Why is Yovani Gallardo Still a Free Agent?

Long-time Milwaukee Brewers and recent Texas Rangers starting pitcher, Yovani Gallardo, is still a free agent, despite the calendar already showing February. As teams are getting ready for spring training, Gallardo is still looking for a team. Why is a guy who was an All-Star in 2010 and received Cy Young votes, good for seventh place in 2011, still looking for a team, despite clubs being desperate for starting pitching? There are several reasons, not the least of which is the ugly qualifying offer general managers see attached to his name.

After the 2015 season, the Texas Rangers made a qualifying offer to Gallardo. The 29-year-old had the option of taking a one-year deal worth $15.8 million, or becoming a free agent. He elected free agency, and may be regretting that decision as his former teammates are preparing to leave for Florida and Arizona.

Gallardo had a decent year in 2015 by conventional numbers, posting a 13-11 record with a 3.42 ERA. A deeper look, however, shows cause for concern. The ex-Ranger posted the lowest strikeout rate of his career by far, with only 5.91 K/9. This is part of a concerning pattern for the righty, who peaked at 9.89 K/9 in 2009 and held steady with at least 8.99 K/9 through 2012. He dipped to 7.17 K/9 in 2013, then 6.83 K/9 in 2014 before bottoming out in 2015 with 5.91 K/9.

Not coincidentally, the pending free agent has also experienced a dip in velocity following the same pattern. While his average fastball speed has dipped a bit, the big change has been in his peak velocity. In 2009, Gallardo could reach back and fire a 97.5 mph fastball, while his fastest pitch was 93.9 mph in 2015. In average velocity, 2009 Gallardo came in at 92.3 mph. During the 2015 campaign, his power fell to 90.5 mph.

All of this is not damning evidence, though. Gallardo can still be an effective pitcher in the low 90s, but he will have a hard time finding a team willing to pay him anywhere near his qualifying offer. Gallardo posted 2.5 fWAR in 2015, certainly good enough for the back end of a good team’s rotation. The issue seems to be Gallardo’s desire to be paid as the front line starter he once was. Several teams have “shown interest” and come away without a contract offer, implying that Gallardo and his agent are expecting too much. With only a couple of weeks left until the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues start up in full force, the former 17-game winner may need a reality check.

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