Just like the hitters, this is a list of impending Free Agent starting pitchers for those of you who like teams who need to rebuild, or, if you like a team that buys talent each offseason. I am not ranking relief pitchers because teams can build bullpens out of scrap pieces, like Ryan Franklin a couple of years ago, so if G.M.’s give millions to set-up men (see Soriano, Rafael and Cashman is an IDIOT), I will take their jobs. Enjoy (age as of Opening Day 2012).
Mark Buehrle, LHP, 33-years-old: This man has started AT LEAST 30 games in each of the 10 seasons and is well on his way to his 11th, AND he has thrown at least 200 innings in each of them, including 2,389 1/3 innings since the start of 2001. Sure, he has a lot of wear on his arm, but he doesn’t throw 95 mph and never has. He is a model of consistency. He has made over $91 million in his career, so he could settle for less and go where he wants, which was rumored to be St. Louis several years ago. We’ll see. To me, he is the best pitcher available this winter.
C.J. Wilson, LHP, 31-years-old: I guess you could call him a late bloomer, but Wilson is going to cash in BIG TIME this winter. He doesn’t have the name and track record that Buehrle has, but the results speak for themselves. He started 6 games in 2005, then made 234 relief appearances from 2006-2009, THEN…2010 happened. Wilson has started 60 games, going 28-13 with a 3.23 ERA over 385 innings. You can look at it two ways: 1) He has lots of innings left on his arm and is more valuable than any starter on the market, or 2) He is a risk due to his lack of starting history and sudden climb in innings over the last two seasons. In terms of value on a long-term deal, Wilson is the BEST signing in the starting pitcher class of 2012. Even with the depth in the Rangers system, I doubt he is going anywhere else, but his name will fly around the East Coast when Free Agency begins.
Edwin Jackson, RHP, 28-years-old: Team number 7, 8 if you count the hours he spent as a Blue Jay, may finally be the team that Jackson settles down with. I can see him getting an Oliver Perez-type of offer: a guy that hasn’t done much, has amazing stuff, and gets a solid offer because of it…and he can get it because Scott Boras is his agent. I wouldn’t say that the team that signs him will be suckers like the Mets, because…well…it’s the Mets we’re talking about. Whatever can happen will. He has the stuff to become a good #2 starter, but it is a matter of putting it together consistently. That is enough for someone to spend large.
Freddy Garcia, RHP, 35-years-old: Garcia has pitched very well for the Yankees, posting a 3.16 ERA in 20 starts. That could get him a $15 million/year deal if he plays his Posada-Rivera-Jeter card with Cashman this winter, but he’ll probably settle for one-year deals until he hurts his shoulder again. Garcia looks to have shown that he can be counted on to hold up over a full season again, so he could be signing with competitors for nice little contracts for the next few years as their #4 starter.
Chien-Ming Wang, RHP, 32-years-old: Wang is still in recovery mode, working his way back from shoulder issues that cost him nearly 18 months of pitching. He isn’t really showing much, posting a 4.33 ERA over 5 starts, throwing 27 innings with his typically ugly 7/6 K/BB. However, he wasn’t ever one to strike out many, posting just 180 K’s over 417 1/3 innings in his back-to-back 19 win seasons in 2006 and 2007. Wang isn’t someone to count on, but he is worth the gamble. He needs a good defense behind him with his high contact rates, so look for a team that can offer that to be at the top of his list. Washington, who has been more than generous monetarily and with patience in his recovery, would fit the bill again.
Aaron Harang, RHP, 33-years-old: Harang had an ugly finish to his time in Cincinnati, but he is regaining some relevancy at this point. He may just be another in a long line of Petco Park revitalizations, especially when you consider that his 6.4 K/9 IP is his lowest since 2003. So, what that means is that when he didn’t have his “stuff” and he was 18-38 from 2008-2010 for the Reds, he may have still been better than he is now. The joys of spacious ballparks. He is from San Diego, so he should probably stick around, but it is possible someone else bites on the “Harang-atan”.
Rich Harden, RHP, 30-years-old: Can you trust this guy? He hasn’t ever pitched more than 200 innings (reaching 189 in 2004), he has made 30 starts in a season just one time (31 in 2004), he has a 4.53 ERA since the start of 2009 season, in which, and he has made just 53 starts since 2009, as well. Stuff is great; however, you have to stay healthy. Oakland gave Harden $1.5 million and have just 9 starts out of him. He’ll probably get an incentive-laden contract this winter, but it’ll be a high-risk move by a team in desperate need of a starting pitcher. It’s a shame, too, because Harden really has electric stuff.