When the Cubs locked up Jon Lester to a six-year deal last week at the Winter Meetings, the expectation was that would set off a series of signings in the starting pitcher market. There has yet to be much movement in the courtship of either Max Scherzer or James Shields, but things may soon pick up for teams looking for a cheaper alternative:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 17, 2014
After Scherzer and Shields, only Hiroki Kuroda ranks higher than Jake Peavy among the remaining starting pitchers on R.J. Anderson’s top-50 free agent list. With Kuroda seemingly likely to either return to the Yankees or retire, and Aaron Harang the only other starting pitcher on said list still available, Peavy will be the top target for teams looking to fill the back end of their rotation.
Peavy struggled within the confines of Fenway Park last season and had a forgettable playoff experience with the Giants, but the veteran right-hander did thrive down the stretch in San Francisco. After being shipped out of Boston, Peavy held opposing batters to a .622 OPS in 12 regular-season starts, walking fewer than two batters per nine innings and allowing just three balls to leave the yard. Add it all up and Peavy turned in a league-average 2014 campaign, posting a 100 ERA+ for the second-straight season. He also cracked 200 innings for the second time in three seasons.
Peavy is unlikely to elicit more than a two-year deal, but he’s shown a willingness to refine his craft and tinker with his repertoire as he approaches his mid-30s. Throughout last season, Peavy deviated from his two-seam fastball and leaned on his four-seamer, a response he credited to changed mechanics and living up in the zone to counteract the league-wide move towards pitching down.
Peavy may no longer be an impact arm, but initial runs of PECOTA are optimistic about his 2015 projection and he would be a welcomed veteran option to round out Atlanta’s young rotation, replace Haren in Miami or return to San Francisco.
The deal to acquire Matt Kemp has hit a snag and must be completed by Thursday, but assuming that trade is completed (reports currently indicate optimism that the deal will go through), the Padres are the latest club to find themselves with a surplus of outfielders.
Yesterday’s deal to acquire Wil Myers is the most recent move by the Padres dedicated to bolstering a lineup that ranked last in baseball in True Average last season. But with Myers and Kemp flanking Will Venable in center field, the Padres currently have nowhere to put Seth Smith, Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin or Rymer Liriano. With room to upgrade in the infield, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweets that there’s “no chance” the Padres are done and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is hearing that Smith’s name has come up a lot in trade talks.
Smith is coming off the best offensive season of his career, as he became more selective at the plate, increased his contact rate and posted a 135 OPS+. The left-handed outfielder swung at a career-low 23.3 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, leading to a career-best 13.2-percent walk rate. He also increased his contract rate, particularly on pitches inside the strike zone, which helped reduce his strikeout rate to a career-low 16.7 percent. The increased plate discipline helped lead to a 3.8 WARP season for the 32-year-old, who is due $12.75 million over the next two seasons with a $7 million team option for 2017.
Another potential target for the Padres is free agent David Ross, who Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego writes is still considering signing with the club. Ross would serve as an upgrade over Tim Federowicz to split time with 34-year-old Ryan Haningan until Austin Hedges is ready to make the jump to The Show. Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that the veteran catcher is also considering the Red Sox and Cubs.
The current second base situation in Toronto is bleak, to say the least, and general manager Alex Anthopoulos is assessing foreign options to help patch up the keystone. Anthopoulos told Jeff Blair on Sportsnet 590 The FAN on Wednesday that the team has scouted Japanese shortstop Takashi Toritani “quite a bit” and said that he could fit in the team’s plans going forward. Toritani, 33, is a Scott Boras client and according to a Japanese website, has been deciding between offers from the Padres and Blue Jays and is willing to consider a one-year deal.
If Toritani were to sign with Toronto, he would head into camp competing with Ryan Goins, Macier Izturis and Devon Travis for the second base job. Toritani, a left-handed hitter, hit .285/.372/.412 in 11 seasons for the Hanshin Tigers, slightly better than the .294/.345/.378 line that Munenori Kawasaki posted during his 11 seasons in Japan (Kawasaki signed with the Mariners in his age-31 season). Toritani is a well-regarded defensive middle infielder and is also praised for his durability, as he hasn’t missed an inning for the Tigers in 10 years.