It’s hot stove season, which means it’s time for free agency rumors to swirl. Here at Today’s Knuckleball, we polled our writers and had them rank this season’s free agent class. The process was simple; each writer provided his or her top-25 free agents. A first-place vote netted 25 points, a second-place vote 24, and so on.
That left us with our top-25 free agents, as decided by our writers. We begin with the man who took 25th place (amongst nearly twice that many who received votes). Here’s former-Orioles Wei-Yin Chen, who netted 46 total points: (Over the coming days there will be approximately three FA profiles per day from 25 on down. So if you want to find one that isn’t on here (Chen, Estrada) Check out Today’s Knuckleball)
Wei-Yin Chen, formerly of the Orioles from 2012-15, his entire MLB career, was offered a $15.8 million qualifying offer which he may (but is unlikely to) accept. It has been reported that Chen is seeking a five-year contract, perhaps even six years given the need for pitching this year. Being a left-hander doesn’t hurt Chen’s case as a free agent either, making the likelihood of him rejecting the one-year qualifying offer that much higher.
Chen began his career in 2004, playing in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, for the Chunichi Dragons. Chen signed with the Orioles as an international free agent in 2012. For the most part, Chen has been a solid and consistent pitcher for the Orioles. The left-hander offers a low-90’s two-seam fastball, a low-80’s slider, an above-average changeup and the very occasional curveball. He doesn’t get a lot of ground balls and is more of a fly-ball pitcher.
In 2014 and 2015, Chen was great in Baltimore. He went 16-6 with a 3.54 ERA in 31 starts for the Orioles in 2014, pitching 185.2 innings. In 2015 he got even better, putting up a 3.34 ERA over 191.1 innings and another 31 starts.
He has had his health issues, having had Tommy John surgery in 2006, an oblique injury that limited him to just 23 starts in 2013. The following offseason, he underwent knee surgery to remove bone spurs. Chen will be 31 in July, so durability could be a question for some clubs.
Overall, Chen has been a solid two or three starter. Despite having had the Tommy John procedure, it has held up and there’s been no elbow or shoulder issues in his career since. There doesn’t seem to be much for clubs to worry about health-wise.
However, the New York Yankees have expressed interest in Chen, have the means to sign him and would like to. Yankee Stadium lends itself to left-handed pitchers, and they need a left-hander. Since Andy Pettitte retired after the 2013 season, CC Sabathia has been the Yankees lone left-hander.
Plus, the Yankees need a pitcher they can count on long-term. Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova will all be free agents after 2017, leaving the Yankees with just Luis Severino and Adam Warren as the only two starting pitchers still under team control. Having Chen locked down for the next five or six seasons would provide a great sense of stability for the Yankees.
Chen will obviously come cheaper than a David Price-type, but not too cheap. He’s made approximately $15 million over the past four seasons with Baltimore, but now he has proved himself to be reliable as well as quite good.
His agent is the famed Scott Boras, who always gets his clients the deals they’re after. With a need for pitching around the league, many other teams will likely be after Chen, driving up his price. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect Chen to get somewhere in the vicinity of $15 million a year for five or six years, especially if he ends up with the Yankees.