Spring training is in full swing, yet you could almost form a free agent starting rotation that would compete with a number of current major league rotations. Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb all remain jobless with Opening Day just a month away.
As the regular season nears, the prices for each member of the free agent trio is likely to decrease. At this point, teams are content with stockpiling young talent for the future, or sticking with cheaper options that are under team control. Still, all three of these free agents are established starters that can help a contender fill out their rotation and provide some staff stability.
We’ve heard numerous rumors and teams of interest, but there are certain teams that stick out as a better potential suitor than others. Let’s look at the best possible options for the trio of pitchers who would love to have options at this point.
Jake Arrieta: Washington Nationals
The 2018 season feels like a final push for the Nationals, who have been a trendy World Series pick for years, but have failed to move past the first postseason series. With Bryce Harper, Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Murphy all hitting free agency next winter, the current Nationals core could be blown up by this time next year. In short, the time is now to make one more run at a title.
One of the Nationals’ main obstacles is the Cubs, who bolstered their rotation by signing Yu Darvish, who completes what is arguably the best starting pitching staff in baseball. The Nationals could counter the Cubs’ big splash by grabbing Arrieta, the former Cub. A group of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gonzalez and Arrieta would certainly compete with Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks and Darvish.
The obvious problem is price. The Cubs committed $126 million to Darvish, which means Arrieta will be seeking a similar payment. A contract of that magnitude would put the Nationals over the luxury tax threshold, but with all of the free agents expected to come off the books next winter, it would likely be a short-term problem. If adding Arrieta means a potential run at the Fall Classic, it would be a small price to pay for general manager Mike Rizzo and company.
Lance Lynn: Minnesota Twins
The Twins need starting pitching. Badly. Aside from the Brewers, the Twins may be the team with the most dire need of starters, even after the acquisition of Jake Odorizzi. With Ervin Santana out for over two months, and the team looking to return to the postseason, a starter like Lance Lynn could be a perfect fit.
Jon Heyman recently reported the Twins having interest in Lynn, but Lynn’s asking price hasn’t moved enough during the slow offseason. The Twins had offered Yu Darvish $100 million before he headed for Chicago, so they should be able to pay Lynn and fill a glaring need.
The Twins can hit (they ranked 7th in runs scored in 2017), but outside of Odorizzi and Jose Berrios, the rotation is awfully shaky. The Indians figure to be the only other team in the AL Central that will compete for a playoff spot, so the Twins won’t want to waste this opportunity to get back to October baseball while the Tigers, White Sox and Royals undergo rebuilds. Lynn would provide rotation depth, and his four-straight seasons of at least 175 innings pitched suggests valuable durability.
Lynn’s asking price could begin to drop in the coming weeks, but the Twins would be wise to grab him before someone else does.
Alex Cobb: New York Yankees
Yes, Aaron Boone said he didn’t feel that Cobb or Lynn were ‘realistic options’ for the Yankees at this point, but adding Cobb could provide stability to a Yankees rotation that would greatly benefit from adding one more arm.
The Yankees have a full rotation at the moment, but almost no insurance waiting to pick up innings should an injury occur. Prospects Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield are not major league ready, and both Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery are coming off of full seasons (193 1⁄3 and 155 1/3 innings pitched, respectively) for the first time in their careers. Should Boone decide that one of his young starters need a rest, there needs to be another option. CC Sabathia has struggled with knee issues in recent years and could be an injury risk that needs backup as well.
Brian Cashman suggested trying Chad Green in the rotation, but given how prolific Green was in the bullpen last season, he would be best suited as a reliever. A starter like Cobb, who threw 179 innings last season after recovering from Tommy John surgery, could give the Yankees a more established arm should one of their coveted youngsters need a rest.
Cobb could potentially be signed for around $15 million, which would keep the Yanks just under the luxury tax threshold that they are working to reset by next offseason. In terms of this season, the Yankees boast one of the best offenses in the league, the best bullpen, and the Astros’ main competition for the American League crown. The Yankees are ready to win now, and another starter (while staying under the luxury tax) would help them draw closer to a World Series return.