MLB free agency: Giants' starting pitching options

MLB free agency: Giants' starting pitching options
November 1, 2013, 5:30 pm
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Masahiro Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year in Japan. (USATSI)

The Giants have been vocal they'd like to add starting pitching, and there are plenty of options on the free agent market. The experts at HardBallTalk.com have compiled their list of the Top 150 free agents. 

Here are the starting pitching options:

x. Masahiro Tanaka (RHP Japan – Age 25): Tanaka isn’t a free agent, but if he were, he’d be No. 3 on the list. Expectations are that he’ll be posted this month, though MLB and the NPB are currently working on coming to terms on a new posting agreement. My guess is that the team that signs Tanaka will end up making a commitment that rivals the one Ellsbury will get. However, Tanaka himself will probably end up with just about half that money, with the rest going to his club in Japan, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. He should be valued as a $20 million-per-year pitcher, though. The Yankees, Dodgers and Rangers are all expected to be very much involved.

2013 stats: 24-0, 1.27 ERA, 183/32 K/BB in 212 IP

4. Matt Garza (RHP Rangers – Age 30): Garza didn’t fare particularly well in his return to the American League, going 4-5 with a 4.38 ERA in his 13 starts after being traded from the Cubs to the Rangers. There are also lingering doubts about his arm after he missed the second half of 2012 with a stress reaction in his elbow. Still, he has the best combination of track record and relative youth of any of the free agent starters, which should earn him a five- or six-year deal. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s the one elite free agent who won’t cost a draft pick; because he was traded at midseason, the Rangers can’t get compensation for losing him. He’d seem to be a lock to get at least $80 million this winter, and $100 million may not be out of reach.

2013 stats: 10-6, 3.82 ERA, 136/42 K/BB in 155 1/3 IP

5. Ervin Santana (RHP Royals – Age 31): The Angels gave Santana away to the Royals rather than pay him $13 million in 2013. He’ll be much more costly this time around after finishing with a career-best 3.24 ERA in 211 innings. That he does give up a lot of homers will likely scare away some teams that play in smaller ballparks, but it won’t stop him from getting about $18 million per year. Despite the old concerns about his shoulder, he’s made 30 starts in four straight seasons now. He’s made at least 23 in all eight of his seasons in the big leagues.

2013 stats: 9-10, 3.24 ERA, 161/51 K/BB in 211 IP

6. Ubaldo Jimenez (RHP Indians – Age 29): No free agent did more to enhance his stock down the stretch than did Jimenez. The Indians won each of his last six starts, with Jimenez allowing just six runs — five earned — in 41 1/3 innings during the span. He fanned at least 10 in four of his last eight starts, and he finished the second half with a 1.82 ERA and a 100/27 K/BB ratio in 84 innings. Of course, all of this comes after a 2012 season in which he was one of the league’s worst starters, finishing with a 5.40 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP. Jimenez will certainly be a risky signing, but he offers more upside than any other free agent starter in his age group.

2013 stats: 13-9, 3.30 ERA, 194/80 K/BB in 182 2/3 IP

10. Hiroki Kuroda (RHP Yankees – Age 39): This is Kuroda’s third straight year as a free agent after he left money on the table to sign with the Yankees the previous two offseasons. He hasn’t lost anything on the mound, having finished with the same ERA and WHIP last season as he did in 2012, and he should be able to command the highest one-year salary of any pitcher in this year’s free agent crop if he wants to shop himself around. However, he’ll probably choose between those same two options he did last year: staying with the Yankees or returning to Japan.

2013 stats: 11-13, 3.31 ERA, 150/43 K/BB in 201 1/3 IP

11. A.J. Burnett (RHP Pirates – Age 37): With a 3.41 ERA and 389 strikeouts the last two seasons, there’s no doubt that Burnett has earned himself a healthy two-year contract this winter. The question is whether he wants one. He’s openly discussed retirement, and it doesn’t seem to be any sort of negotiating ploy. If he does come back, it’ll probably be on a one-year deal with the Pirates. But if he were to play the market, he certainly shouldn’t have to settle for anything less than the $35 million for two years that Tim Lincecum just got from the Giants.

10-11, 3.30 ERA, 209/67 K/BB in 191 IP

14. Tim Hudson (RHP Braves – Age 38): Hudson had a rough May last season, but he was pitching quite well in the two months up until he suffered a fractured ankle on a play at first base, ending his season. His strikeout rate (6.5 per 9 IP) rivaled his best mark in a decade. Hudson has taken less money to stay with the Braves before, and it sounds like there’s mutual interest in a new deal, even though the Braves have an enticing starting five without him. If he were to test the open market, he’d probably get $15 million per season for one or two years.

2013 stats: 8-7, 3.97 ERA, 95/36 K/BB in 131 1/3 IP

16. Bronson Arroyo (RHP Reds – Age 37): Arroyo just keeps on spinning breaking ball after breaking ball up there with remarkable success. In four of the last five seasons, he’s finished with ERAs between 3.74 and 3.88 and with a strikeout total in the 120s. He’s also never been hurt; 2013 was his ninth straight season of at least 32 starts. The Reds will move on rather than pay the price to keep him, but he’ll get at least $26 million for two years from some team needing a steady hand. The Angels are one of the more obvious fits.

2013 stats: 14-12, 3.79 ERA, 124/34 K/BB in 202 IP

19. Bartolo Colon (RHP Athletics – Age 40): This one will be fascinating. Colon finished second in the AL in ERA last season, not to mention second in wins. He was also quite good in 2012 before he got slapped with a 50-game steroids ban. However, Colon is 40, he has a modest strikeout rate and he’s benefitted from pitching in Oakland with a strong outfield defense behind him (though his home-road splits are essentially even the last two years). Tim Lincecum just got $17.5 million per year after being half of the pitcher Colon was the last two seasons (statistically and physically). In this market, wouldn’t Colon be worth $20 million or more on a one-year deal? I’m not sure he’ll end up getting more than half of that, though.

2013 stats: 18-6, 2.65 ERA, 117/29 K/BB in 190 1/3 IP

20. Ricky Nolasco (RHP Dodgers – Age 31): With his strikeout rate on the way back up, Nolasco had the second best season of his career in 2013. Even with the ugly fade at the end, he was particularly good for the Dodgers, going 8-3 with a 3.52 ERA and a 75/21 K/BB ratio in 87 innings after coming over from the Marlins. Since missing most of 2007, Nolasco has been very durable, averaging 31 starts per year. He’s not really the kind of guy a contender would want for one of the top three spots in the rotation, but since the large-market teams could look at him as a No. 4 and the small-market teams could view him as an innings-eater for the top of the rotation, he should be quite popular.

2013 stats: 13-11, 3.70 ERA, 165/46 K/BB in 199 1/3 IP

21. Jason Vargas (LHP Angels – Age 31): A blood clot in his pitching arm knocked Vargas out for about seven weeks last season, but he was his usual self when he was on the mound. Put him in a big ballpark with a strong outfield defense, and he’ll be a very solid middle-of-the-rotation option, and since he’s not quite as much of a flyball pitcher as he used to be, he could still be of use in more neutral parks as well. He could get $30 million for three years, maybe a bit more.

2013 stats: 9-8, 4.02 ERA, 109/46 K/BB in 150 IP

24. Dan Haren (RHP Nationals – Age 33): Haren salvaged his season following a midseason stint on the DL to rest an inflamed shoulder. After going 4-9 with a 6.15 ERA in 15 starts prior to the injury, he finished up 6-5 with a 3.29 ERA the rest of the way. The peripherals suggest that he’s worthy of another one-year, $13 million deal, which is what he got from the Nationals last winter. Since his velocity is down and he’s not the workhorse that he used to be, a multiyear deal would be dangerous.

2013 stats: 10-14, 4.67 ERA, 151/31 K/BB in 169 2/3 IP

25. Scott Kazmir (LHP Indians – Age 30): Left for dead after giving up five runs in 1 2/3 innings in his lone appearance for the Angels in 2011, Kazmir’s comeback was one of the nice stories of last season. Inconsistent early on, he was at his best down the stretch, posting a 3.38 ERA and an 82/17 K/BB ratio in 72 innings after the break. In September, he had a 43/4 K/BB ratio and allowed just one homer in 28 innings. Health is a big question mark going forward, so it’d be awfully risky to sign him to a long-term deal. That finish, though, should land him a contract worth about $10 million per year.

2013 stats: 10-9, 4.04 ERA, 162/47 K/BB in 158 IP

26. Phil Hughes (RHP Yankees – Age 27): Once counted on to lead a wave of young pitching for the Yankees, Hughes and Joba Chamberlain will be departing with nary a whimper this winter. Hughes simply must find his way to a ballpark that’s move forgiving towards his flyball tendencies; he’s allowed 39 homers in 177 innings at Yankee Stadium the last two years, compared to 20 in 160 innings on the road. Given his youth and durability, he should have his pick of three-year offers to choose from, or he can gamble on a one-year deal with the hopes of getting a bigger payoff next winter. As long as his arm feels good, he should go the latter route.

2013 starts: 4-14, 5.19 ERA, 121/42 K/BB in 145 2/3 IP

29. Scott Feldman (RHP Orioles – Age 31): Feldman took a one-year, $6 million deal from the Cubs last winter coming off a season in which he went 6-11 with a 5.09 ERA for Texas. He has a much better ERA this time around, though his peripherals are about the same, and should get a raise and a multiyear deal as a result.

2013 stats: 12-12, 3.86 ERA, 132/56 K/BB in 181 2/3 IP

31. Josh Johnson (RHP Blue Jays – Age 30): A healthy Johnson would have been the top pitcher on the board this winter, but he had a disastrous season while dealing with elbow woes. What gives some hope going forward is that his velocity was fine and his strikeout rate was actually outstanding in his 16 starts. Still, in eight big-league seasons, he’s made 20 starts four times, 30 starts twice and pitched 200 innings just once. On something like a one-year, $10 million deal with incentives that could add $8 million, he’d be worth a try.

2013 stats: 2-8, 6.20 ERA, 83/30 K/BB in 81 1/3 IP

32. Paul Maholm (LHP Braves – Age 31): Maholm had a 3.54 ERA in his 11 starts with the Braves in 2012 and a 3.69 ERA through three months last season, but he started struggling in July, went down with a sprained wrist and then had a bit of an elbow problem at the end of the year. That’s all bad news for his stock. Fortunately, nothing major turned up with the elbow. Maholm is still relatively young at 31, and he’s made at least 26 starts in eight straight seasons. His signing won’t be met with a lot of excitement, but he should land a substantial two- or three-year deal.

2013 stats: 10-11, 4.41 ERA, 105/47 K/BB in 153 IP

40. Suk-Min Yoon (RHP Korea – Age 27): Yoon hopes to capitalize on fellow Korean Hyun-Jin Ryu‘s success in jumping to MLB, but after a down season, he’s not likely to be valued quite so highly. On the plus side, Yoon is a free agent, so there’s no posting required. Yoon had his best years in 2008 and 2011, when he was the KBO MVP after going 17-5 with a 2.45 ERA and a 178/44 K/BB ratio in 172 1/3 IP. He should be able to contribute as a reliever if he doesn’t cut it as a starter. The guess here is that he signs for about $18 million for three years, but it only takes one team to go overboard.

2013 stats: 3-6, 4.00 ERA, 76/28 K/BB in 87 2/3 IP

41. Roy Halladay (RHP Phillies – Age 36): Halladay finished 2013 without his usual velocity or movement, but he also claimed he wasn’t hurt. At this point, he seems highly unlikely to regain his old stuff, and while he might be able to survive with a lesser arsenal, it’s going to be hard for him to thrive. So, what to wager? He should have to settle for an incentive-laden contract, but someone might guarantee him $10 million or more based on his history and his work ethic.

2013 stats: 4-5, 6.82 ERA, 51/36 K/BB in 62 IP

44. Scott Baker (RHP Cubs – Age 32): It looked like Baker, who originally hoped to come back from Tommy John surgery in May, might miss the full season, but he returned for three starts in September and pitched well in two of them. Unfortunately, his velocity was well down, resulting in fewer strikeouts than usual. But just the fact that he did get back on the mound makes him quite a bit more attractive in free agency. If he returns at full strength next year, he’s a $15 million pitcher. However, because of the question marks, he may not go for more than half of that.

2013 stats: 0-0, 3.60 ERA, 6/4 K/BB in 15 IP

46. Randy Messenger (RHP Japan – Age 32): A journeyman major leaguer from 2005-09, Messenger became one of the best pitchers in Japan in 2011 and turned in his third straight sub-3.00 ERA last season. He also struck out 25 more batters than anyone else in the Central League. The belief is that he’d prefer to return to MLB now, but he’s already received a strong offer to stay with Hanshin. To lure him away, some team may need to commit to a three-year deal in the hopes that he’s the new Colby Lewis or Ryan Vogelsong.

2013 stats: 12-8, 2.89 ERA, 183/56 K/BB in 196 1/3 IP

48. Wandy Rodriguez (LHP Pirates – Age 35): When Rodriguez was traded from Houston to Pittsburgh in 2012, it turned his $13 million for 2014 from a club option into a player option. With a healthy 2013 season, he probably would have declined it. However, since he missed the final two-thirds of the season with forearm and elbow soreness, it’s pretty much a no-brainer for him to exercise the option and stay with the Pirates.

2013 stats: 6-4, 3.59 ERA, 46/12 K/BB in 62 2/3 IP

60. Jason Hammel (RHP Orioles, 31): 4.97 ERA, 96/48 K/BB in 139.1 IP

61. Bruce Chen (LHP Royals, 36): 3.27 ERA, 78/36 K/BB in 121 IP

64. Jake Westbrook (RHP Cardinals, 36): 4.63 ERA, 44/50 K/BB in 116.2 IP

65. Chris Capuano (LHP Dodgers, 35): 4.26 ERA, 81/24 K/BB in 105.2 IP

69. Ryan Vogelsong (RHP Giants, 36): 5.73 ERA in 103.2 IP, $6.5 mil club option

70. Manny Parra (LHP Reds, 31): 3.33 ERA, 16 Hd, 56/15 K/BB in 46 IP

70 1/2. Jose Veras (RHP Tigers, 33): Tigers declined $3.25 mil option

71. Colby Lewis (RHP Rangers, 34): DNP – elbow, hip surgeries

74. Joe Saunders (LHP Mariners, 32): 5.26 ERA, 107/61 K/BB in 183 IP

79. Mike Pelfrey (RHP Twins, 30): 5.19 ERA, 101/53 K/BB in 152.2 IP

81. Gavin Floyd (RHP White Sox, 31): TJ surgery, 5.18 ERA in 24.1 IP

83. Eric O’Flaherty (LHP Braves, 28): TJ surgery, 2.50 ERA in 18 IP

93. Chris Carpenter (RHP Cardinals, 38): DNP – shoulder, expected to retire

96. Edinson Volquez (RHP Dodgers, 30): 5.71 ERA, 142/77 K/BB in 170.1 IP

98. Shaun Marcum (RHP Mets, 32): Thoracic outlet surgery, 5.29 ERA in 78.1 IP

102. Roberto Hernandez (RHP Rays, 33): 4.89 ERA, 113/38 K/BB in 151 IP

106. Erik Bedard (LHP Astros, 35): 4.59 ERA, 138/75 K/BB in 151 IP

109. Tim Stauffer (RHP Padres, 31): 3.75 ERA, 7 Hd, 64/20 K/BB in 69.2 IP

114. Ted Lilly (LHP FA, 38): 5.09 ERA, 18/10 K/BB in 23 IP

118. Johan Santana (LHP Mets, 35): DNP – shoulder surgery

119. Michael Gonzalez (LHP Brewers, 35): 4.68 ERA, 11 Hd, 60/25 K/BB in 50 IP

123. Aaron Harang (RHP Mets, 35): 5.40 ERA, 113/40 K/BB in 143.1 IP

126. Juan Carlos Oviedo (RHP Rays, 32): DNP – TJ surgery, Rays hold $2 mil option

128. Barry Zito (LHP Giants, 35): 5.74 ERA, 86/54 K/BB in 133.1 IP

133. Daisuke Matsuzaka (RHP Mets, 33): 4.42 ERA, 33/16 K/BB in 38.2 IP

137. Roy Oswalt (RHP Rockies, 36): 8.63 ERA, 34/9 K/BB in 32.1 IP

141. Clayton Richard (LHP Padres, 30): Shoulder surgery, 7.01 ERA in 52.2 IP

145. Tsuyoshi Wada (LHP Orioles, 33): Tommy John rehab, 4.03 ERA in AAA

147. John Lannan (LHP Phillies, 29): 5.33 ERA, 38/27 K/BB in 74.1 IP

150. Rich Hill (LHP Indians, 34): 6.28 ERA, 13 Hd, 51/29 K/BB in 38.2 IP

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