Major League Baseball announced spring training reporting dates for all 30 teams Monday, and pitchers and catchers from 16 teams will begin workouts Feb. 14, making it a nice Valentine’s Day gift for the fans.
Monday’s announcement is also a remainder that the number of days left in the offseason is dwindling. Many players still lingering on the free-agent market begin to get anxious this time of year because they want their situations settled in advance of spring training.
They want to know if they will be going to camp in Arizona or Florida so they can begin making travel and housing arrangements.
Thus, bargains can be found for patient general managers. With the cost of starting pitching higher than ever, many teams hope they can find a reclamation project on the cheap and squeeze an average or better season from him.
Let’s look at five free-agent starters who are anything but sure things for success this year, but provide hope — much like a lottery ticket — of possibly providing value for a relatively small outlay of cash:
Anderson went 10-9 with a 3.61 ERA in 30 starts for the Dodgers in 2015, and they gambled by extending him a qualifying offer. Anderson accepted the one-year, $15.8 million contract rather than test free agency and it worked out for him as he was limited to four games, three of which were starts, last year.
Injuries have long been a problem for Anderson; he has logged as many as 30 starts just twice in his eight-year career. However, he has been relatively effective when he hasn’t been on the disabled list, going 38-43 with a 3.86 ERA in 127 games while averaging 6.7 strikeouts and 2.4 walks per nine innings.
Anderson is still just 28 years old, which provides hope that he could still turn his career around.
Jorge De La Rosa
The left-hander is one of the very few pitchers who has figured how to pitch effectively at Coors Field, going 53-20 with a 4.29 ERA in 108 games. Yet the Colorado Rockies have decided to move on from the 35-year-old after nine seasons.
De La Rosa was just 8-9 with a 5.51 ERA in 27 games last year, striking out 7.3 and walking 4.2 per nine innings. Yet he did pitch 134 innings and would seemingly get a bump from leaving the thin air of Denver.
If nothing else, he’d be worth a shot as a non-roster invitee to spring training.
While the right-hander was a double-digit winner in his lone season with the Houston Astros in 2016, his 12-13 record in 32 starts was offset by a 4.64 ERA as well as 5.7 strikeouts and 3.1 walks per nine innings.
The 32-year-old Fister is clearly not the same pitcher who was a combined 56-45 with a 3.24 ERA in a five-season span form 2010-14 with the Seattle Mariners, Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals. He has lost velocity, and many teams shied away from him last winter for fear his elbow was ready to blow out.
Fister did not miss a start last season, though, and logged 180.1 innings. Like De La Rosa, a move out of a hitter friendly ballpark couldn’t hurt.
Lewis made just 19 starts for the Texas Rangers last season after winning a career-high 17 games the year before. However, the right-hander’s 3.71 ERA in 2016 was nearly a full run lower than his 4.66 mark in 2015.
The downside, though, was Lewis struck out a career-low 5.6 batters per nine innings while walking 2.2. A 37-year-old with declining stuff doesn’t provide a lot of hope, but he has enough of a track record for someone to bring him to spring training on a make-good contract.
The left-hander had Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in 2015 after making 21 starts for the Los Angeles Angels then sat out all of 2016 when he required shoulder surgery.
That is not exactly a good platform for a 36-year-old to jump into free agency. Wilson, though, did have a fine five-year run from 2010-14 with the Rangers and Angels, compiling a 74-42 record while averaging 33 starts and 204 innings a season.
While it is doubtful Wilson will reach that level again, and his personality tends to grate on teammates at times, it’s worth checking to see if he has anything left.