Former KBO leaguer dreams of $10 million a year… now he’s down to a minor league contract

Chris Flexen (29, Colorado) had high hopes before his return to the major leagues. A year after playing for Doosan in the KBO, he’s back on the radar of major league clubs. He was offered $4.75 million (about 6.4 billion won) for two years, a sum that was hard to imagine in the KBO.

Before coming to the KBO, he didn’t have a very impressive record in the major leagues. However, coming to the KBO, with its steady opportunities, was a turning point in his career. He was able to showcase his main pitches in a slightly less demanding environment and prove that he could throw 100+ innings of hardball. That’s how he caught the eye of Seattle.

“We didn’t get to see him in person (due to COVID-19), so we had to rely on video,” Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto later recalled. “We didn’t get to see him in person, but we gathered a lot of data, video, and scouting information from his time with the New York Mets. The fact that it wasn’t a very expensive deal also supported Seattle’s bold decision.

Seattle’s eyes were on the right target, as Flexen quickly became the team’s fifth starter and was a solid performer, especially in his first year. He started 31 games in 2021, throwing 179⅔ innings and posting a 14-6 record with a 3.61 ERA. He was the centerpiece of a dominant starting staff.

Through the first half of 2022, no one seemed to threaten Flexen’s dominance. But nothing lasts forever in the majors. That was until the team acquired Luis Castillo via trade to fill a starting spot. Behind him, however, a wave of young starters, led by George Kirby, began to rise. When they were ready, Seattle predictably moved Flexen out of the starting rotation.

He pitched well last year, posting a 3.73 ERA in 33 games, but only 22 of those 33 games were starts and 11 were in long relief. Fortunately for him, he pitched 317⅓ innings over two years, earning an $8 million option for 2023, but he was still uneasy. With one year left on his contract, speculation that he would be used as a trade chip began to surface on a daily basis.

Chris Flexen failed to make a significant rebound after moving to Colorado.

Chris Flexen’s chances of making a big splash in free agency are slipping away.

Perhaps weighed down by the scrutiny, Flexen struggled in 2023. He appeared in 17 games for Seattle, but was only given four starts. A lot of that was due to Flexen’s own inability to capitalize on the few opportunities he was given. Most of all, a 4-0 record with a 7.71 ERA was a setback. Seattle traded him to the New York Mets, and the Mets, who had no intention of utilizing him in the first place, released him shortly thereafter. Despite having all of his salary guaranteed, a period of confusion ensued until he signed with Colorado.

Playing at Coors Field, the graveyard of pitchers, was tricky, but he wasn’t in a position to choose a team. The team hasn’t rebounded as expected. The ballpark is a pitcher’s hell on earth. In 11 starts for Colorado, he is 1-4 with a 6.46 ERA. That’s not exactly a rebound.

In fact, based on the last two years alone, Flexen could have been one of the last free agent bargains. While not spectacular, his ERA in 64 games (53 starts) over two years is 3.66. That’s definitely a competitive number for a #4 or #5 starter. Plus, he’s still young. He’ll be 30 next year. Given his age and track record, he should have been able to get at least a 1-2 year deal and $10 million per year at today’s prices.

However, he’s been very poor this year. His ERA is in the 7s. That’s not good, even considering the unfavorable conditions of using Coors Field. There’s no turnaround until the end. That’s enough to make teams think about 2023 rather than 2021-2022. No team is going to give a 7+ ERA starter a two-year guaranteed contract. It’s more like a minor league contract.

His actual hitting has gotten so bad. According to Statcast’s Expected Baseball Runs Above Average (xBA), which takes into account overall batted ball quality, including batted ball velocity, Flexen’s xBA was 0.261 in 2021 and 0.256 last year. Not bad, but this year that number jumped to .291. That’s a huge jump that can’t be excused simply because he spent half a year in Coors Field. The jump in BABIP is also a concern. Flexen has one more game to go. That’s too little to cover up his struggles this year.토토사이트

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