Prior to MLB team owners imposing a lockout at the start of December when the collective bargaining agreement expired, there was a run on starting pitchers in free agency.
Max Scherzer most notably joined the New York Mets on a three-year, $130 million contract, which broke Gerrit Cole’s average annual value record. The future Hall of Famer explained there were “several factors” that went into his decision, including the Mets’ commitment to building a winning team.
Aside from Scherzer, Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman, Marcus Stroman and Noah Syndergaard were among the other prominent starting pitchers to sign before the work stoppage.
Los Angeles Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman noted during a recent appearance on MLB Network’s “High Heat” that he wasn’t surprised most of the attention in free agency went to starting pitching:
“I think starting pitching is always very much in demand, and I think even more so coming off last year. Just the number of injuries and coming off the shortened 2020 season, I think people felt that in even a more acute way. A lot was talked about some of the pitching strategies in the postseason without full appreciation that most teams would have preferred not to do it that way. It was more a necessity with kind of where we were all were at that point going through a long season. Starting pitching has always been in demand, and coming off last year I think it is even more, so it’s not surprising that’s been mostly where the focus has been.”
As Friedman mentioned, starting pitching was in high demand due to injury concerns and other uncertainties brought on by the shortened 2020 season. It led to teams going with a more unorthodox approach in the postseason, which included using starters in nontraditional roles.
When business resumes as soon as a new CBA is in place, starting pitching presumably will continue being a focus of the Dodgers. The club’s only addition to this point was the signing of Andrew Heaney to a one-year contract.
The left-hander is coming off a forgettable season, but several evaluators feel he could take the same path to stardom as Robbie Ray with a few tweaks.
Clayton Kershaw also remains on the open market, and while L.A. has interest in bringing him back, there is a belief he may prefer pitching closer to his home in Texas.
Dodgers pursuing Freeman?
While the Dodgers figure to address their starting rotation once MLB business resumes, they may also look to sign Freddie Freeman away from the Atlanta Braves.
L.A. reportedly is among the teams with interest in the left-handed slugger, and his addition would help offset the loss of Corey Seager.
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