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MLBTR Poll: Where Will Michael Wacha Sign?

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With Nathan Eovaldi agreeing to a deal with the Rangers, the highest remaining starting pitcher in the free agent market (according to MLBTR rankings) is Michael Wacha. In fact, Wacha is the only remaining starting pitcher in the top 50 free agents.

As it stands, the Orioles are the only team known to have registered the 31-year-old, who is coming off his best season in a while for the Red Sox. Wacha made 23 starts for Boston last season, working to a 3.32 ERA in 127 1/3 innings. This mark was accompanied by a fairly pedestrian out rate of 20.2% and a solid walk rate of 6%. Also, his .260 BABIP opponent suggests a bit of luck was involved, and sure enough, Wacha’s FIP was 4.14 for the season. Nonetheless, it was a much better performance than lately for Wacha.

Between 2020 and 2021, Wacha pitched 158 2/3 innings for the Mets and Rays, working at a 5.39 ERA. Those two seasons came with better strikeout rates, but his HardHit% was comfortably the highest of his career, as were his home run rates.

Wacha was once a highly touted prospect in the Cardinals system. Drafted 19th overall in 2012, Wacha made his big league debut aged 21 in 2013. In his first three seasons, he pitched 353 ERA 3.21 innings and won the 2013 NLCS MVP award for his efforts. in this series against the Dodgers. He was never a great pitcher at bat, but kept the ball grounded enough, limited walks, and induced soft enough contact to be a very effective starter.

Those three seasons have proven to be comfortably Wacha’s best, and since the 2016 campaign, he’s thrown 800 2/3 innings 4.42 ERA. He’s signed one-year contracts for the past three seasons, but last season’s strong campaign could well earn him a modest two-year guarantee this winter. MLBTR predicted a two-year, $16 million pact for Wacha and it certainly seems like there’s a good chance he’ll at least match that, especially given how good the starting pitch was in free agency. this winter.

As for who might be interested, the Orioles are not only the only team reported to have checked in (although there have surely been others), but they also make a lot of sense. They have been linked with a number of mid-level debutants this winter and have signed Kyle Gibson to a one-year, $10 million pact. Still, the backend of their rotation has a few options, but most are light on MLB experience and adding someone like Wacha would give them a bit more stability.

Both Angels and Padres were linked with Eovaldi before he signed with Rangers, so it makes sense to look at them as possible fits for the next best option. The Angels have a pretty solid five-man rotation, with Shohei Ohtani and Tyler Anderson up, and left-handers Reid Detmer, Patrick Sandoval and Jose Suarez round it off. LA have often worked with a six-man rotation to handle Ohtani’s workload, and Wacha could fit in well as another starting option for them.

The Padres also appear to have the basics of a starting five in place, but like the Angels, they could do with a sixth option. Joe Musgrove, Blake Snell and Yu Darvish are stuck in the first three places, with Nick Martinez and Seth Lugo in pencil to fill in the rotation. Reports suggest San Diego plans to use the latter two as starters, but both have generally worked as relievers recently, so adding Wacha could give them some insurance against these two failing to lock down a starting place.

A return to Boston could also be an option. They have Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, James Paxton, Nick Pivette and Garret Whitlock lined up to handle starting tasks. Still, Sale and Paxton had a miserable string of injuries (and the team would be open to offers from Sale), while Whitlock fared much better in the bullpen. Child Brayan Bello is also an option to join the rotation at some point, so there’s clearly no need to add someone like Wacha, but it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if he ended up in Boston.

While these three teams all have ambitions to compete in 2023, Wacha could also be a good fit for rebuilding teams. Even if it takes a two-year contract to sign him, a rebuilding club might be hoping he builds on his strong 2022 campaign and turns into a valuable trade chip come deadline day or next winter. At worst, it’s unlikely to be an onerous commitment to sign him and even if he doesn’t go into a chip trade, he could still work as an innings eater for a rebuilding team with a younger roster.

In that case, maybe a team like the Reds might be willing to bring him in if the price is right. Luis Cessa is the veteran of the Reds’ rotation as things stand, but has generally worked as a long reliever. Outside of Cessa, it’s a young rotation for all the uncertainties, and adding a veteran like Wacha could solidify things and take some pressure off their young arms.

There are quite a few other adjustments possible, and any of the Twins, Royals, Tigers and White Sox could make sense. Where do you see Wacha signing this winter?


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