Scott Feldman signs with Astros as pitching market thins

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros have signed Scott Feldman to a 3-year deal, and the pool of affordable starting pitchers is just about empty.

The Houston Astros have signed starting pitcher Scott Feldman to a 3-year, $30 million contract, which will make Feldman the highest-paid player on the team (Feldman also becomes one of just two Astros with even 3 full years of MLB service time!).

Feldman is 30 years old, and has been basically league-average as a starting pitcher during his career, and was a bit better than that in 2013, when he posted a 3.86 ERA (105 ERA+) over 181.2 innings split between the Cubs and Orioles, with peripherals (strikeouts, walks, home runs) that also put home right around average.

$10 million a year for average isn't bad, though it should be noted that he missed most of 2011 after having microfracture surgery on his knee, and 2013 was his first season with even 160 innings pitched since 2009. I wouldn't have been crazy about seeing the Indians sign Feldman for 3 years, not when better pitchers have been landed for fewer years and/or less money, but his signing does take another fairly solid starting pitcher off the market, and there are now very few second-tier arms left (surprisingly few, given that the Winter Meetings still don't even start for another two days).

The very best free agents pitchers are still out there, but guys like Matt Garza and Masahiro Tanaka (if he ends up being made available to MLB teams) are certainly out of the Indians' price range. A few weeks back I ranked the available starting pitchers (with the top five being filled by unobtainables). You can find the list for  #6-10 here, and for #11-15 here. Among those ten pitchers, the only ones still unsigned are Bartolo Colon and Bronson Arroyo. There's no one else out there that threw 150+ innings with something like average performance. There's no one else out there worth more than a 1-year flier (among the 1-year flier players, you might take your chances with Roy Halladay, hoping he can somehow turn back the hands of time).

I know there are some who've not given up on the idea of Ubaldo Jimenez returning to the Indians, perhaps inspired by the lack of rumors about him (Baltimore is the only team I've seen linked). I suspect that the market for those top guys is being delayed by negotiation with NPB (Japan's professional league), because teams looking to make a big splash on a pitcher want to see what happens with Tanka before committing to someone else. Once that plays out, I think we'll find there are teams quite content to give up a draft pick in order to sign Ubaldo to a bigger deal than the Indians will.

Every day brings me closer to accepting that Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, Zach McAllister, and a big question mark will comprise the Tribe starting rotation come April.


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