Dustin McGowan’s comeback attempt moves to the bullpen

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Once upon a time Dustin McGowan was a promising young starter who threw 281 innings with a 4.20 ERA between 2007 and 2008, but injuries sidetracked his career and now the Blue Jays say he’ll be coming back as a reliever.

If he comes back at all, that is.

McGowan hasn’t pitched in a major-league game since July of 2008, during which time he’s had two shoulder surgeries, and Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com reports that the Blue Jays are taking a “cautious approach” with his transition to relief, limiting him to 25-pitch bullpen session at less than full effort.

Currently on the 60-day disabled list so the Blue Jays can avoid using a 40-man roster spot on him, McGowan is likely headed to minor-league camp with the hope being that he can appear in a game there at some point later this month. Prior to the multiple surgeries McGowan definitely had the raw stuff to be a shutdown reliever, as his average fastball clocked in at 94.5 miles per hour, but the now 28-year-old right-hander has indicated that another setback could motivate him to retire.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.