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Examining the free agent starting pitcher market

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Nov 16, 2013 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Wrapping up USA Today’s series looking at baseball’s free agent class is this breakdown of the available starting pitchers. The Yankees have made it clear that they’re in the market for at least two starters, with Brian Cashman saying the team needs to find 400 innings somewhere.

Masahiro TanakaTop shelf

The bidding starts with Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, regarded as the top starter on the market once he’s posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Tanaka, 25, went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season and figures to draw the kind of interest Yu Darvish attracted two years ago, when the Texas Rangers invested more than $107 million to obtain his rights and sign him.

Among the current major leaguers, right-handers Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Matt Garza lead the pack of available starters despite mixed results in recent years. They’re all in the 30-year-old range and coming off strong seasons, even if Garza tailed off after being traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers.

Jimenez is particularly intriguing because, after his mechanics became discombobulated and his confidence sank with his results for more than 2½ seasons, he regained his ace stuff during the second half of last year. Jimenez led the AL in ERA (1.82) after the break and struck out 100 in 84 innings. Unexpectedly, his two- and four-seam fastballs picked up velocity late in the season, with August and September registered the highest average speed for both pitches (93-plus mph), according to brooksbaseball.net.

Santana throws nearly as hard and performed consistently for the Kansas City Royals, with only one month in which his ERA climbed above 3.85. Always homer-prone, Santana cut down on his gopher balls from 39 to 26 while reducing his ERA by nearly two runs to a career-best 3.24, so he’s entering the market at the right time.

Garza’s value took a hit when he pitched poorly with the Rangers, giving up at least four earned runs in seven of his last 11 starts. That raised questions about his ability to succeed in the American League. But he was mostly sharp with the Cubs, including a midseason stretch when he pitched at least seven innings while allowing no more than one earned run in five consecutive starts.

Hiroki KurodaMiddle class

Ricky Nolasco boosted his free-agent resume right after getting traded from the Miami Marlins to the Los Angeles Dodgers, going 8-1 with a 2.07 ERA in his first 12 starts with his new team. He seemed like a shoo-in to remain close to his Southern California roots, before a late-season tailspin (12.75 ERA in his final three starts) and a so-so postseason outing clouded that picture. Still, Nolasco has won in double figures six years in a row while making at least 31 starts in five of those seasons, so he remains an attractive option for clubs seeking a No. 3 starter.

Nolasco will be 31 in December, considerably younger than the next three starters in this category — A.J. Burnett, Bartolo Colon and Hiroki Kuroda — all of whom would start next season at age 37 or older.

Burnett blew up in his one postseason start, but his 3.30 ERA in 30 starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates matched his career best, and his 209 strikeouts were his highest total since 2008. Burnett still throws in the 93-94 mph range and has improved command of his outstanding curveball, his out pitch. The veteran right-hander has indicated a predilection for returning to the Pirates, who could get a hometown discount.

Colon, 40, and Kuroda, 38, showed their age late in the season and can probably be had for one-year deals. Colon actually had a tremendous September (4-1, 1.16 ERA) after an August stint on the disabled list and will get some Cy Young Award consideration. Kuroda finished with a 3.31 ERA for the New York Yankees despite fading badly at the end.

Worth a flier

Bronson Arroyo, Scott Kazmir, Scott Feldman, Josh Johnson. All have their warts and their virtues.

Arroyo, 36, is a soft-thrower prone to giving up the longball who nonetheless has started at least 32 games in nine consecutive seasons and pitched 199 or more innings in all of them, the last eight at Cincinnati’s hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.

Kazmir, who turns 30 in January, resurrected his career with the Cleveland Indians after nearly two full seasons out of the majors. The lefty had a 4.04 ERA and averaged better than a strikeout per inning.

The 6-7 Feldman doesn’t overpower hitters but gets ground balls with his sinker and pitched to a 3.86 ERA in 30 starts split between the Cubs and Baltimore Orioles.

Johnson, who will be 30 in January, was the NL ERA champ in 2010 but has a history of injuries and had a miserable year with the Toronto Blue Jays (2-8, 6.20 ERA) before undergoing surgery to remove loose bodies and a bone spur from his elbow right after the season.

Johan Santana, Ricky BonesRecycling bin

There are lots of starters hoping to regain old glory, such as former Cy Young Award winners Roy Halladay, Johan Santana and Barry Zito. More realistic options might be the likes of Daisuke Matsuzaka, who had three terrible starts with the New York Mets but finished the season with four strong ones, and Chad Gaudin, who had a 3.53 ERA in 12 starts for the San Francisco Giants.

Market watch

When the Giants awarded a two-year contract worth $35 million to Tim Lincecum, who went a combined 20-29 with a 4.76 ERA the last two years, the message was clear that even mediocre starting pitching would be costly this offseason.

Even if that deal is regarded as a bit of an anomaly, it’s bound to have repercussions on the rest of the market. The top available starters are not ace types, but they can still expect to land four- and five-year deals with an average annual value in the $15 million range.

One complicating factor for some of those leading starters, especially Jimenez and Santana, is their teams made them qualifying offers, so the club that signs them must surrender a first-round draft pick, or a No. 2 if it falls in the top 10. That may limit their appeal, but in a market with few high-level options, they can still expect to cash in.

Associated Press photos

 
 

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39 Responses to “Examining the free agent starting pitcher market”

  1. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    Get Kuroda and Tanaka and call it good.

    ;)

  2. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    CC
    Kuroda
    Nova
    Tanaka
    Phelps/Nuno

    Warren/Pineda/ Banuelos/J-Ram as BU’s

    Solid.

    :)

  3. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    It’s too bad we can’t afford Joe Nathan.

    I’d love to have him for a yr. or 2.

  4. tomingeorgia November 16th, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Mister MTU,
    Might as well be baying at the moon, right?

  5. jacksquat November 16th, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    MTU says:November 16, 2013 at 6:44 pmIf Cano walks the Yankees gain what it would have cost to sign him which is approx. 25 mil.That does not buy you Choo, Beltran, McCann, and Freese.Not even close.

    So you think the only thing they are going to do for the offense is sign Cano? They are adding more than that.

  6. jmills November 16th, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    http://r12—sn-tt17rn76.c.....&mv=u

    Sinead.

  7. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    Mister Tom-

    I guess so.

    :(

  8. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Jack-

    I want them to field a competitive team.

    If they can do that for under 189 I’m fine with it.

    It seems unlikely though.

    Maybe they should just blow thru 189 and reset when the timing is better ?

    They want Cano, Kuroda, and hopefully Tanaka.

    That doesn’t leave them much room. I don’t expect A-Rod’s suspension to be more than 100 games.

  9. mick November 16th, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    You take on big contracts, multi years and blow the 189, you will never reset it.
    He’s not going to do that unless he signs 1 year deals and those will be mediocre players.
    These FA’s aren’t worth it.

  10. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Mick-

    Are you advocating letting Cano walk if he won’t take less than 200 Mil ?

  11. jacksquat November 16th, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    I expect Arod will get at least 100, I will not be surprised if it is 150+ though.

    They have to sign more than Cano, otherwise the lineup is:

    Gardner cf
    Jeter ss
    Cano 2b
    Teixeira 1b
    Soriano lf
    Wells dh
    Nunez 3b
    Ichiro rf
    Cervelli/Romine c

    Yuck.

  12. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    They can afford guys like Navarro and Freese (if they can get him).

    Not sure what they will do about the OF.

  13. jacksquat November 16th, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    I don’t think Beltran is getting 3 years from anyone. He’s probably asking for 3 hoping to get 2.

  14. JobaTipsHisCap November 16th, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    like sux, yanks will have a pair of japanese pitchers next season

  15. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Jack-

    I wouldn’t give Beltran any more than a 1 yr. deal and I wouldn’t surrender the #18 just to add him alone.

    Not even sure he’d fit within 189 if you figure Cano, Kuroda, and Tanaka.

    He’s going to want 10-15.

    We need a 3b and maybe a catching upgrade ahead of that.

  16. ron November 16th, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    tanaka,and jimenez works for me.Let cano walk,then sign cruz,navarro,drew,peralta.

    Navarro
    tex
    peralta
    jeter
    drew
    cruz
    gardner
    ichiro/wells
    Soriano

    cc
    tanaka
    nova
    jimenez
    who cares

  17. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Ron-

    I don’t think the Yankees want to let Cano walk.

  18. Pat M. November 16th, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    I just can’t see Hal Steinbrenner singing a check for 60 million dollars to another ballclub just to then turn around and sign a pitcher for another 50 million. I’ll believe this when I see it. Also I didn’t see him doing it two years ago for Darvish and I can’t see him doing now for a lesser talent at a higher expense. And save the Lux Tax angle because it’s still about him cutting a check for 60 million dollars . Yanks PR machine is blowing smoke up our tailpipes and until they do something differently I’m not buying

  19. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    OK Pat.

    I completely understand your skepticism.

    If they want Tanaka that’s the freight.

    I think they want him. Bad. For a variety of reasons.

    Maybe bad enough to break ranks a little.

    We’ll see.

    ;)

  20. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    It might even be more.

    ;)

  21. ron November 16th, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    I don’t either,and if we can get him for 6/150,i’d do it,but absolutely no more.

    If all we are going to do is pay cano 28 million for 8 years,and that prevents us from ever having a more balanced team,like the 90′s teams,i don’t wan’t cano.

    I have no problem paying cano.I just don’t wan’t to overpay him.We’ll see.

  22. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Ron-

    Then you’re losing him because I think he’ll be able to exceed that by a fair margin.

    I think the Yankees will go more than that.

    Not sure how much more but more.

    ;)

  23. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Pat-

    Watching what Darvish has done maybe the Yankees have learned something ?

    ;)

  24. pkyankfan69 November 16th, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    I just can’t see Hal Steinbrenner singing a check for 60 million dollars to another ballclub just to then turn around and sign a pitcher for another 50 million. I’ll believe this when I see it. Also I didn’t see him doing it two years ago for Darvish and I can’t see him doing now for a lesser talent at a higher expense. And save the Lux Tax angle because it’s still about him cutting a check for 60 million dollars .
    ————————
    I think Hal wants to prove that the 189 plan is not a failure as bad, if not worse, than he wants to save money. Hal is a business man, not a baseball man, and the 189 plan is his baby, he wants to prove that it wasn’t a bad idea for the franchise. Tanaka helps the Yanks compete and stay under 189 big time this year since the posting fee doesn’t count against the luxury tax. We might lose him to the Dodgers but I fully expect a $60M+ bid from the Yanks.

  25. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    “I fully expect a $60M+ bid from the Yanks.”

    It will probably take more.

  26. Pat M. November 16th, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    MTU. Well it would be a pleasant and welcomed addition along with Jimenez ( which I doubt they’ll sign ) Add those two along with Sabathia and a rebuilt Michael Pined and suddenly The Yanks look strong rotation wise. The real issue is that they have so many key gaps to deal with that could have been addressed a few winters ago mainly their outfield situation. Granderson walks, well now they are not only losing a power stick it’s a lefthanded power stick. That was the whole reason for trading for him to replace the loss of Matsui and Damon. Yanks are not The Yanks unless they have three power sticks from the left side

  27. pkyankfan69 November 16th, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Probably agreed MTU, just meant to say I think they will be aggressive with Tanaka… Anything over $60M as bid I would take as pretty aggressive.

    On a side note, we just got take out from this Afghanny place down the street… Food is awesome… Never knew how good hummus is.

  28. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Pat M.-

    I’m hoping they grab Kuroda and Tanaka.

    The O needs an upgrade for sure.

    If they keep Cano I’m not sure they have a lot of room left unless they forego 189.

  29. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    PK-

    Hummus comes in lot’s of varieties.

    It’s really delicious if it is spicy IMO.

  30. Pat M. November 16th, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    I think the 189 is a lark if the F

  31. Pat M. November 16th, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    If the Front Office is going into 2014 with the intent of fielding a quality ballclub. Sorry for the disjointed post

  32. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    Pat-

    We are fixing to find out.

    ;)

  33. pkyankfan69 November 16th, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    I don’t see how they are a championship team in ’14 under $189.
    Hopefully they surprise me and go over.

    MTU, The hummus we got was pretty spicy… Delicious… Always looked gross when I walked past it in the supermarket… Never knew how good the fresh stuff could be.

  34. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    Time to part company soon.

    Hike day tomorrow.

  35. joeman November 16th, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    you know my thoughts on that 189

  36. tucker November 16th, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    I think the Jaguars have a better chance winning the Super Bowl this season than the Yankees do spending more than 189. They have been working toward this goal for 3-4 years. They won’t scrap it now.

  37. MTU November 16th, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    Nite all.

    Manana.

    :)

  38. austinmac November 17th, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Good morning all. Moving slowly, I see.

    The only Yankee news this week will be the tidbits we hear of the arbitration hearing. Maybe Tanaka posting resolution? I don’t foresee any signings this early.

    The last few years have left me leery the team will do much. They need to, but I will be be very surprised if they outbid others for the top players. They can’t spend it all on a few.

  39. blake November 17th, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Had one with the stomach bug last week and have been just waiting for it to strike again…..sure enough last night it struck back with his brother. I can’t remember the last full nights sleep I got.


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