Starting pitcher Zach Plesac has elected to become a free agent. Plesac spent most of the 2023 season with the Columbus Clippers, the Triple-A Affiliate of the Cleveland Guardians.
A once-promising arm in Cleveland's rotation, Plesac put together an impressive first two seasons in the majors. In his first 29 starts, Plesac sported a 3.32 ERA and 1.088 WHIP with 145 strikeouts in 171 innings. Unfortunately, it was during that 2020 season that things started to turn.
In a highly publicized incident, Plesac, along with former teammate Mike Clevinger, violated MLB COVID protocols during a trip to Chicago and was subsequently sent home. The decisions that were made not only put themselves in jeopardy but also fellow teammate Carlos Carrasco. Carrasco had been diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia the year before, meaning that he was considered to be more vulnerable to COVID-19. The actions of Plesac and Clevinger infuriated teammates, including Oliver Perez threatening to leave the team should either return.
The following season saw Plesac's numbers tumble, with his ERA increasing to 4.67 and WHIP 1.199, while his strikeouts per nine dipped by three from the year before, 9.3 to 3.3. 2022 saw Plesac's ERA descrease to 4.31, but his WHIP increased to 1.322 in 25 games.
Plesac's final chance to stake his claim in the Guardians' rotation came this past season, and he was unable to do so. The 28-year-old struggled across the board, with career worsts in earned run average (7.59), WHIP (1.969), and strikeouts per nine innings (5.9) in five starts (21.1 innings). This resulted in Cleveland designating him for assignment, followed by being sent to Triple-A Columbus, where he remained for the rest of the season.
Plesac's fortunes did not change with the Clippers, struggling with a 6.08 ERA and 1.479 WHIP in 19 games (18 starts). The truly alarming aspect of his stint in Triple-A in 2023 was that he allowed 30 home runs in 94.2 innings. This was the most home runs allowed by Plesac at any level of his professional career.
It will be interesting to see what sort of offers that Plesac receives as he begins his excursion into free agency. If Plesac was unable to be successful in one of the most pitching friendly organizations, how likely is he to find success elsewhere?