NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Everyone in baseball needs starting pitching, but not everyone has the money for a Zack Greinke, Jordan Zimmermann or Johnny Cueto. Not everyone has the prospects to acquire a Shelby Miller or Tyson Ross.
So why aren’t more teams looking at Yovani Gallardo?
Gallardo is coming off his best season in terms of ERA, and his other numbers compare well with the rest of the available market. He’s made 30-plus starts in seven straight seasons without any injury problems outside of his torn ACL in 2008. Gallardo may not have the highest ceiling of available starters, but he might be the safest and most affordable option.
Take a look at the current market and you’ll find Cueto alone at the top with Scott Kazmir, Mike Leake, Wei-Yin Chen, Kenta Maeda and Gallardo as other notable names available.
What teams are looking? Well, most of them.
Gallardo’s been linked to the Orioles and Dodgers, but plenty of other teams make sense . The Royals, Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Mariners all need starters. As do many other teams.
Compare Gallardo to the aforementioned group.
Gallardo has a better career ERA (3.66) than Chen (3.72) and had a lower FIP (4.00) than Chen (4.16) last season. Chen is also a Scott Boras client, which of course means he won’t come cheap.
Kazmir didn’t meet expectations after being traded to the Astros. He finished with a 4.17 ERA in 13 starts with Houston with a 5.19 FIP.
Leake also had a worse ERA (3.70) and FIP (4.20) last season between the Reds and Giants. He’ll be 30 entering next season, as will Gallardo.
Maeda is reportedly looking for $60 million, not counting his posting fee, and projects as a fourth or fifth starter, Jack Magruder says.
All of a sudden, Gallardo doesn’t sound all that bad for $50 million on a 4-year deal.
While Gallardo makes his starts, there is concern about his innings. He hasn’t thrown 200 innings since 2012. But Chen has never thrown 200 innings, Leake has only done it once and Kazmir hasn’t since 2007.
His strikeouts are down and his walks are up, but Leake is no strikeout pitcher himself and Gallardo’s walk rate is similar to Kazmir’s last season.
With the injury risks in the Cardinals rotation, he could be a steady presence in the rotation with a return to the NL Central that he faced for eight seasons. He also seems like a fit for the Royals, who want starters to get them to the 6th or 7th inning so the bullpen can close the door.
The Diamondbacks are more likely to trade for a starter than sign one after signing Greinke. The Cubs are in the same boat after signing John Lackey. But the Mariners now need a replacement for Hisashi Iwakuma. Is Gallardo a fit there?
The Dodgers need someone to fill in after Clayton Kershaw, and who knows if Iwakuma will stay healthy after throwing just 129.2 innings last season at 34 years old. Brett Anderson is a risk, as is Hyun-jin Ryu following shoulder surgery.
The Rangers are an unlikely fit at this point after failing to agree to an extension during the season.
In reality, there aren’t a ton of places Gallardo doesn’t fit. He’ll cost a draft pick, but it wouldn’t hurt the Orioles to lose their 14th pick when they could gain two more for Chen and Chris Davis. With a draft pick, you don’t always know what you’re going to get.
With Gallardo, you know exactly what you’re getting–a reliable middle-of-the-rotation starter who takes the ball every fifth day. Those are getting harder and harder to find.