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The ones who got away: The starting pitcher market

Posted By Chad Jennings On January 13, 2011 @ 2:30 pm In Misc | 134 Comments

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We keep hearing — and I keep writing — that this winter’s free agent market offered very little in terms of rotation options. But just how true is that statement?

The Yankees focused on Cliff Lee and hoped that Andy Pettitte would decide to pitch again, and now that Lee is gone and Pettitte is still uncertain, there are few alternatives available. Should the Yankees have been more aggressive early? Have they missed out on legitimate pieces because of their pursuit of Lee?

Using the handy free agent tracker [2] over at MLBTradeRumors — I prefer that one to the MLB.com version — I’ve listed every starting pitcher who has signed this winter. I’d say the idea of a thin market is absolutely accurate. This list offers very few sure things, and although hindsight is never fair, it’s worth looking back to the month and a half before Lee signed — and those frantic days when Lee was making his decision — to try to find missed opportunities.┬áThe Dodgers were the most aggressive team in the beginning of the offseason, re-signing Ted Lilly before he hit the open market and locking up two more starters before the end of November.

Off the board quickly
As you might expect, most of the early moves were re-signings.
This period covers the start of spring training through the Winter Meetings.

Hiroki Kuroda
Dodgers: 1 year, $12 million
Kuroda will be 36 this season and he’s spent his entire three-year career with the Dodgers. He’s been good for them — losing record but a 3.60 ERA and a good strikeout-to-walk ratio — and it’s hard to say whether he would have been willing to leave, especially with the Dodgers making an early push.

Jon Garland
Dodgers: 1 year, $5 million (plus vesting option)
In retrospect, this is the kind of durable starting pitcher who might have helped the back of the Yankees rotation. Nothing flashy, but Garland is consistently good for 200 innings (of course, we said the same about Javier Vazquez). His career NL ERA is 3.74. His career AL ERA is 4.47.

Jorge De La Rosa
Rockies: three years, $32 million
The Rockies had a deal to re-sign De La Rosa in place before the first of December. It was the crew at FoxSports that broke the news, and they noted that De La Rosa wanted to stay in Colorado. They also reported: [3]“The Yankees also have checked in, as they do on most prominent free agents, but their priority is Lee.”

Jake Westbrook
Cardinals: two years, $16.5 million (plus mutual option)
The Cardinals traded for Westbrook last season, then they moved quickly to re-sign him this winter. Westbrook is a bit of an injury risk, he came back from Tommy John surgery last season and pitched well, especially after moving to the National League.

Erik Bedard
Mariners: one year, $1 million
This market has no shortage of Bedard-type starters. He’s made a total of 30 starts in the past three seasons, none of them coming in 2010. The Mariners are still hoping to get something out of him, and they moved quickly to re-sign him to a non-guaranteed deal.

Javier Vazquez
Marlins: one year, $7 million
No chance the Yankees were going to re-sign him. No chance Vazquez was going to try to come back. Best for everyone to move on, and that’s exactly what they did.

Aaron Harang
Padres: one year, $4 million (plus mutual option)
Harang is from San Diego. In the past three years, pitching in the NL Central, he’s gone 18-38 with a 4.71 ERA and a steadily increasing WHIP. If I’m the Yankees, I’d rather take my chances with Sergio Mitre, but that’s just me.

Within the Cliff Lee window
From the Winter Meetings through Lee’s signing with Philadelphia.
This seems to be when the Lee talks were at their peak.

Scott Olson
Pirates: one year, $500,000 with heavy incentives (plus club option)
Olson’s first big league season showed promise, but since then he’s been pretty bad while pitching for the Nationals and Marlins. Now it’s the Pirates who have signed him. From Florida to Washington to Pittsburgh. That says a lot.

Vicente Padilla
Dodgers: 1 year, $2 million
Early in his career, Padilla had some good years with the Phillies, but he’s since become a back-of-the-rotation starter capable of stringing together a few dominant outings. Injuries last season made him even more of a risk than usual, and the Dodgers might use him in the bullpen instead of the rotation.

Dustin Moseley
Padres: one year, $900,000
The Yankees offered Moseley a Major League deal, but he decided to shopping for a better offer and found on in San Diego, where he could land a spot in the Padres rotation. Moseley was a solid spot starter for the Yankees last season.

Kevin Correia
Pirates: two years, $8 million
News of the agreement broke on December 8. Hard to know what to expect rom Correia. He’s spent all of his career in the NL West, and his ERA has been a roller coaster the past four years, from 3.45 to 6.05 to 3.91 to 5.40.

Ryan Rowland-Smith
Astros: one year, $750,000
Last season, the young lefty won one game and had a 6.75 ERA with the Mariners. He was solid the three years before that, but he’s generally been more effective as a reliever than as a starter.

Rich Harden
Athletics: one year, $1.5 million (plus incentives)
Harden is coming off another injury plagued season that saw him pitching out of the bullpen in September. He might fall into a bullpen role again this season. When he did pitch last season, he carried a 5.58 ERA in Texas.

After Cliff Lee
Amazing how quiet the market has been since Lee came off the board.
Jeff Francis, Justin Duchscherer, Kevin Millwood and others are still out there.

Chien-Ming Wang
Nationals: one year, $1 million with heavy incentives
One day after Lee signed with the Phillies, Wang re-signed with the Nationals. You know the Wang story, so I’m not going to rehash it here. There were — and are — several Wang-type starters on the market.

Brandon Webb
Rangers: one year, $3 million (plus heavy incentives)
Webb has one big league start in the past two seasons. He was once among the best starting pitchers in the game, but reports this fall of a low-80s fastball in instructional league [4]were not encouraging.

Brad Penny
Tigers: one year, $3 million
The most recent big league starter to come off the board, Penny is one of those risk-reward starters who have been fairly prevalent in this free agent market. He pitched well but made only nine starts last season.


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[1] Tweet: https://twitter.com/share

[2] free agent tracker: http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011-mlb-free-agents

[3] They also reported: : http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/jorge-de-la-rosa-colorado-rockies-near-free-agent-deal-112910

[4] low-80s fastball in instructional league : http://www.azcentral.com/sports/articles/2010/10/07/20101007arizona-diamondbacks-brandon-webb-instructional-league-jarrod-parker.html