This past offseason, the Yankees had a glut of free agents to pick from. Surprisingly, the Yankees chose to do practically nothing. Though the Yankees’ internal options have obviously excelled in the early going, it’s still worthwhile to look back at some of the options the Yankees decided to forego, as the season closes in on the quarter mark. In this first installment, I am examining the top five free agent pitchers and how they have fared. On Monday, I will examine the top five free agent position players.
For pitchers, I am exclusively looking at starting pitchers. All of the information used for this piece was found using reporting and statistics from mlb.com.
The Mets continued their post-Wilpon era ways by signing Max Scherzer to a three-year deal worth $130 million dollars. Scherzer has continued to put up incredible numbers, with a 5-1 record and a 2.54 ERA in 49.2 innings. The man still knows how to throw a baseball.
Unfortunately, Scherzer left his most recent game after suffering an oblique injury. He is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. If Scherzer can come back from this injury and mostly pitch as he was, then this free agent signing could still be an excellent one.
After leaving the pit of despair known as the Orioles (that's mean, but until they actually spend any money on players, it stands), Gausman put up great numbers with the Giants in ‘20 and ‘21, pitching to a 2.81 ERA in ‘21. Consequently, the Toronto Blue Jays signed Gausman to a five-year contract worth $110 million.
Gausman hasn’t missed a beat for the Jays, running a 2.52 ERA in 50.0 innings. With every start, Gausman puts his struggles in Baltimore even further in the rearview mirror, and makes his success with the Giants look less and less like a fluke. No two ways about this signing, Kevin Gausman has been a great addition to the rival Blue Jays.
In 2021, Rodón pitched extremely well for the Chicago White Sox with a 2.37 ERA in 132.2 innings. After losing Gausman, the San Francisco Giants responded by signing Rodón to a two-year deal worth $44 million with an opt-out after the first season. This year, Rodón has continued to pitch pretty well, with a 3.49 ERA in 38.2 innings. Rodón hasn’t been on the same level as Scherzer or Gausman, but the Giants did well to spin around from seeing Gausman depart to bringing in Rodón as a quality replacement.
Eduardo Rodriguez is familiar face for most Yankees fans as a former Red Sox player. Rodriguez signed a five-year deal with the Detroit Tigers for $77 million with an opt-out after the second year. His Detroit tenure has gotten off to a rough start, with a 4.38 ERA in 39.0 innings. In addition, during his last start, E-Rod developed a left-side injury. Rodriguez still has time to turn things around, but his shine has a potential high-upside signing for the Tigers has worn off a bit. We’ll have to see how he performs when he returns healthy.
One of the bigger surprises of the season last year was the emergence of Robbie Ray as a top starter in the American League. With Toronto in 2021, Ray pitched 193.1 innings to the tune of a 2.84 ERA. Ray was able to parlay this spectacular year into a five-year deal with the Seattle Mariners for $115 million.
Ray has pitched more to his career norms this year and less to his stellar 2021. Ray has a career ERA of 4.03, with occasional spurts of great pitching followed by spates of struggles. Relatedly, Ray has totaled a 4.62 ERA in 48.2 innings. The left-hander has plenty of time to turn things around, but he’s looked pedestrian so far, a concern for Seattle as they try to repeat last year’s surprising run.
Among the five most valuable starting pitchers, there has not been any catastrophic flops. Scherzer and Gausman have been great, with Rodón pitching very well. However, Eduardo Rodriguez and Robbie Ray have both been on the more mediocre end of the spectrum.
The most notable of these exchanges from the Yankees perspective is that of Gausman in Toronto. The Blue Jays took a risk in letting the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner walk and bringing in Gausman instead, but the right-hander has excelled, steadying the Toronto rotation. Gausman could be a thorn in the Yankees’ side for years to come.