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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

11/18/23 : Big League Starting Pitching Options

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

11/19/23 Update - Aaron Nola has re-signed with the Phillies - seven years for a reported $172 million. No opt outs on either side.

Original posting below from 11/18/23 :

Re-signing RHP Aaron Nola has been stated as an off-season priority for the Phillies however now that he’s reached the free agent market that’s more an uncertainty than an assumption that he’s back in 2024.  Word thru the grapevine in that the Atlanta Braves are making a strong push to acquire Aaron and seem very willing to outbid all other suitors.  From my perspective Aaron is the best option for the Phillies, often times you don’t realize what ya had till it’s gone.

If indeed Nola signs elsewhere the club will have a huge rotation hole to fill.  Signing a free agent would be the most direct route and there are multiple options.  Acquiring someone via trade also is possible albeit doing so likely weakens another area along with system depth.  Here’s a look at some possibilities.

Free Agents :

RHP Yoshinobu Yamamoto  - a lot of folks are clamoring about the 25 year old from Japan however I don’t think most stateside  fans have actually ever seen him play.  He made two appearances in the last World Baseball Classic posting a 2.45 ERA in 7.1 innings pitched but to be honest I didn’t watch many of those games.  I don’t doubt that he’s legit and will do very well in the major leagues here, have read quite a few comparisons of him to Pedro Martinez due to his size (5’10”) and similar dominance.  Despite what has been written by some folks I also believe that a west coast geographic location is a preference - my opinion is based upon feedback from folks who have seen him and know the Japanese market.  He’s gonna get paid, probably not in the highest per year average parameters, but given his youth an elongated contract in length with a very high cumulative total is a given.  The Phillies have genuine interest, I hear that winning is important to him so it’s likely there’s at least a mutual interest, just am not convinced other factors are more important if an organization positioned to win similarly is the competition.  Will see eh - would stir up the excitement if Phillies are able to sign him.

LHP Eduardo Rodriquez - the 30 year old opted out of his contract with the Tigers.  Because of that there’s no draft pick loss attached to him like others on the market due to qualifying offers made.  Spotrac estimates that an average salary of around $20 million would get a deal done for him likely in a five year range.  He’s a very good pitcher, a strike thrower with a five pitch mix that relies primarily on a four seamer, cutter and change up.  He’s also a World Series champion (2018 Red Sox).  From my perspective he’d be high on my list of pursuit.  Is a winner who could be a mentor to fellow lefties Ranger Suarez and Christopher Sanchez.  It’s not always the biggest name on the market that has the biggest impact.

RHP Sonny Gray - thirty four year old who’s been solid throughout his 11 year major league career.  Has a six pitch mix and will throw his four seamer and sweeper mostly but also uses a curve, sinker and cutter often and at any time in counts.  The sweeper and curve are put aways similar to Aaron Nola’s curve ball.  Spotrac estimates a market value of around $20 million a year over three years.  He was offered a qualifying offer by the Twins so there’s a loss of draft picks and international slot money if the Phillies were to sign him.  There’s a history with highly regarded Phillies pitching coach Caleb Cotham, they were college teammates at Vanderbilt.  It’s amazing to me how some folks write off players in their mid thirties, that may have been the case way back in the day however it’s been a long while now that players have done quite well in their mid to late 30’s.  I think Gray would be a strong addition, just don’t like relinquishing the draft picks but hey this team is in win now mode.

LHP Blake Snell  -  the soon to be 31 year old is coming off an outstanding season and was just named the National League Cy Young award winner, his second time winning the award after having won the American League Cy Young in 2018.  He’s got outstanding stuff with a four pitch mix relying heavily on his four seamer with secondaries being a curve, change up and slider.   He’s likely looking for a five to six year commitment on a new contract with both a high annual rate and hefty total.  The Padres gave him the qualifying offer so if the Phillies sign him there’s the loss of draft picks and international pool money.   He played high school baseball in the Seattle area and rumblings are he prefers the west coast.  Another fella who’s gonna get paid regardless, it comes down to his choice of where he wants that to be from.  It’s my belief that he’s on the Phillies radar - is certainly one of the best, if not the top pitcher on the market - another fella that I’m not convinced has mutual interest given other factors.

LHP Jordan Montgomery  - he’s a 30 year old who had a very strong 2023 season, especially with the World Series champion Rangers after being acquired from the Cardinals.  Because he was traded during the season there’s no qualifying offer attached to him therefore no loss of draft picks or international pool money if the Phillies sign him.  He’s a five pitch pitcher who relies heavily on his sinker, throws a change up and curve as predominant secondaries.   Will throw strikes and is similar in style to Ranger Suarez.  Spotrac estimates his market value to be in the $18 to $20 million per year range with a five to six year length.  He came up thru the Yankees system so there’s quite a few folks in the Phillies organization who are familiar with him.  He will eat up innings, his best years may just be upon him now.  I’d again state that it’s not always the biggest name that makes the biggest impact, just sayin.

LHP Shota Imanaga - 30 year old from Japan who’s also expected to come stateside next season.  He’s got outstanding control of his pitches - a six pitch arsenal with the four seam fastball as primary - sits mid nineties and he features a splitter as a secondary - big tumbling action.  From those who have seen him and I’ve consulted he’s got really good stuff, has put up outstanding numbers in Japan.  Akin to Yoshinobu Yamamoto most of us have never seen him pitch in person.  He could just be the answer to a lot of teams needs, just isn’t as talked about.  He is also one who likely has a geographical preference for the west coast.  Contract expectations run in the five year range with an annual average of around $16 to 17 million.  An innings eater as well, to me he would be a strong consideration if able to acquire his services.

Trades :

RHP Corbin Burnes, RHP Shane Bieber, RHP Tyler Glasnow and RHP Dylan Cease are rumored to be on the market and certainly all four are good pitchers that would fit the bill of what is needed.  Cease is the only one of the three who’s not due to be a free agent after the 2024 season.  You don’t get value for nothing in return however in trades and based on intel it would take more than just minor leaguers to acquire each.  The Phillies always do their due diligence so I’m sure trade avenues have been explored.

Minor Leagues :

I’ve just concluded my annual minor league notes on pitchers - a twenty part series that can be found on this site.  It always takes more than five starters to complete any season and while it’s not likely that a Phillies minor leaguer breaks camp in the rotation there are a few options that I believe will be able to help during the year.  I think that Mick Abel, Nick Nelson, Tyler Phillips and David Parkinson will be at the ready with Lehigh Valley with Christian McGowan getting closer at Reading.  Others have capabilities of stepping forward.  For detailed notes read the series - here’s a link to article 20 which contains links to the other 19 as well -

Other Notes :

Congrats to hitting coach Kevin Mahala who has accepted the role of minor league hitting coordinator for the New York Mets organization.  He served as the upper level minor league hitting coordinator for the Phillies organization last year and was with the Phillies player development group for four years in various roles beginning as a player information assistant in 2020.

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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