2014 MLB Free Agency: Top 5 Available Pitchers
Top 5 Pitchers Available in 2014 MLB Free Agency
With the World Series winding down, I decided to take a look at the free agent market for pitching this offseason. With offensive stars like Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury set to hit the market, the star power of this offseason is with the hitters and not the pitchers.
There simply is not a pitcher that will command the money that Zack Greinke got from the Los Angeles Dodgers last offseason. That being said, there is plenty of pitching depth that could help teams take the next step.
As the old adage goes, you can never have too much pitching. Those words are even more true in today's game.
The 2013 playoffs have been dominated by talented starting pitching. Guys like Michael Wacha, Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright have cruised through the playoffs, baffling opposing hitters along the way. It is an arms race out there right now. If teams expect to compete, they must have the pitching.
If a team does not have the arms in their system to be competitive, free agency is the next logical way to add them. However, it will not be cheap. As the demand for pitchers goes up, so do the prices. Greinke received a six-year, $147 million contract last season, but even the middle-tier options are becoming very pricey. Edwin Jackson signed a contract with the Chicago Cubs last offseason for four years and $52 million. Jackson is a solid pitcher, but does a pitcher with a career 4.47 ERA deserve that kind of money? It Seems crazy, but it is the going rate for pitching these days.
Building though the farm system is always the most cost-effective way to build a club, but for those teams this offseason that need to buy pitching depth, the arms are there. Here are the top five free agent pitchers for 2014.
5. Hiroki Kuroda
Hiroki Kuroda was very good for the New York Yankees last season, posting a 3.31 ERA and reaching 200 innings pitched for the third consecutive season. Kuroda's stuff will not blow you away, but he his a solid pitcher that simply does a good job getting batters out. He will be 39 before the 2014 season starts, so Kuroda is nothing more than a one- or two-year stopgap. That being said, with a career ERA of 3.40 and WHIP of 1.179, you can do a lot worse than Kuroda as your third or fourth starter for a couple of seasons.
4. Ricky Nolasco
Pitching for both the Miami Marlins and Los Angeles Dodgers last season, Ricky Nolasco had a 13-11 record with a 3.70 ERA. At 30-years old, Nolasco still has plenty left in the tank and unlike Kuroda, he will be looking for a longer deal. Nolasco appears to have solid stuff, but his strikeout numbers leave plenty to be desired. Also, Nolasco pitched in two very pitcher-friendly ballparks last season, and I worry that it made his numbers look a little better than it should. Nolasco is a solid middle-to-late rotation piece with upside, but he is risky.
3. Fernando Rodney
Fernando Rodney was not nearly as dominant in 2013 (3.38 ERA, 37 saves) as he was in 2012 (0.60 ERA, 48 saves). That being said, Rodney's stuff was still electric as he struck out 11.1 batters per nine innings, which was actually better than the 9.2 he struck out in 2012. The problem for Rodney this season was his control. He walked a staggering 4.9 batters per nine innings and struggled with his command throughout the season. The control issues are a legitimate concern, but Rodney is only one season removed from being one of the most dominant closers in history. The stuff is obviously still there and I think Rodney could be a bargain because of his down year.
2. Ervin Santana
In his first season with the Kansas City Royals, Ervin Santana had probably his best season in the major leagues. Many times, he was a tough-luck loser, ending the season with a 9-10 record, but his ERA was 3.24 and WHIP was 1.142. Santana seemed to finally reach his potential this season and should be in for a nice payday, whether that means returning to the Royals or heading somewhere else.
1. Matt Garza
Matt Garza was one of the biggest names to get traded last season going from the Cubs to the Texas Rangers. He finished the season with a respectable 10-6 record and 3.82 ERA, but he definitely declined in the second half with the Rangers. Garza's ERA was 3.17 with Chicago and 4.38 with Texas. He seemed to struggle adapting the offensively superior American League.
With all that being said, I still think that Garza is the best pitcher in this free agent class. His AL numbers are concerning, but he spent his first five seasons in the AL before heading to Chicago and was very good then. Injuries are a concern with Garza, but he has good stuff and a proven track record. At 29-years old, Garza would be a great addition to any rotation.