Five starting pitching options to keep an eye on
It is entirely too early for the Mariners or any other team to make deals, but it is never too early to start keeping tabs on some rotation upgrades for Seattle.
The strength of the 2022 Seattle Mariners was their rotation, even after only having Luis Castillo for half a season. Anchored by a mix of young arms and established veterans, this rotation was again projected as a carrying piece of this roster.
Robbie Ray has been a polarizing member of this team since the beginning of last season, but one invaluable piece of his value has always been availability. Ray has thrown 160 innings or more every season since 2016, excluding the shortened COVID season.
No matter how you feel about Seattle’s 115 million dollar lefty, his season ending injury leaves a gaping hole near the top of the rotation. They need to replace this as much as possible in both quantity and quality.
Here are a few names that could appeal to Seattle as the summer progresses.
Filling Giant Needs
The San Francisco Giants own one of the most confusing rosters in all of baseball, with aging veterans and supplementary pieces across the board.
Playing in the NL West is a huge disadvantage for the Giants, who should easily be in a position to sell come July. Their lineup has some options we have discussed in previous columns, but their rotation is what catches my eye.
Alex Cobb is a name I really like here. He is dominating thus far in 2023 to the tune of a 2.43 ERA over six starts and 33 innings.
He has had a long and successful big league career as a back end starter, most notably with the Tampa Bay Rays and division rival Los Angeles Angels. He has spent some parts of the last few offseasons training at Driveline and altering his repertoire, which seems to be paying off in a big way.
His fastball velocity and movement have jumped up dramatically over the last few seasons, and he also added a slider to his mix this season. These changes have materially altered his outcomes over the last two seasons, most notably producing an xFIP of 2.89 last season.
Cobb’s rotation mate is the next target for Seattle, veteran left-hander Alex Wood. Wood has been a valuable and productive arm in the big leagues for many years when he has been able to stay healthy.
His funky delivery and deception have given him a nice big-league career, putting together 18.1 fWAR over 10 seasons. His bugaboo has been staying on the field, although he was able to start 26 games in each of the last two seasons.
Wood owns a career 3.54 FIP, and would comfortably slide in as a number four starter for the Mariners.
Both Wood and Cobb will be free agents at the season’s end, so Seattle should absolutely kick the tires here.
South Side Pair
There are two arms on the south side of Chicago that Seattle could be interested in, and at this rate, they could be available sooner rather than later. The White Sox have endured a dismal start to the season, and pressure from the fanbase could cause the team to start anew by offloading some assets.
This lineup, bullpen, and rotation all have pieces that could be of use to the Mariners. For the purpose of this rotation, we will stick to their rotation, starting with veteran right-hander Lance Lynn.
As a disclaimer, I don’t think Lynn is a fit here. He has a long track record of success and has plenty of postseason innings, but the clubhouse fit is questionable here. Sources have communicated his propensity to be a difficult individual, which just doesn’t fit in this Mariner clubhouse.
Anything is possible and Lynn certainly would add value to this team. His ERA is north of seven so far in 2023, but his last start was a return to form with 10 punchouts in 6.1 innings.
Lucas Giolito is the other name that is certain to get plenty of buzz here. Giolito is a former Cy Young contender who has battled health and conditioning issues over the last two seasons.
His top-end form is a number two starter, so Seattle may believe they can get him there. The 6-8 righthander is in the final year of his contract and Chicago will almost certainly move on from him, but his price tag is certain to be high.
St. Louis Struggles
The Cardinals are the easy answer for the most disappointing team in baseball, especially with two perennial MVP candidates anchoring the middle of their lineup.
Their rotation is easy to blame, as they own just six quality starts all season long. The most talented pitcher on this staff is 27 year old Jack Flaherty. After a 2019 season that saw him become one of the best young pitchers in baseball, Flaherty has struggled with availability over the last few seasons.
A free agent in 2024, the right-hander should be looking to capitalize on a bounce-back season. If he can stay on the mound he is an easy mid-rotation starter with the upside to be a top-of-the-rotation guy.
His velocity is down a few ticks from his dominant 2019, but I believe he is worth trading for if he is healthy. The Cardinals need him to compete, but if they continue to slide they may look to move him.