Just yesterday, I took the chance to write a little something about Miles Mikolas, a non-Shohei Ohtani starting pitcher available now after spending years in Japan. I figured that Mikolas was flying under the radar, but I had no idea he was so close to signing a major-league contract. It’s a perfect example of accidental timeliness. Mikolas has now reached an agreement with the Cardinals, for $15.5 million over two years. It’s a bit north of what some executives expected, but demand drove the price. Mikolas will get another opportunity to start in the bigs, after having been one of the better starters in Japan for three years.
I’ll just re-post the same image from Monday:
For three years, but last year in particular, Mikolas has succeeded through strikes and ground balls. He’s wound up with good strikeout rates, too, but not so much because of true swing-and-miss stuff. He’s gotten strikeouts by getting ahead and staying ahead. By winning these sweepstakes, the Cardinals are expressing the most faith in Mikolas’ ability to keep hitting his spots in the majors. He blends a low-90s fastball with a big curve and a sharp slider, and that slider, last season, was one of the most effective secondary pitches in the NPB. Mikolas additionally led the league in innings pitched one year after missing time with shoulder discomfort. Being just 29, he should be around the prime of his career.
The popular comp seems to be Colby Lewis. When Lewis returned to the majors from Japan in 2010, he made 32 starts and was worth 4.7 WAR. That sets probably too high a bar, but the arsenals are similar, and the terms here are still perfectly affordable, even despite the widespread demand. Last offseason, Edinson Volquez signed for two years and $22 million. Jason Hammel signed for two years and $16 million. Charlie Morton signed for two years and $14 million. Hell, Travis Wood signed for two years and $12 million. This is roughly how Mikolas has been classified. It’s not hard to see how he could exceed market expectations.
The Rangers had been closely linked to Mikolas, having had him before. Apparently they were thinking about trying a six-man rotation, including Mikolas, Mike Minor, and — potentially — Ohtani. Now they won’t have Mikolas, and they still might not get Ohtani, but it’s clear they’re open-minded. As for the Cardinals, Mikolas joins Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Luke Weaver, Alex Reyes, and Jack Flaherty. The rotation is deep in talent, if not in track record. Reyes won’t be ready to begin the season, and he could open as a reliever. Flaherty could probably use more time in the minors. That leaves the Cardinals with five names, with further depth available as needed. This also makes it easier to part with a starter for a hitter, so, in short, there are options. Signing Mikolas decreases financial flexibility, but it increases resource flexibility. We already knew the Cardinals were looking to make trades, and now it’s that much easier to subtract from the potential starting staff.
Mikolas is no guarantee to succeed, but he’s already succeeded at one of the world’s highest levels. He’s earned this shot, and if his command can carry over, this could look like a great deal in six or seven months. At last, it feels like the offseason market is opening up. I’d say it’s about time.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.
Sounds like a good deal to me. Given the prices on #3-#5 starters over the last few years, I’m surprised more teams weren’t it. He’s no riskier than giving Mike Minor another shot at the rotation.
True…but Mike Minor had alreadd proven (before injury) that he could start w/ success in the bigs. And last year, proved to be one of the best RP’s in baseball. Can Mikolas do that? Guess we’ll find out.