Has the most dominant pitcher in the history of Camp seen the last of his days as a ML starter? It's a fair question to ask considering the decline of Arizona's Earl Gabriel over the past few seasons. Gabriel hasn't been the same since a stress fracture caused him to miss a significant amount of time in season 8 and now the 5-time Cy Young Award winner hits free agency as a 39-year-old.
It's not known what Gabriel's demands are for the upcoming season but one would have to assume that the Thunder Chickens intend on re-signing him. But season 9 was the worst season for Gabriel since his first full season in the desert. He went 14-8 with a 3.88 ERA in 37 starts for Arizona last season, which are pretty decent numbers for the average pitcher. Gabriel, however, is held to a different standard. The 3.88 ERA was his worst since season 2 and his ERA has been climbing sharply since season 7.
Combine a steady increase in ERA with a sharp decline in ratings, and Arizona seems to have a decision on their hands. Heading into season 10, Gabriel has lost 8 points off his stamina, 5 points off his control and 5 and 6 points off his L and R splits respectively, not to mention what he's lost on each of his pitches. To pile on, his health rating, which was never that great, now resides at a scary 47.
Flash Hammond and Orlando Blanco are the clear 1-2 punch at the front of the Thunder Chickens rotation these days but after those two there are plenty of question marks, the biggest of those question marks being Gabriel. Does Arizona try to squeeze as many innings out of him as possible as a starter this season or move him into the bullpen? Do they even re-sign him at 39-years-old or do they let him walk or perhaps even work a sign and trade with another team? Arizona GM colson55555 has said in the past that Gabriel will retire a Thunder Chicken, though that was before his major injury in season 8. Time will tell what's in store for Camp's winningest pitcher of all time.