MLB Free Agency Value: Starting Pitching
This time last year, everyone was still wondering where the big free agents were headed. Fast forward to this year, and it’s a different story. All of the big money and big name free agents have found homes this winter. With the exception of Yasiel Puig, most of the free agents left are for teams seeking value or roster fill outs. However, there is still a bunch of free agency value left on the market. This series will address those by each position. The first to look at is on the mound to start the game.
Taijuan Walker is an interesting case. The term “potential” has always been synonymous with his name. Walker is 27 years old and was a first-round draft pick back in 2010 for the Seattle Mariners. Unfortunately for Walker, he has had a couple of seasons where he has been injured. He received Tommy John surgery in April of 2018. He spent the next year and a half rehabbing his elbow. Taijuan pitched exactly one inning in 2019 on the last day of the season.
Walker is not far removed from a decent campaign with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2017 He pitched to a 3.49 ERA in 28 starts over 157 innings. He struck out 146 batters and held opponents to 61 walks and only 17 home runs.
It’s surprising that Walker has not landed on a team looking for some value. The injury history makes it risky, but it’s quite possible that he could be a diamond in the rough. A team looking to fill out their rotation might find it very useful to add him with an incentive bolstered contract.
Danny Salazar is another pitcher who had a lot of promise, but never could deliver due to injuries. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2006 and is entering his age 30 season. Due to nagging groin injuries, Danny Salazar had his 2019 season cut short. Such has been the story with his entire career.
However, when Salazar does take the mound, he is a very good pitcher. He is too far removed from the 2013 campaign that saw him dazzle in 10 starts, but if some version of the 2016 Salazar could appear, he could be a decent pick up off of the scrap pile.
In 2016, Salazar pitched 137.1 innings to a 3.87 ERA. His 3.74 FIP that year suggests it wasn’t a fluke and he could be exactly that if he were given the opportunity. He has the swing and miss stuff to be a good pitcher as he has registered 10.5 strikeouts per nine in his career and 12.7 K/9 as recent as 2017. He might not be able to produce to those heights, but he could help a team looking to fill a rotation spot and hoping to catch fire. Salazar seems to be more suited for a contending team than Walker, especially given his age and potential.
Remember that name? He hasn’t seen the majors in three years, and it’s been even longer since he had any sort of success as well. He is another case of an early injury really reducing his effectiveness. Henderson Alvarez was successful when his velocity was up in the mid-90s. Unfortunately, after a shoulder surgery or two, he hasn’t been near that and his fastball clocks in the low 90s consistently.
However, recently it has been reported that Henderson Alvarez has figured out a way to get his velocity back.
Former All-Star Henderson Alvarez said he reached 95 mph before #Yankees, #Royals and #Marlins scouts in this bullpen session. He spent the last two seasons at Triple-A and is looking for an @MLB camp invite. He could pitch for Venezuela in @WBSC Olympic qualifier. @MLBNetwork https://t.co/SCLgRZu20w
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 25, 2020
If that is really the case, it would be hard for teams to pass that up on a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. As the dominoes of Spring start to fall, Alvarez might find a team or two that are rebuilding calling with a chance to recapture his 2014 season. He posted a 2.65 ERA that year across 187 innings. A team likely won’t get the same results, but there could be a serviceable pitcher in there and some definite free agency value points as well.