A potentially intriguing free-agent pitcher may be off the market before it fully develops.
Right-hander Randy Messenger, who has spent the last three seasons dominating Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan for the Hanshin Tigers, has set a Nov. 15 deadline to entertain offers from major league teams, said his agent, Matt Sosnick.
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Messenger, 32, has a standing three-year offer from Hanshin that with incentives is worth up to $15 million. He is seeking a two-year deal in the $8 million to $10 million range to return to MLB. While multiple teams have offered a one-year deal – one team went to one year plus an option – none has reached two years yet, Sosnick said.
The mid-level starting-pitching market is usually one of the last to materialize, and accelerating the timetable – Hanshin expects an answer from Messenger by mid-month – could keep him from returning to MLB.
After reinventing himself as a starter in Japan with the help of a split-fingered fastball, the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Messenger has thrived. He led the Central League in innings pitched and strikeouts this season with 196 1/3 and 183, and his 2.89 ERA was fifth among starters. It was his third straight sub-3.00 ERA season, though with run-scoring up across NPB this season, it marked Messenger’s best year compared to the rest of the league.
Scouts this season saw Messenger’s fastball reach up to 96 mph, though one said he sits closer to 92-93. His splitter and slider give him a strong enough off-speed complement that the scout believes he could be a back-end major league starter. From 2005-09, Messenger was a reliever with the Marlins, Giants and Mariners.
On Yahoo’s ultimate free-agent tracker, Messenger ranks 22nd among starting pitchers and 64th overall.