In weak pitching market, former Oriole Jason Hammel remains available

After the Orioles’ re-signing of free agent Mark Trumbo, their payroll for 20 players now signed for 2017 is in the $154 million range.

That would seem to make it unlikely the club would pursue former Oriole Jason Hammel, a right-handed starter still out there among the remaining free agents. That and the fact the Orioles would be back at six starters for five spots if they added Hammel.

It seems strange in a year that was not robust in free agent starters that Hammel is still out there. In 2016 for the Chicago Cubs, he went 15-10 with an ERA of 3.83 over 166 2/3 innings.

jason-hammel-throwing-gray-sidebar.jpgHis numbers were not far off his strong 2012 season stats for the Orioles, a year that ended with him making two starts in the American League Division Series. He had a 3.43 ERA, 123 ERA-plus and 1.237 WHIP then. Last season, he had that 3.83 ERA, a 105 ERA-plus and a WHIP of 1.206.

But Hammel was left off the Cubs’ postseason roster for all three series. One reason for that was their already strong rotation, but a second may have been his poor finish to last year. He had some elbow tightness late in the year and went 1-3 with an ERA of 8.71 and a .330 batting average against in four September starts. Perhaps that was a red flag for teams looking at him this winter. Also, the Cubs declined a team option on him for $12 million, instead paying him the $2 million buyout. Another red flag or more a sign of a very strong rotation?

The richest contract so far for any free agent pitcher is three years and $48 million for Rich Hill, who re-signed with the Dodgers. Next is the two-year deal for $26 million when Ivan Nova re-signed with Pittsburgh.

Several free agents signed one-year deals and the richest went to Bartolo Colon (15-8, 3.43 ERA) for $12.5 million as he went from the Mets to the Braves. Right-hander Andrew Cashner (5-11, 5.25 ERA) got $10 million as he went from Miami to Texas.

In November, rated Hammel as the No. 15 free agent available (and No. 4 starting pitcher) on its top 50 list. He was projected to get a three-year deal worth $42 million. It’s pretty clear he won’t get that now, but some team might still pick him up and add a decent mid-rotation starter.

* Tampa Bay traded Logan Forsythe to the Dodgers to acquire their No. 3 prospect.
* FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman lists Matt Wieters as the top remaining free agent.
* A Kansas City Star remembrance of Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura.

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