The big right-handed pitcher has been on a downward spiral in terms of production for six straight seasons. His ERA and WHIP have increased every year since the 2011 season when he went 18-8 on the season, with a 2.41 ERA and a 1.010 WHIP. Last year he was rocked by hitters and went 12-12 with a 5.06 ERA and a 1.461 WHIP. His fastball velocity is way down and the end is near for the once dominant ace pitcher. At 34, a team will be enticed to give him another shot. It seems unlikely that he will have a turnaround this late in his career though, especially with his numbers steadily getting worse year by year.
A 26-year-old pitcher with Alvarez’s ability should not have trouble finding a job, but arm issues have sidetracked him for the past few seasons. He underwent a bicep tenodesis procedure last September and also had an excision of a bony exostosis in his throwing shoulder. That is his second major arm issue in two seasons, so he is a huge injury risk. In 2014, Alvarez was an all-star when he went 12-7 with a 2.65 ERA, and that kind of production will make him an interesting case if he shows any kind of health this spring. The Padres continually threw money at Josh Johnson ($9 million for two seasons). Would they give a young talent like Alvarez a shot to get back on track? Or have they learned their lesson?
Another injured young talent is fireballing right-handed pitcher, Nathan Eovaldi. He will miss the entire 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and flexor tendon surgery. He has a 100 MPH fastball and at times looked to make major strides in 2016 for the Yankees. He probably will not get a contract this season because it is the final year of his arbitration, but if a team was willing to gamble on his rehab, they could benefit in 2018 and beyond when he comes back. High risk and very high reward here on this 26-year-old. Word is the Yankees are already discussing a deal with him as they value his arm for the long run.
Left handed veteran pitcher C.J. Wilson missed all of last year after undergoing shoulder surgery. Ken Rosenthal recently reported that he is progressing well and looks to have a showcase at some point in February where he will display his ability to pitch in front of scouts. He was a very good pitcher at one point in his career, but at the age of 36, it is a longshot for him to return as a starting pitcher. He could be signed and used as a relief pitcher, something he has experience at, as he owns 52 career saves, including 24 in 2008 alone. Food for thought.
Niese is coming off knee surgery and a horrible 2016 season, where he went 8-7 with a 5.50 ERA and a 1.587 WHIP in 29 games (20 starts) for the Pirates and Mets. The left-handed starter is not overpowering by any means. He instead relies on changing speeds with his multiple fastballs. He uses a two-seam and four-seam fastball and has a vicious cutter when he is on. Being that his injury was to a knee, the 30-year-old should find a decent option fairly soon on the open market.
The team could possibly add one or two more pitchers fairly soon. There are reports that the Padres already made an offer to Jered Weaver at around $4-million dollars for the 2017 season. That seems a bit excessive for the numbers he has put up recently. Hopefully the report is false. Jake Peavy and Doug Fister make interesting options and so does Travis Wood. But each would have to be signed at a decent price. The Padres are not going to overpay. They will instead rely on the fact that they can provide a rotation spot to potential free agents. That is enticing to these pitchers looking for work, and the team will capitalize on that. Look for the Friars to sign at least one other veteran arm for roughly $1-3 million dollars. They will also bring in numerous minor league free agents that could blossom. The starting staff will be an interesting story for the 2017 season as the club looks to gain momentum towards a championship-caliber franchise.