Dan Straily, coming off the best year of his professional career in the KBO, may be on his way back to Major League Baseball for 2021.
Baseball fans became very aware of the Korean Baseball Organization in 2020. Thanks to Covid-19 shutting down the Major League season, the KBO was the only readily available baseball we had for weeks. And while some of us watched KBO games live at 3:00 am EST, we got to know Dan Straily.
Straily was entering his first season in the KBO after failing to stick in Major League Baseball. And he absolutely dominated the league. So much so, that now Major League teams are starting to gain interest in bringing him back from across the pacific.
And boy oh boy is Mish right about one thing. Straily is one of the most interesting free agents on the market this year.
In his previous MLB stint, he was simply not good. There’s really no way to sugarcoat it when you give up a lot of hard contact and don’t strike a lot of hitters out. In 2019, he posted just a 14% strikeout rate while allowing a 49.2% hard hit rate and 91.4 mph average exit velocity. That’s a pretty easy explanation for his 9.82 ERA in 47.2 innings.
But it’s not all ugly in Straily’s MLB career. Sure, he was never going to be a dominant pitcher but he put together enough to stay in the league. He had a lot of years with an ERA hovering around 4.00. It’s not all-star level but it’s probably a job somewhere.
But the thing that really makes his free agency case interesting is the expected cutbacks from MLB front offices. Straily probably won’t command that much money on the open market. But teams still need to figure out how much he needs to be swayed from the KBO. A lot of that will be determined by how confident they are that Straily found something in the KBO rather than pitched down to the competition. If teams can’t identify concrete improvements, it’s unlikely anyone will give him enough to bring him back from the KBO. There’s simply no market for lower-tier pitchers this year.
But if teams do see concrete improvements, Dan Straily could really surprise the league come 2021. He’ll never be an ace-level pitcher. But there are a lot of teams in desperate need of rotation help that could get Straily at a great price.