Top 10 free-agent starting pitchers for 2014
Let's begin a countdown of free agents by position/role with a look at the starters on the market this offseason.
Starting Tuesday, free agents are free to shop their services to any and all teams, so in that spirit let's begin a countdown of 2014 free agents according to position or role. To get things started, we'll run down the 10 best starting pitchers presently available.
Note: We're not including those whose current teams have options on them for 2014 ...
1. Masahiro Tanaka, 25: This year's headline import may lack the ceiling of a Yu Darvish, but Tanaka boasts polish and a sterling track record in Japan. It seems most evaluators see him as a strong no. 2 starter in an MLB rotation, and that makes him the easy choice to top this list. The posting fee will turn away some teams, but Tanaka's age of 25 -- very young by free agent standards -- adds to his already substantial appeal.
2. Matt Garza, 29: Garza is no one's idea of an ace, but he's a solid mid-rotation sort who's fared pretty well in terms of keeping runs off the board (career ERA+ of 108 and sub-4.00 ERA in ever season save for his rookie campaign). On the downside, recent shoulder problems may give potential suitors pause.
3. Ervin Santana, 30: In 2013, Santana pitched to a 3.24 ERA in 211 innings for the Royals and may receive some bottom-of-the-ballot support in the AL Cy Young race. He also showed some of the best control of his career while also returning his strikeout percentage to career norms after a dip in 2012.
4. Hiroki Kuroda, 38: He's old as ballplayers go, but Kuroda can flat-out pitch. This past season, Kuroda topped 200 innings and notched an ERA, ERA+ and K/BB generally right in line with his strong career norms. Obviously, you don't want a guy pushing 40 to front a contending rotation, but in terms of filling out a rotation, Kuroda's still a quality solution.
5. A.J. Burnett, 36: Minus his final two seasons in the Bronx, Burnett has been an better-than-average starting pitcher for pretty much his entire 15-year career. He's coming off a 2013 in which he led the NL in strikeout rate and posted the best K/BB ratio of his career. In other words, Burnett still has value.
6. Ubaldo Jimenez, 30: Jimenez recently passed on the Indians' picking up of his option for 2014, so he's now a free agent. He's coming off his best season (182 2/3 innings, 114 ERA+), since he threatened for the NL CY Young with the Rockies back in 2010. Jimenez struggles with his consistency, and the results too often don't match his stuff. In 2013, Jimenez leaned on his slider more than ever before, so perhaps that's his approach for 2014 and beyond.
7. Ricky Nolasco, 30: Nolasco is coming off a sub-4.00 ERA campaign in 2013, and he's logged at least 185 innings in five of the last six seasons. His career ERA+ of 94 suggests he's a league-average-ish sort as starters go, but that has plenty of value at the back of a rotation.
8. Bartolo Colon, 40: Colon age of course means he could lose his skills at any moment. However, he's shown significantly improved control since coming to the Athletics. If backed by a good defense (Colon doesn't miss bats these days), then Colon and his sinker should be good for another season.
9. Bronson Arroyo, 36: Arroyo perhaps ends his run in Cincy with eerily similar numbers for the 2012/2013 seasons, at least on an unadjusted basis: 202 IP/202 IP, 3.74 ERA/3.79 ERA, 3.69 K/BB/3.65 K/BB. Arroyo's occasional bouts of gopher-itis mean he'd be best suited to a home park that cuts down on homers.
10. Scott Feldman, 30: Something of an afterthought during his Texas years, Feldman with the Cubs and Orioles last season enjoyed a "soft" breakout: 181 2/3 IP, 105 ERA+. There's some concern that his BABIPwill rise in 2014, but he's still a reasonable fifth or maybe fourth starter.
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