Thursday December 7, 2023

MLB’s Sticky Stuff Crackdown Could Cost Some Pitchers Millions

  • MLB is cracking down on pitchers using foreign substances on the ball, and the results could affect player earnings going forward.
  • The rule enforcement is of particular interest to a group of soon-to-be free agent pitchers.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports/Design: Alex Brooks
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MLB’s new rules against pitchers using foreign substances — commonly referred to as “sticky stuff” — are already having far-reaching consequences and could affect future earnings for numerous players.

With offense at record lows, MLB instituted regular checks on pitchers for sticky substances, with the threat of a 10-game suspension should any be found. Seattle Mariners pitcher Hector Santiago received the first such suspension in June. 

The upcoming free agent class has a host of pitchers who may see their market value defined by their results since the crackdown.

  • The Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer, who has indicated that he used to use sticky stuff, is finishing up a seven-year, $210 million contract.
  • San Francisco Giants’ Kevin Gausman has been one of the top pitchers this season, and will be a free agent at season’s end. He is making $18.9 million. 
  • Others — such as the Mariners’ Kendall Graveman, who has been less effective since the crackdown, and the Boston Red Sox’s Garrett Richards, who has seen a major drop in fastball spin since the crackdown — could see potential earnings fluctuate over the coming months.

Not all soon-to-be free agents have been affected adversely, however. Chicago’s Lance Lynn, who is making $10 million this season and scheduled to become a free agent at season’s end, agreed to terms on a two-year, $38-million contract extension with the White Sox on July 17.

As for MLB, the league is likely happy with the results: strikeouts are down and offense is up since the crackdown took effect on June 3.

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