Because he’s currently turning teams away. Bill Ladson of MLB.com tweeted this morning that the veteran right-hander declined a deal with the Nationals, while Ken Gurnick of MLB.com tells us this evening that the Dodgers aren’t willing to sign him at his current asking price.
Of course, this probably all comes down to finding a guaranteed major league contract. His agent Alan Hendricks is no doubt talking up Looper’s 14 wins from last season, as he should, but we all know better. The 35-year-old posted a 5.22 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 34 starts last season, while striking out a meager 100 batters in 194 2/3 innings (4.62 K/9 – sixth lowest in the majors among starters with at least 150 IP).
Looper has earned the reputation as a groundball pitcher, but has seen his flyball rate increase sharply since transitioning to the starting rotation. It’s unlikely he gives up as many home runs this season as he did last, but he’s still at the mercy of the players behind him. If a guaranteed contract is what he seeks, he might be best served to play the role of ambulance-chaser, waiting for the first sign of injury in a team’s starting rotation.
Former Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is up for grabs this offseason, and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says that as many as nine suitors are interested in bringing the righty aboard. While the Red Sox are eager to retain Eovaldi’s services after his lights-out performance during their recent postseason run, they’ll have to contend with the Brewers, Phillies, Braves, White Sox, Padres, Blue Jays, Giants, and Angels — all of whom are reportedly positioned to offer something for the starter this winter.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the 28-year-old in 2018, however. After losing his 2017 season to Tommy John surgery, he underwent an additional procedure to remove loose bodies from his right elbow in March and didn’t make his first appearance until the end of May. He was flipped for lefty reliever Jalen Beeks just prior to the trade deadline and finished his season with a combined 6-7 record in 21 starts, a 3.81 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, and 8.2 SO/9 through 111 innings.
Despite his numerous health issues over the last few years, Eovaldi raised his stock in October after becoming a major contributor during the Red Sox’ championship run. He contributed two quality starts in the ALDS and ALCS and returned in Games 1-3 of the World Series with three lights-out performances in relief — including a six-inning effort in the 18-inning marathon that was Game 3.
A frontrunner has yet to emerge for the righty this offseason, but Cafardo points out that the nine teams listed so far might just be the tip of the iceberg. Still, he won’t be the most sought-after starter on the market, as former Diamondbacks southpaw Patrick Corbin is expected to command an even bigger payday following his career-best 6.0-fWAR performance in 2018.