While the importance of relievers increased dramatically this past season when managers didn’t shy away from hooking starters and a few teams beginning games with bullpen arms, starting pitchers have hogged the free agent spotlight this offseason.
Patrick Corbin received a whopping six-year deal for $140 million from the Nationals. Nathan Eovaldi took a four-year contract for $67.5 million. Carlos Carrasco, who wasn’t a free agent, got what amounted to a four-year extension for $44 million.
All that money was offered and inhaled while relievers wait for a market to develop. One theory is that clubs and relievers are waiting to see what Craig Kimbrel and Zach Britton get before offerings and signings. Another is that the high-end starters’ market was thin and trades have become popular avenues to add talent.
“There have been a lot of trade opportunities,’’ an NL scout said of the trade market which has produced the Mets-Mariners blockbuster that delivered Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to Queens, moved James Paxton from Seattle to the Yankees and the Diamondbacks trading Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals. “The way (Mariners GM Jerry) Dipoto is blowing up the Mariners and Arizona blowing it up and there have been some guys who were non-tendered who are good players.’’
And there could be some cold feet running through front offices after the Rockies spent $106 million on Wade Davis (3 years/$52 million), Bryan Shaw (3/$27 million) and Jake McGee (3/$27 million) last winter and watched Shaw and McGee implode. Davis saved the spending spree from being a complete loss by leading the NL with 43 saves.
Even before Corbin, a big Yankees target, went to the Nationals the Yankees’ offseason goal was to add two starters and multiple relievers. That hasn’t changed.
Kimbrel and Britton are closers and the Yankees have Aroldis Chapman, who can opt out of a contract following the 2019 season. They have Dellin Betances in front of Chapman and he can become a free agent next offseason.
Non-closers Adam Ottavino, Andrew Miller, David Robertson and Joe Kelly are among a list of relievers who have received interest from teams, and the Mets might have brought back closer Jeurys Familia if they hadn’t acquired Diaz.
The Red Sox like Robertson, 34 in April, but aren’t enamored with giving the right-hander who owns a home in Rhode Island a three-year deal. Obviously the Yankees know Robertson and he is coming off a strong season in which he went 8-3 with a 3.23 ERA and allowed 46 hits and fanned 91 in 69 2/3rd innings. That was the final leg of a four-year contract worth $46 million he took from the White Sox to leave the Yankees as a free agent following the 2014 season.
The Yankees are familiar with Miller but could be concerned about the lefty being limited to 37 games last year due to injuries. Ottavino, a New York city native, had a strong 2018 for the Rockies when he posted a 2.43 ERA in 75 games and allowed 41 hits and struck out 112 in 77 2/3rd innings.
Adam Warren was traded once by the Yankees to the Cubs and brought back via a trade. That could happen to the dependable right-hander who was traded to the Mariners in late July this past season and is a free agent.
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