Last week I went into the “good” pitchers that are going to be available this offseason. I remain convinced that despite holes at first and in the outfield, starting pitching is what needs to be dealt with more than anything else. I think it is interesting to take a list of everyone who is available, just to see what options are out there. I took this list directly from Cot’s Baseball Contracts, which is a great reference site.
* – player whose current contract includes 2011 option
Bronson Arroyo * (1675 2/3 IP, 1118 K, 509 BB, 4.19 ERA) The Reds have an $11M option, GM Walt Jocketty said it will be picked up.
Erik Bedard * (822 IP, 801 K, 325 BB, 3.71 ERA) The Mariners have an $8M option which they won’t pick up. He has pitched well whenever he’s been healthy, which has amounted to 30 games over the last 3 years. He’s mounted a few unsuccessful comeback attempts, but a bad shoulder hasn’t gotten better, and there’s no telling whether it will. The M’s may well renegotiate with him anyway, as he’s expressed a desire to stay.
Kris Benson (1243 2/3 IP, 806 K, 441 BB, 4.42 ERA) That ERA number hasn’t been seen by Benson since 2005, and he’s gonna be 36 years old.
Jeremy Bonderman (1176 IP, 929 K, 404 BB, 4.89 ERA) Hasn’t been healthy, or particularly good, since 2006.
David Bush (1104 IP, 744 K, 286 BB, 4.66 ERA) His career ERA+ of 93 shows you what you’re getting. A below average bottom of the rotation starter/long reliever.
Chris Capuano (777 2/3 IP, 639 K, 261 BB, 4.35 ERA) His career numbers aren’t bad, and he successfully returned from a second (scary) Tommy John surgery. He’s also a lefty who could end up with above average numbers for someone, but it’s hard to think of him as reliable. That being said, he’s better than most options for the Nats right now.
Bruce Chen (1009 2/3 IP, 785 K, 396 BB, 4.64 ERA) Not a true ineffective starter, more of an ineffective swingman.
Kevin Correia (741 IP, 546 K, 296 BB, 4.57 ERA) That ERA should be worse, considering his home park is PetCo.
Doug Davis (1670 IP, 1243 K, 757 BB, 4.38 ERA) He had a heart condition, elbow surgery and a terrible 2010 season. He’s not terrible, and is a decent back of the rotation guy like Capuano when healthy.
Jorge De La Rosa (710 2/3 IP, 630K, 359 BB, 5.02 ERA) Finally, someone interesting! He has been improving each of the last 5 years, and while he’s still a work in progress, his ERA and K/BB both look better lately. He’ll be pursued this offseason by several teams, and he’s one of the better pitchers on this list.
Justin Duchscherer (454 2/3 IP, 347 K, 121 BB, 3.13 ERA) Yeah, those are some of the best numbers of this list. But he’s had hip problems over the last year and hasn’t thrown that much. If healthy, he could be quite a bargain for someone.
Jeff Francis * (882 2/3 IP, 603 K, 287 BB, 4.77 ERA) It is presumed the Rockies will decline his $7M option, so he’ll probably be attainable. He’s actually a better pitcher in Colorado than on the road, so there isn’t hope of saving him that way. He’s had a couple of good seasons, but that’s about the best you can say about him.
Freddy Garcia (1929 2/3 IP, 1390 K, 611 BB, 4.13 ERA) He’s injured quite a bit, and his numbers over the last 4 or 5 years have brought his ERA up. He could be a quality starter, but he’s not a top of the rotation guy.
Jon Garland * (2029 1/3 IP, 1096 K, 680 BB, 4.32 ERA) Last year, when the Nats were looking at Marquis, I favored them signing Garland. He had a 3.47 ERA and started 33 games in 2010, but he also pitched in Petco. Still, he would have been 1000x better than Marquis. He wouldn’t bring too much to the Nats other than innings.
Aaron Harang * (1451 1/3 IP, 1205 K, 407 BB, 4.33 ERA) The Reds won’t be picking up his $12M+ 2011 price tag, so he’s out there. He might strike out 150 guys in a full season, but he’s not very effective otherwise and has had an ERA+, which accounts for ballpark effects, of 90 over the last 3 years.
Rich Harden * (845 2/3 IP, 858 K, 391 BB, 3.63 ERA) You look at those numbers and you just shake your head. He’s been great for much of his career, and injured every year but one. This past season he was injured for some of the time and just plain bad for the rest of the time. Who knows, maybe pitching in the small ballpark in Texas messed with his head. His $11M option won’t be picked up, maybe the Nats could look to him if other options are off the table. With all that talent, he’s hard to completely write off.
Hiroki Kuroda (497 IP, 362 K, 114 BB, 3.60 ERA) He’s going to be 36, and he’s not a top line guy, but he’s a decent starter, with three solid years in the majors, his best being the last one. He might go a bit unnoticed, but he’s not a bad #3 or 4 type.
Cliff Lee (1409 IP, 1085 K, 350 BB, 3.85 ERA). It’s even more impressive when you notice that the first 1/2 of his career had pretty bad numbers. He’s the man, and there should be no questions about signing him if they could.
Ted Lilly (1718 1/3 IP, 1474 K, 581 BB, 4.18 ERA) Re-signed by Los Angeles
Braden Looper (1176 IP, 669 K, 373 BB, 4.15 ERA) He’s been a starter for 3 years, only one of them can be considered good. And that one was barely good.
Rodrigo Lopez (1246 2/3 IP, 809 K, 382, 4.85 ERA) I know we’re not supposed to look at pitchers wins and losses, but leading the league in losses, twice in your career for two different teams, can’t be a good thing.
Noah Lowry (618 1/3, 420 K, 249 BB, 4.03 ERA) Lowry is a very interesting case, because those numbers are from 2004-2007. He’s had a condition called thoracic outlet syndrome that has kept him from pitching the last 3 years. That being said, if healthy, he’s a decent pitcher, and while he’s 30 right now, he has a low number of innings under him. The Nats will probably look his way, he could be a solid pitcher had on the cheap.
Kevin Millwood (2505 IP, 1940 K, 779 BB, 4.11 ERA) He’s a veteran, but he just isn’t that good anymore. The Nats already have a guy or two like that, they aren’t going in this direction.
Brian Moehler (1567 1/3 IP, 859 K, 454 BB, 4.81) He’ll be 39, he’s had an ERA under 4.50 once in the last 8 years (and 9 years ago he was under, but he only made 1 appearance).
Jamie Moyer (4020 1/3 IP, 2405 K, 1137 BB, 4.24 ERA) Moyer would be the antithesis of a youth movement. I wouldn’t put it past him to find somewhere to pitch in 2011, but I doubt it’s DC. He also has only had one good season out of the last 4. It was very good, but the other 3 were quite not good.
Vicente Padilla (1512 2/3 IP, 1061 K, 531 BB, 4.31 ERA) He’s coming off a good year, but it follows a bad 6 year stretch.
Carl Pavano (1503 2/3 IP, 956 K, 377 BB, 4.34 ERA) He’s been both healthy and good exactly 1 of the last 6 years. Good timing though, the same could have been said after the 2004 season when the Yankees signed him to a 4 year $38M deal.
Brad Penny (1689 1/3 IP, 1176 K, 535 BB, 4.11 ERA) He looked awful in LA in 2008, in Boston in the first half of 2009. He looked good in St Louis during the second half of 2009 and in 2010 until he got hurt. Even if he’s healthy, you don’t know which guy you’re getting.
Andy Pettitte (3055 1/3 IP, 2251 K, 962 BB, 3.88 ERA) The 39 year old can still pitch. But he’s not a long term sign, and he’s probably not going anywhere other than New York.
Nate Robertson (1152 1/3, 775 K, 420 BB, 5.01 ERA) He’s had one good season in his career, and it hasn’t been short enough to think that may change.
Ben Sheets (1547 1/3 IP, 1290 K, 356 BB, 3.79 ERA) The oft injured pitcher, who can be absolutely great, needs Tommy John surgery and may not be signed in 2011. He may also decide to retire, although he’s only 31.
Ian Snell * (803 2/3 IP, 639 K, 372 BB, 4.80 ERA) In 2007, he looked like a rising star, but since then he’s been pretty awful. Someone may take a flyer on him, but he’s a project.
Jeff Suppan (2512 IP, 1383 K, 858 BB, 4.69 ERA) Possibly a 5th starter type vet, if you’re lucky. The Nats are ok on that front.
Hisanori Takahashi (122 IP, 114 K, 43 BB, 3.61 ERA) The 35 year old finished his first season in the US and looks like a decent option for someone. He worked mostly as a reliever but did start some games. Unfortunately, his work as a starter was not as good, so it’s not that encouraging that he’d be able to do that full time.
Javier Vazquez (2647 1/3 IP, 2374 K, 713 BB, 4.26 ERA) Hmmm, quite a story this Vazquez guy. He’s also been an impressive strikeout pitcher, but while we’ve seen some very good seasons, he’s never been consistently good over a number of years. And he wasn’t throwing as hard this year. He is to be avoided.
Brandon Webb (1319 2/3 IP, 1065 K, 435 BB, 3.27 ERA) Those numbers don’t even properly reflect how good he could be, he’s lead the majors in GB/FB ratio 4 times and finished 2nd twice. That’s out of 6 seasons pitching. He hasn’t really pitched since 2008, and his shoulder problems will scare people away. He has a long way to go, but if he can come back healthy, he could be one of the best again.
Jake Westbrook (1273 IP, 711 K, 396 BB, 4.29 ERA) He’s not a star but he’s been solid over his career, and he’s still only 32. I think he could actually get a pretty good deal this offseason, but do the Nats want to sign a middle of the rotation guy to a long term deal? Probably not enough to beat out some of the other teams that will.
Dontrelle Willis (1146 IP, 839 K, 463 BB, 4.12 ERA) He was once great, he hasn’t been anything but awful since 2006. It is unfortunately, because he was one of the game’s poster boys for a few years. He may still return to be effective some day, but I have a hard time seeing it.
Chris Young * (751 2/3 IP, 653 K, 295 BB, 3.80 ERA) The Padres are not going to pick up his option, so he’ll be available. He hasn’t been healthy for quite a while, and it’s shoulder problems so who knows if he ever will be. Still, he can strike guys out and is like 8 feet tall, so he’ll draw interest. But he’s another project.
So where does that leave us? Not far away from where we were last week. It only goes to show just how big of a free agent that Cliff Lee will be this year, he’s not just the best, there’s nobody in his zip code. If I were running the Nats, I’d offer him the world and try to convince him he’d be leading a young, up-and-coming team. If that doesn’t work, options are limited.
I think the second best choice for the Nats may be a high-risk/high-reward type guy like Webb or Duchscherer or even Harden. There is some appeal to a guy like De La Rosa, as well as Westbrook, for different reasons. Chris Young isn’t a terrible option if he’s healthy, and I don’t hate the idea of signing Sheets to keep him locked up through TJ rehab on the cheap. Other than that, I don’t see much of value here for the team. In other words, don’t expect much from this side of the free agent market, even if the ownership is willing to spend.