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November 17, 2022

MLB Free Agency: 10 starting pitchers the Phillies should, could target to upgrade their rotation

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Carlos-Rodon-Phillies-rumors_111722_USAT Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports

The Phillies seem likely to spend on at least one free-agent starting pitcher this offseason. Maybe lefthander Carlos Rodón.

There seems to be a pretty clear strategy for the Phillies as they look to build and upgrade their starting pitching staff for 2023.

In their failed (near) World Series run, their lack of depth and stamina was their undoing, particularly when contrasted against the Astros and their wealth of starting pitching talent. It is a clear priority going forward, and Phillies president Dave Dombrowski laid out his plan when he spoke to the media Wednesday.

The Phillies will be bringing back their top three starters (Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suárez), look to sign a free agent, and will keep a spot open for one of their younger up-and-coming arms (Andrew Painter, Mick Abel, Griff McGarry or even Bailey Falter). 

So who will they tag from free agency to be their next big-name starter?

There are some extremely appealing options available right now on the open market, but they will bring with them a healthy price tag and perhaps a few extra miles on the odometer than a team looking to compete for years to come might like.

Still, there are more positives than negatives when it comes to the top 10 starters available. Here's a look at the best options from a Phillies perspective:

1. Jacob deGrom

FORMER MET | 34 | EXPECTED AAV: $45M | 5-4, 3.08 ERA in 2022

When he's healthy, deGrom is probably the best pitcher in all of baseball. When he isn't winning the Cy Young award, he is finishing in the top 10 (like he has six times in nine seasons). Last season he only was able to appear in 11 games, and at age 34, his versatility is definitely a factor in his next contract. But he will likely fetch a huge deal either way because he is just that good. deGrom has a career 2.52 ERA over 1,326 innings — with 1,607 strikeouts. 

There is a reasonable argument for the Phillies to be pursuing older, veteran and proven pitchers with the intention of getting them to sign a shorter deal. With their young talent waiting in the wings, the front office will surely not want to block potential homegrown (and cheap) starting pitching from coming to the big league level. 

One has to think that if deGrom, or another of the over 30-year-old pitchers on this list is willing to sign a short-term contract, that will be the Phillies' play for 2023.

2. Justin Verlander

FORMER ASTRO | 39 | EXPECTED AAV: $45M | 18-4, 1.75 ERA in 2022

Verlander just won his second Cy Young award, not two weeks after winning his second World Series championship. While he may not have resembled the best pitcher in the entire AL when he faced the Phillies in the Fall Classic this year, he did have really good stuff, and was able to help the 'Stros win a very important Game 5. 

Nearing 40, Verlander could be an ideal target for the Phillies from a short-term deal perspective, but he will definitely be looking to maximize his value and could fetch north of $40 million a season. This would be an all-in move for sure.

3. Carlos Rodón

FORMER GIANT | 30 | EXPECTED AAV: $32M | 14-8, 2.88 ERA in 2022

Rodón is probably the starting pitcher atop most fans' wish lists. Prior to a stellar follow-up campaign to his 2021 season that showed he had Cy Young stuff, Rodón was a bit of a late bloomer. Over his first seven seasons, all with the White Sox, he had a 4.14 ERA and 29-33 record. Over his last two seasons, he's come on as one of the best in baseball at 27-13 with a 2.67 ERA.

Which Rodón is the real Rodón? It will likely cost more than $30 million over three or four years to find out. The Phillies could be that team.

4. Chris Bassitt

FORMER MET | 34 | EXPECTED AAV: $21M | 15.9, 3.42 ERA in 2022

Bassitt has spent most of his career under the radar pitching in Oakland, and over eight seasons in the majors he is 46-34 with an ERA of 3.45. He is one of the more consistent hurlers on this list and has been relatively healthy over his career, which saw him break through later in life at age 25. Bassitt kind of splits the difference between the Phillies' need for an ace-type pitcher but their desire to commit for fewer years. If they can get Bassitt on a deal in the ballpark of two-years, $35 million he might be the perfect acquisition.

5. Nathan Eovaldi

FORMER RED SOX | 32 | EXPECTED AAV: $16M | 6-3, 3.87 ERA in 2022

If the Phillies are looking for a third ace, the list likely stops with the top four guys on our list. If they want to bring in a veteran arm who has proven he can win in the majors, and who can be a solid 4th starter, Eovaldi is a good fit for the role. With ties to Dombrowski dating back to their time together in Boston, the 32-year-old has had an inconsistent career, with six of his 11 big league seasons under an ERA of 4.00. Three of those have come in the last three seasons, however, and you could do worse than Eovaldi as your No. 4.

6. Sean Manaea

FORMER PADRE | 30 | EXPECTED AAV: $12M | 8-9, 4.96 ERA in 2022

It's hard to find pitchers who are consistently winning games in the majors, and Manaea is a flawed but talented pitcher who could be had for a relatively fair deal. He had a down year playing for the Phillies' NLCS foes in San Diego following a trade last season. But, he previously won 50 games over six seasons with the Athletics to start his career with a 3.86 ERA over that span. If his rough 2022 was a blip, he'd fit nicely in the middle of the Phillies rotation.

7. Jameson Taillon

FORMER YANKEE | 31 | EXPECTED AAV: $14M | 14-5, 3.91 ERA in 2022

Taillon was a solid contributor to the Yankees starting staff in 2022 and is looking for a new job for 2023. He's posted a winning record in all but one of his MLB seasons and has a career ERA of 3.84. He has less than 800 innings under his belt over his career and at age 30 he could be the kind of starter to be a piece of a rotation for a long time. 

8. Andrew Heaney

FORMER DODGER | 31 | EXPECTED AAV: $11M | 40-4, 3.10 ERA in 2022

Here's another pitcher in his early 30s with low mileage — just over 700 innings pitched over nine seasons. Part of that is because he's been injured quite a bit over his career. But when he is able to get on the mound he has good stuff with 760 strikeouts and just 198 walks. Last season the lefty had a career-low ERA. If he is trending up, $11 million is a steal.

9. José Quintana

FORMER CARDINAL | 34 | EXPECTED AAV: $14M | 6-7, 2.93 ERA in 2022

An above-average starter who has pitched for an impressive six teams over 11 seasons, Quintana has a career ERA of 3.75. At age 34, Quintana pitched like an All-Star for his first five seasons before hitting a wall for his next five, posting an ugly 4.51 ERA from 2017-2021. He rebounded last season — and if the Phillies think he has more of that to offer he could be a savvy pick-up for their rotation.

10. Zach Eflin

FORMER PHILLIE | 28 | EXPECTED AAV: $13M | 3-5, 4.04 ERA in 2022

Eflin was a serviceable middle of the rotation starter for the Phillies before injuries shortened his 2022 season and the Phils elected to put him in the bullpen after he returned. He was a valuable part of the Phillies' postseason bullpen, and if he doesn't get a deal he likes with another team could be a last-resort option for Philadelphia.

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