A number of starting pitchers have come off the board (Justin Verlander, Eduardo Rodriguez, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz among them), but there are still plenty of arms in this year’s free-agent class headlined by past Cy Young recipients Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Corey Kluber and Robbie Ray. Reigning World Baseball Classic MVP Marcus Stroman, Kevin Gausman (coming off a career year in San Francisco) and Carlos Rodon, who tossed a no-hitter for the White Sox back in April, are also open for business.
Of course, even in a buyer’s market with plenty of pitching to go around, teams—especially those weary of overspending—will seek out alternatives, working the phones to see what players could be available via trade. According to Buster Olney of ESPN, Orioles lefty John Means could be moved this winter along with Reds All-Star Sonny Gray.
Means, the Orioles’ lone All-Star representative in 2019, got off to a sizzling start this past season, going 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA in his first seven starts including a no-hitter—Baltimore’s first in almost 30 years—May 5th against Seattle. Means permitted his only baserunner on a third-inning strikeout that got away from catcher Pedro Severino, allowing Sam Haggerty to reach (Severino would later gun down Haggerty on a failed stolen base attempt). Means’ effectiveness waned as the year went on (one wonders if MLB’s foreign substance crackdown factored into his diminished 4.88 second-half ERA), though he’s still an attractive trade piece with three more years of salary arbitration before he hits free agency in 2025 (the 28-year-old projects to earn a modest $3.25 million next season).
As for Gray, the right-hander has been phenomenal in his three years with Cincinnati, posting a 3.49 ERA with 432 strikeouts (10.6 K/9) over that span. Though nowhere near as cheap as Means, Gray’s $10.2-million salary is still a relative bargain compared to many of this year’s free agents including Scherzer, who stands a good chance at bettering Gerrit Cole’s record $36-million AAV (average annual value). While the Reds, who finished seven games back of St. Louis for the National League’s final Wild Card spot this past season (83-79), are open to trading Gray, teammates Tyler Mahle (13-6, team-high 210 strikeouts) and Luis Castillo (3.98 ERA, 9.21 K/9) are reportedly off limits.
Even with players celebrating Thanksgiving, we should see a flurry of activity leading up to December 1st, which is when MLB’s current CBA expires.