10 starts in Atlanta. He was more effective in Houston but no longer misses bats as he did a few seasons ago.

  • James Paxton (34), will hold $4MM player option once Red Sox decline two-year, $26MM club option

Paxton signed a complex deal with Boston to finish off his rehab after undergoing Tommy John surgery last April. He didn’t wind up pitching in 2022, as he suffered a lat tear while rehabbing. There’s no way the Red Sox guarantee him $26MM, so Paxton will be left to decide whether to return to Boston on a $4MM salary or set out to free agency in search of an incentive-laden deal with a bit more earning power.

The durability issues that plagued Walker in his mid-20s have largely been put in the past. He’s made 69 starts and pitched 369 2/3 frames over the past three seasons, recording a 3.80 ERA along the way. This year’s 20.3% strikeout rate is a career-low, but his 6.9% walk rate is Walker’s best since 2016. The right-hander doesn’t do any one thing especially well but also doesn’t have a glaring weakness. Walker is a slam-dunk to turn down this modestly priced option and find a multi-year deal in free agency, assuming the Mets don’t make him a qualifying offer.

Players With Club Options

  • Dylan Bundy (30), Twins hold $11MM option with $1MM buyout

Bundy signed a one-year guarantee with Minnesota last offseason. The Twins’ hopes at a bounceback season didn’t pan out, as he averaged under 90 MPH on his fastball for the first time in his career and put up a 4.89 ERA over 140 innings. He’ll be bought out.

Carrasco went from the Indians to the Mets in the Francisco Lindor blockbuster over the 2020-21 offseason. His first year in Queens was tarnished by injury, but he returned to make 29 starts this past season. Over 152 innings, Carrasco posted a 3.97 ERA with slightly above-average strikeout and walk numbers. It looks like he’s done enough to earn the Mets picking up his option, although Jon Heyman of the New York Post wrote last week that Carrasco’s injury history could give the team pause.

Duffy signed with the Dodgers last offseason while rehabbing from a flexor strain that required surgery. He had a setback this summer and didn’t throw a big league pitch in 2022. He’ll be bought out and might be limited to minor league offers this time around.

Gray’s option is a no-brainer for the Twins. He battled some injuries during his first season in Minnesota but put up a 3.08 ERA in 119 2/3 innings when healthy. He’ll be back in the middle of the Twins starting staff next year.

  • Jordan Lyles (32), Orioles hold $11MM option with $1MM buyout

The O’s are faced with a tough decision on Lyles, whom they signed to a one-year guarantee last winter. The veteran righty ate innings as the club had hoped and put up a 4.42 ERA that was his lowest mark in three seasons. Even that was still a fair bit worse than average, however, as were his strikeout and ground-ball numbers. He’s a stable back-end starter who reportedly served as a strong veteran leader in the O’s clubhouse.

  • Aaron Nola (30), Phillies hold $16MM option with $4.25MM buyout

There’s no chance Nola hits free agency. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game, and the Phillies won’t have any easier decisions this offseason than to exercise his option.

  • Luis Severino (29), Yankees hold $15MM club option with $2.75MM buyout

The Yankees are sure to retain Severino, who came back from a trio of injury-diminished seasons to post a 3.18 ERA over 102 innings. He again missed a couple months with a lat strain, but the right-hander showed his old velocity and upper mid-rotation form when healthy.

Previous installments:CatcherFirst BaseSecond BaseThird BaseShortstopCorner outfieldsCenter Field, Designated Hitter

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