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Three Available Free Agent Starters (Or Potential Relievers) Who We’ll Likely See Again in 2023

 Leif Skodnick  |    Mar 26th, 2023 5:01pm EDT

Matt Harvey made two appearances for Team Italy during the World Baseball Classic. (Photo by Gene Wang/Getty Images)

By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network

Pitching is the most sought-after commodity in professional baseball, and with the average Major League Baseball team using 12.267 starters per season, every team needs more pitching depth. 

In 2022, 368 pitchers started games for the 30 Major League Baseball clubs. Four – Nick Pavetta, Merrill Kelly, Gerrit Cole, and Corbin Burnes – made 33 starts, while 160 pitchers made five or fewer starts over the course of the season. Framber Valdez of the Houston Astros led the major leagues in quality starts (a start where the pitcher throws six or more innings and allows three or fewer runs) with 26 in 31 starts.

But at some point, when a team’s starting rotation is beset by injuries, teams need to reach down and find a spot starter. There are more than 30 free agents with starting pitching experience in the Major Leagues who are available, but these three will likely be seen again on a big league bump this season.

Matt Harvey (RH)

Harvey last played in the Major Leagues with Baltimore in 2021, pitching half of last season in Triple-A with Norfolk after serving an 80-game suspension for a violation of MLB’s policy regarding drugs of abuse. He appeared in two games for Italy during the World Baseball Classic in March and was effective, helping Mike Piazza’s squad knock off Cuba and the Netherlands in pool play and advance to the quarterfinal against Japan at the Tokyo Dome.

Make no mistake – the Matt Harvey of 2023 is not the Matt Harvey of 2015, when he started two games against the Royals in the World Series for the New York Mets. He now relies heavily on a sinker that hums in around 90 mph, and mixes in a slider, a curveball, a changeup, and the occasional four-seamer, a departure from earlier in his career when 60% of the pitches he threw were fastballs and less than 30 percent of his pitches were sliders, sinkers, or curves.

Harvey told World Baseball Network that he wants to pitch in the major leagues again, and at a bargain price, someone is going to give him a contract sooner rather than later. It’s just a matter of a team being willing to give him a chance and Harvey believing that organization is the right fit.

Chris Archer (RH)

Archer, 34, is definitely a recovery project at this point, and it’s no surprise he didn’t find a spring training invite in his mailbox given his numbers in Minnesota last year. In 25 starts, Archer’s ERA of 5.19 was disappointing, and it was the fourth season in a row (he didn’t pitch in 2020) that the two-time All-Star posted an ERA+ under 100. 

Relying on a slider and a curveball for around 50% of his pitches, Archer also throws a four-seam fastball and a change up. He had a $3.5 million deal with Minnesota that was bought out for $750,000, and he’s struggled with hip and arm injuries over the past few seasons, but Archer could eat some middle innings and make a few spot starts for a team at a bargain basement price.

Mike Minor (LH)

Mike Minor is one of the few lefties still available with extensive Major League Baseball experience, having pitched 11 seasons in the big show with Atlanta, Texas, Kansas City, Oakland, and most recently Cincinnati, where he made 19 starts in 2022.

Batters caught up to Minor’s fastball and slider last year, but he’s still effective changing speeds and throwing a curveball. He’s lost around three mph on his four-seamer since his career-best 2019 season, where he posted an ERA+ of 144, was an All-Star and finished eighth in the balloting for the American League Cy Young Award.

In addition to being a spot starter, he could be an effective reliever, which is where Kansas City used him in 65 games during the 2017 season – the only season where Minor didn’t make a start. He posted a 176 ERA+ that year along with a 1.017 WHIP. Perhaps he can be effective again in a short relief role and prolong his career.

Pitch velocity and frequency data via Baseball Savant. Contract information via Spotrac.