Posted on December 31, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The free agent market has been very good to relief pitchers all winter, with multiple closers breaking the record for largest free agent contract signed by a relief pitcher. However, the same cannot be said for starting pitchers. Admittedly, it’s a weak market for starting pitchers, but even the top starting pitchers available aren’t receiving much interest on the open market. One such pitcher to be disappointed and frustrated with the lackluster market despite being one of the top free agent pitchers available is Jason Hammel, who is only receiving one-year offers, according to recent reports.
Despite elbow trouble late in the season that kept him off the Cubs postseason roster, Hammel made 30 starts in 2016, winning 15 games and posting a 3.83 ERA. After the season, the Cubs let Hammel decide if he wanted the club to pick up his option for 2017 or not. Hammel asked the Cubs to decline his option so he could test the open market. The 34-year old figured that coming off a 15-win season, he would be among the most sought after starters on the market, guaranteeing him a lucrative, long-term deal.
However, things have not played out as expected. Recent reports indicate that teams are hesitant to guarantee Hammel more than one year, citing his age and elbow issue late in the season as reason why they don’t want to commit to him long term. Hammel has become so frustrated by the lack of long-term offers that he recently decided to change agents, hoping to have better luck with new representation.
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“He’s going to have to lower his sights,” said one American League scout. “There are just too many questions marks surrounding him. I’m not saying he couldn’t help someone, it’s just that he’s not a sure thing and it’s tough to commit a lot of money to that kind of player.”
That may be what teams are saying, but it’s not necessarily the truth. Hammel may have had inconsistencies earlier in his career, and granted his ERA has gone up some the past couple of years, but the last three seasons have been the best of his career. Hammel has made at least 30 appearances in each of the last three years, winning 35 games over the span and posting an ERA under 4 each season.
Earlier in the offseason, there were reports that 10 teams had expressed an interest in Hammel. Such a high number is not a surprise, but with that much interest, one would expect at least a few of those 10 teams to make a multi-year offer in order to persuade Hammel to sign. Outside of trading for a frontline starter, signing Hammel may be the best option available for a team looking for rotation help.
The identity of the 10 teams that inquired about Hammel earlier this winter is unclear, but the Angels, Astros, Mariners, Marlins, Padres, Rangers, and Rockies are all among the teams that could use a veteran starter like Hammel. It’s still possible that one of those teams will end up offering a multi-year contract, but there’s nothing that should be standing in the way of any of those teams from making an offer, as Hammel is arguably the best free agent starter available. As it stands, Hammel continues to wait for the multi-year offer he believes he deserves.