Top Free Agent Starting Pitchers

Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Free agent season is officially upon us. Whether or not the Indians will be players on the market remains to be seen. Certainly the team has serious gaps that the farm system doesn’t yet seem ready to fill. Today: a look at the top available starting pitchers, perhaps the Tribe’s most pressing need.

These rankings are my opinion of how good each pitcher will be over the next few seasons, not how much money I expect it will take to sign each player. I will venture a guess at how much each of these guys will sign for. In some cases that figure will be more than I think they’ll be worth, and in some cases it will be less.

Top Free Agent Starting Pitchers (2012 numbers at bottom):


1) Zack Greinke – Some believe he hasn’t been anything special since his incredible 2009. Certainly his ERA figures have been more good than great since then, but his peripherals have been very strong. He strikes a lot of guys out, doesn’t allow many walks or home runs, and throws a lot of innings. The one "ace" available this year, he’s certainly going to be out of the Indians’ price range. My guess: 6 years, $126 million

2) Anibal Sanchez – He made himself a lot of money with a fantastic September and October. He’s always been overshadowed by other pitchers on his team, but he would immediately become the Indians’ best pitcher. Signing him would also put a dent in the Tigers’ strong rotation. Sanchez is still young enough that the longer contract it may require to land him could end well. My guess: 4 years, $56 million

3) Hiroki Kuroda –Many expected the move from Dodger Stadium to Yankee Stadium to wreck Kuroda’s numbers, but he was just as good -or better- than ever. His age would be a concern, but he’s rumored to prefer a one-year deal (so he can return to Japan if he prefers), and he’s been so consistent, there’s little reason to fear a large drop off in 2013. Kuroda is considered likely to either re-sign with New York, or return to the west coast. My guess: 1 year, $16 million

4) Dan Haren – He looked to be off the market when the Angels and Cubs agreed to a deal that then fell through. Bad news in his medical records would make this high a ranking look silly, but 2012 was his first down year and if he bounces back to something close to his previous form, he’ll wind up a bargain this offseason. My guess: 3 years, $33 million

5) Edwin Jackson – Jackson has been a very solid innings eater, averaging 200 frames a season with an ERA+ of 100 (exactly league average) over the last three seasons. That’s a great #4 starter, a solid #3 even, but I feel like many see him as something more than that, and I expect those who do will end up disappointed. He’s still in his 20’s, which will help him find a bigger contract. My guess: 3 years, $39 million

6) Kyle Lohse – A pitcher who just had the best year of his career might seem appealing, but Lohse just turned 34, not an age when many players peak. He’s never struck many batters out and he’s been aided by a low BABIP the last two years. He might be solid for a couple years yet, but at his age and the price I expect him to carry, I would avoid Lohse. My guess: 4 years, $52 million

7) Brandon McCarthy – McCarthy was struck in the head by a line drive in September, necessitating brain surgery and ending his season. His recovery is said to be going well and he is expected to be ready come spring. Other injuries have troubled McCarthy’s career too, but he’s been very solid when on the mound of late and the team that gambles on his health could be well-rewarded. I am bullish on him. My guess: 2 years, $20 million

8) Ryan Dempster – Dempster has quietly been a solid pitcher for years now. He’s maintained his K-rate while dropping his BB-rate over the years. He was roughed up a bit after being traded to Texas late last season, so there may be concerns over his ability to withstand the tough American League, but it seems a little silly to read too much into a few bad starts, in comparison to his years of solid pitching (including most of 2012). My guess: 2 years, $24 million

9) Shaun Marcum – Marcum has pitched enough to qualify (162+ IP) just twice in a career plagued by injuries. Still, those two years were 2010 and 2011, not long ago, and he was a very nice pitcher in those two seasons. Due to his history, he probably won’t be able to land a long term commitment, so he could bounce back to being a solid #2 type pitcher at a very reasonable price. My guess: 2 years, $18 million

10) Scott Baker – Baker missed all of 2012 after having Tommy John surgery in April. He may or may not be ready for Opening Day. Still, from 2007 to 2011 he posted solid K and BB-rates each season and put up an average WAR of 3. Yes, he’s a year removed from those numbers now, but the success rate of recoveries from Tommy John surgery is very high these days, so I think it’s reasonable to expect he can be a strong pitcher again. My guess: 2 years, $14 million


Here are some 2012 numbers for each of those ten players (Scott Baker’s numbers are from 2011, when he last pitched in MLB). Each player’s age is as off Opening Day, 2013:

Pitcher


Age*


Last Team


Innings


ERA+


SIERA


bWAR


fWAR


Z.Greinke

29

Angels

212.1

114

3.30

3.3

5.1

A.Sanchez

29

Tigers

195.2

105

3.64

2.6

3.8

H.Kuroda

38

Yankees

219.2

126

3.66

5.2

3.9

D.Haren

32

Angels

176.2

87

3.87

-0.6

1.8

E.Jackson

29

Nationals

189.2

98

3.75

1.6

2.7

K.Lohse

34

Cardinals

211.0

134

4.06

3.9

3.6

B.McCarthy

29

Athletics

111.0

123

4.25

2.0

1.8

R.Dempster

35

Rangers

173.0

124

3.77

3.6

3.3

S.Marcum

31

Brewers

124.0

111

4.02

1.3

1.4

S.Baker

31

Twins

134.2

129

3.44

4.2

2.8

Other notables: Joe Blanton, Scott Feldman, Jeremy Guthrie, Francisco Liriano, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, Joe Saunders, Carlos Villanueva

Pettitte probably belongs in that top ten, given how he pitched in 2012, but he doesn’t seem like an actual free agent to me, either he’ll return to the Yankees or he’ll retire again. Feel free to make your own list and put him on it, or just chastise me for leaving him off mine. The other "others" are a grab bag. There are some "high ceiling but unlikely to reach it" types, such as Liriano, and some "pretty steady but almost certainly not spectacular" types, such as Joe Saunders.

Which (if any) of these players will the Indians target? We’ll find out soon enough. Which players should the Indians target? You tell me…

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