Odds of All 30 MLB Teams Re-Signing Their Top Free-Agent Pitchers This Winter
MLB free agency incites feelings of dread, celebration or ambivalence in the gut of each team depending on whether they are poised to gain or lose talented pitching.
I've predicted the odds that top potential free-agent hurlers will re-sign with their 2012 clubs.
Of course, players with 2013 options have been included. Cot's Baseball Contracts has them all on one tidy, alphabetical list.
As you're about to see, I'm expecting an active offseason.
Arizona Diamondbacks: 95 Percent
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Nick Piecoro of AZCentral.com writes that Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers is interested in keeping J.J. Putz.
Considering that the closer has pitched to a 1.11 ERA and 0.78 WHIP since the All-Star break, the team won't hesitate to exercise its $6.5 million option.
Atlanta Braves: 85 Percent
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Re-signing Tim Hudson to pitch every fifth day could be risky.
He doesn't induce swings and misses, and the balls put in play are going airborne more often. The speed differential between his fastball and curve is diminishing too.
Still, the Braves will probably digest the $9 million option for this competent, familiar starter.
Baltimore Orioles: 15 Percent
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Joe Saunders is just a rental for the Baltimore Orioles—and an underwhelming one at that.
Starters Wei-Yin Chen and Jason Hammel will return in 2013, and former prospects Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman are also likely to seize spots in the rotation.
Because the O's expect to be protective of Dylan Bundy in his first semi-full MLB campaign, count on them adding a reputable free agent. But not the soft-throwing Saunders.
Boston Red Sox: 0 Percent
The Boston Red Sox pitching staff is in shambles. Re-signing Daisuke Matsuzaka (17-21, 5.42 ERA, 1.53 WHIP since 2009) does nothing to change that.
The right-hander will be hard-pressed to land another major league job.
Chicago Cubs: 50 Percent
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Shawn Camp is among the most trusted arms in the Chicago Cubs bullpen, but he's due for a substantial raise following a nice bounce-back year.
General manager Jed Hoyer insists that the team has the "financial flexibility" to pursue him and other free agents (via Carrie Muskat of MLB.com).
With that said, he won't be buying blindly. Concerns over how Camp's soon-to-be 37-year-old arm will recover from nearly 75 innings of work might deter the club from making the highest offer.
Chicago White Sox: 30 Percent
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Healthy Jake Peavy belongs near the top of any starting rotation. After four straight injury-plagued seasons, he has logged 200-plus innings in 2012.
But the Chicago White Sox won't be risking $22 million for one more year of that, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The front office plans to decline his expensive team option and allow him to enter free agency.
From there, locking him up through the middle of the decade might be unrealistic. The White Sox have other tough decisions to make about Francisco Liriano, A.J. Pierzynski and Kevin Youkilis, as well as a finite payroll to work with.
Cincinnati Reds: 10 Percent
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Because Ryan Madson underwent Tommy John surgery on April 11, it's difficult to imagine him at full strength by spring training 2013. Recovery—even for relievers—is historically 12-18 months.
The Cincinnati Reds bullpen is already as deep as any in baseball, so they'll fork over his $2.5 million buyout without any hesitation.
From there, they may discuss reuniting on an incentive-leaden agreement.
Cleveland Indians: 5 Percent
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In the aftermath of an offseason identity incident, Roberto Hernandez renegotiated his contract with the Cleveland Indians. It reduced his 2013 base salary down to $6 million.
However, the former AL Cy Young candidate isn't worth a penny to the Tribe (or any other MLB team). He struggled in three August starts before suffering a sprained ankle.
Hernandez has pitched below replacement level in four of the past five seasons (h/t Baseball-Reference.com).
Colorado Rockies: 100 Percent
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After making just three forgettable appearances in 2012, Jorge De La Rosa can exercise an $11 million player option and return to the Colorado Rockies. He won't get that type of guaranteed money anywhere else.
Detroit Tigers: 20 Percent
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The skeptics who doubted that Anibal Sanchez could handle American League lineups have been awfully quiet recently.
Perhaps because the impending free agent has maintained a sub-1.00 WHIP over his past eight starts. He's 28 years old and beyond 195 innings for a third consecutive season.
The Detroit Tigers want him in their 2013 rotation, but expect intense competition for his services.
Ultimately, the choice could be between extending Doug Fister and Austin Jackson or re-signing Sanchez.
Houston Astros: 1 Percent
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The Houston Astros have depleted their roster during the rebuilding process, which means zero potential free-agent pitchers.
But Francisco Cordero wasn't released until mid-September, so he'll represent Houston and keep this slideshow flowing smoothly.
Similar players in their late thirties who lose velocity and look for work after a miserable season typically retire or settle for a minor league deal.
He's definitely not fit to pitch in the AL West.
Kansas City Royals: 85 Percent
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Comments from Kansas City Royals owner David Glass suggest that he's "ready to make the necessary financial push this coming offseason," writes Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star.
K.C. will spend for starting pitching, beginning with right-hander Jeremy Guthrie. He hasn't suffered a loss in two months.
Dutton thinks Glass would be "wary of any commitment beyond two years" when it comes to re-signing Guthrie. The uncertainty in the above percentage accounts for the slim possibility that another team challenges the Royals to leave that comfort zone.
Los Angeles Angels: 50 Percent
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ESPN's Jim Bowden predicts Zack Greinke to sign for approximately six years and $120 million this winter.
Such a contract could work for both he and the Los Angeles Angels, but only given the condition that the team dumps Dan Haren and Ervin Santana. In doing so, the Halos would be compromising their rotation's depth to add quality at the top. A source tells MLB.com reporter Alden Gonzalez that L.A. is eager to make this trade-off.
Perennial contenders like the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox should be after Greinke too. And don't sleep on baseball's richest franchises, the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 20 Percent
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Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly isn't scared of losing Brandon League to free agency. "We’ve got Kenley [Jansen]," he explained to Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times, "so I’m not worried about it one way or another."
He was referring to the 25-year-old fire-baller who recently returned from an irregular heartbeat. Jansen could dominate in the closer's role in 2013 on a puny, pre-arbitration eligible salary ($500,000-$600,000).
League, on the other hand, might command a multi-year deal akin to Jose Valverde's (3 years, $23 million). The Dodgers aren't desperate enough to cooperate.
Miami Marlins: 20 Percent
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Carlos Zambrano heads into the offseason with nothing to brag about.
He last started a game on July 27. The demotion hasn't done any favors for his earned run average or strikeout rate, and he told Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald that "his "arm is not built to be in the bullpen."
Fortunately for the Miami Marlins, Zambrano has mellowed. He's no longer a threat to throw embarrassing temper tantrums or quarrel with his teammates.
But I doubt Big Z would be comfortable returning if his friend Ozzie Guillen didn't. The Fish could heed Jon Paul Morosi's advice and terminate the talkative manager after one miserable season.
Milwaukee Brewers: 10 Percent
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It took a while for Shaun Marcum to return to form after a lengthy DL stint, but he has thrown the ball efficiently and effectively since Sept. 21.
Prior to Opening Day, the Milwaukee Brewers implied that they wouldn't attempt to re-sign the impending free agent (via Adam McCalvy, MLB.com). Though his stock has dropped due to durability concerns, he's still likely to require a multi-year commitment.
Marcum's hometown Kansas City Royals appear to be a more sensible fit.
Minnesota Twins: 10 Percent
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Star Tribune reporter Joe Chirstensen believes that the Minnesota Twins will pay the $250,000 buyout to send Matt Capps to free agency.
Many others hold the same opinion.
The team must revamp its entire pitching staff, which means adding late-inning relievers who actually miss bats.
New York Mets: 100 Percent
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R.A. Dickey, who we predict will win the National League Cy Young Award, costs only $5 million for the 2013 season. If the New York Mets don't exercise that team option, it's because they are working on an extension.
Either way, the knuckleballer isn't going anywhere.
New York Yankees: 100 Percent
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Mariano Rivera spent the final moments of his 2012 season huddled in pain on the warning track at Kauffman Stadium (courtesy of MLB.com).
The future Hall of Famer has far too much pride to go out like that.
At Rivera's request, I'm writing it in "big letters"—HE'S COMING BACK (likely on a one-year deal).
Oakland Athletics: 50 Percent
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Brandon McCarthy is open to re-signing with the Oakland Athletics because he appreciates how the franchise handled his life-threatening brain injury.
Doctors have cleared the right-hander to resume baseball activities. Barring any symptoms of post-concussion syndrome, he'll be ready for next season.
It's difficult to gauge McCarthy's market value. He performs well in all environments and boasts a stellar strikeout-to-walk ratio, but he has never started 30 games or come close to pitching 200 innings.
A contract in the four-year, $32 million range could satisfy both parties.
Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Percent
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The Philadelphia Phillies bullpen was unable to protect leads in 2012 without set-up man Jose Contreras. He tore his UCL in early June and has yet to fully recover.
The only chance he has of continuing his career may be to go under the knife, though that would rule him out for all of 2013.
I bet he retires.
Pittsburgh Pirates: 15 Percent
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Kevin Correia kicked and screamed when he was briefly relegated to the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen. And on Sept. 28, manager Clint Hurdle reiterated the obvious: "He's going to want to find a spot where he can get in the rotation and pitch every fifth day" (h/t Bill Brink, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).
The next wave of young Bucs starters could fill out the rotation in the event that Correia leaves. All indications are that he will.
San Diego Padres: 40 Percent
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Injuries decimated the San Diego Padres pitching staff in 2012. Even Jason Marquis (fractured left wrist) was affected.
Management is understandably fixated on Andrew Cashner, Luke Luebke and its more talented arms, but the veteran did a respectable job over 15 midsummer starts. His highlight was a complete-game shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates in August.
Marquis has pitched for six MLB teams since 2008 and should be inclined to accept an inexpensive, multi-year offer, though it's unclear whether or not the Padres have mutual interest.
San Francisco Giants: 20 Percent
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On the surface, southpaw Jeremy Affeldt has duplicated his 2011 campaign.
However, the splits tell a different story. He no longer dominates left-handed batters. Plus, his earned run average is skewed by an impossibly lucky home run rate (1 HR in 61.2 IP).
The San Francisco Giants will invest heavily in their bullpen next season between Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo and Brian Wilson.
Affeldt isn't an essential piece to the puzzle.
Seattle Mariners: 20 Percent
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Kevin Millwood regressed a bit after the All-Star break and consistently struggled in the middle innings.
We could see him relieve in 2013, though it's something he has never done regularly in the big leagues. He'll surely get some spot starts as well.
Freddy Garcia and Roy Oswalt were in comparable situations this past season.
St. Louis Cardinals: 2 Percent
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The St. Louis Cardinals don't feel pressured to retain Kyle Lohse, regardless of how well he's been pitching lately.
They already have Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Jake Westbrook under contract. There are another half dozen candidates for the final two rotation spots.
For draft compensation purposes, St. Louis should make a one-year qualifying offer (about $13 million).
Tampa Bay Rays: 80 Percent
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James Shields righted the ship after an inauspicious first half. For the sixth straight season, he made 30-plus starts and recorded double-digit victories.
Every year, Shields is guaranteed to stay healthy and attack the strike zone.
He's well worth a $9 million team option, even to the financially-strapped Tampa Bay Rays.
Texas Rangers: 5 Percent
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As soon as the Texas Rangers get through the playoffs, Ryan Dempster will bolt back to the National League. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the early favorites to sign him.
He was leading the Senior Circuit in earned run average (2.25) before a midseason trade.
Most of the Rangers' resources must be used on Josh Hamilton and/or Mike Napoli.
Toronto Blue Jays: 20 Percent
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Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos rubbed Carlos Villanueva the wrong way with comments he made about the pitcher's durability. He told Brendan Kennedy of TheStar.com that he was unsure if Villanueva could hold up as a starter over a full season.
If any other team values the right-hander as a rotation member, the Jays wouldn't match it.
The question is how much potential suitors weigh late-season performance, because Villanueva didn't win a single game in September.
He's totally reliant on fly balls and a logical fit in any ballpark with large dimensions.
Washington Nationals: 10 Percent
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In the star-laden Washington Nationals rotation, Edwin Jackson is just a No. 4 starter.
It doesn't make sense for the club to offer him a long-term deal. Jordan Zimmermann is getting expensive, and Stephen Strasburg will soon join him in the arbitration process next winter.
Mike Axisa of MLBTradeRumors.com noted that Jackson's fastball velocity has been down this season. Like Carlos Villanueva, the 29-year-old is "limping to the finish."
Nonetheless, he'll be a coveted player on the free-agent market.