2024 Pitching Market Update Begins MLBcom

2024 Pitching Market Update Begins – MLB.com

The ball has dropped, the confetti in Times Square has been cleaned up, and now we all have to get used to writing a new year on our checks.

(Who am I kidding? Nobody writes checks anymore!)

The Dodgers made headlines this winter with the signings of Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, while the Phillies, D-Backs, Giants, Reds and Royals all spent more than $100 million on free agents. Thirteen teams have given less than $15 million in free agency this winter, including four — the Yankees, Cubs, Marlins and Rockies — that have yet to spend any money (though the Yankees did make a big trade for Juan Soto).

With January just around the corner, let's take an FAQ-style look at the top three starting pitchers still on the board and where they stand.

The markets for the three left-handed hitters haven't crystallized as many expected when Yamamoto signed with the Dodgers, but it appears that a number of the teams interested in them actually overlap.

The Yankees and Angels are linked to all three, while the Cubs, Phillies, Mets, Red Sox and Giants are believed to be interested in at least two each.

That the Yankees, Mets and Giants are among the interested teams should come as no surprise after the three clubs did their best to sign Yamamoto. It wouldn't be shocking if the three pitchers ended up with these three teams, although the other clubs mentioned above certainly have something to say about it.

Which pitcher do you think has the strongest market in terms of the number of teams seriously pursuing him?

Although Imanaga doesn't have the track record of Snell (two Cy Young Awards) or Montgomery (World Series champion), the Japanese left-hander might have the most competitive market of the trio.

Why do you ask? For starters, he's a year younger than Snell and Montgomery, who each turned 31 last month; Imanaga doesn't turn 31 until September and played most of the 2024 season at age 30. Perhaps more importantly, Imanaga is expected to receive a contract closer to the five-year, $75 million deal Kodai Senga signed with the Mets a year ago, making him a cheaper option than his fellow southpaws.

As we saw with Yamamoto, major league teams don't hesitate much when it comes to signing pitchers from Japan, as most of the high-profile players who came to North America from Nippon Professional Baseball found success in the majors.

Imanaga has a 2.96 ERA in more than 1,100 innings over eight years, including a 2.50 ERA in his final three seasons, with some scouts projecting him as the No. 2-3 starter in the major leagues.

How much does the qualifying offer impact Snell's market (since he is the only one with one)?

Some clubs are adamant that they don't want to sacrifice their draft picks for free agents, so it can't be said that the qualifying offer has no impact. However, most teams willing to spend on a pitcher of Snell's stature are doing so with the idea of ​​competing in the immediate future, so losing draft capital likely won't stand in their way if they believe Snell is theirs will help the pitcher reach the next level.

“I don’t think people of this caliber will be much harmed by the QO,” said one manager. “I don’t think anyone who signs him will care that much about the draft pick as they are clearly trying to win now. The AAV and length of the deal are more important.”

Just last year, both Jacob deGrom and Carlos Rodón were among the players who declined a QO, signing free agent contracts worth $185 million and $162 million, respectively.

In what order do you think they will sign?

It seems like an obvious answer, but Imanaga should be the first of this trio to sign – because he's the only one with a hard deadline to do so. Imanaga's posting window ends at 5 p.m. ET on January 11, giving him just over a week to sign with a major league club.

The assumption here is that Montgomery is the second to sign, as he is likely looking for less money than Snell, who is coming off his second Cy Young campaign.

Can you predict where each guy will ultimately end up?

Based on conversations with executives and others in the industry, I'm not sure any strong favorites have emerged for any of the three areas. Predicting these things never seems to go well, but if I had to guess right now (which I seem to be doing), I'd say Imanaga signs with the Mets, Montgomery rejoins the Yankees, and Snell signs with the Angels… or Giants.