4 alternative free agent targets for the Phillies with Sonny Gray off the market

WBC Team Japan starting pitcher Shōta Imanaga
WBC Team Japan starting pitcher Shōta Imanaga / Eric Espada/GettyImages
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Seth Lugo

According to FanSided's MLB Insider Robert Murray, Seth Lugo is "drawing interest from more than half the league" following his departure from the Padres. He was most recently connected to the Tigers, who presumably let talks die down after they signed Kenta Maeda, leaving Lugo open for exploration with other teams. Lugo ranks just below Stroman on both the Athletic and MLB Trade Rumor's lists of top 40 and 50 free agents, and it's easy to see why — they're close in age, have eight and nine years in MLB respectively, and have pitched to similar career ERAs (Lugo with 3.50 and Stroman with 3.65).

But Lugo diverges from both Stroman and Sonny Gray in a rather essential way: he only found new life as a big league starter this year, having served as a bullpen arm for the other seven years of his career with the Mets. The Padres were onto something; in 2023, Lugo pitched 146 1/3 innings, the most in his career, to a respectable 3.57 ERA. He also produced similar-to-better numbers to Stroman, with a 8.61 K/9, and career bests 2.21 BB/9 and 2.8 fWAR, despite missing a month with a calf strain.

Lugo could come cheaper than Gray, Stroman, and Shōta Imanaga, while also having more life in him as a starter, even though he just turned 34. He stood to make $7.5 million more with the Padres had he stayed in San Diego, but he took a gamble on himself by opting into free agency instead. He stands to make a projected $10 million a year on his next contract, so it feels safe to say that it was a good bet. If the Phillies are looking for a bargain option to round out their rotation, Lugo could be their man.