Is your favorite baseball team in the market for an upgrade at starting pitcher? Would you like to watch a big-name pitcher whiffing opposing batters next year?
Well then, I've got a few aces for you to keep in mind.
While these players may not be available on the free-agent market—it will take either a trade or their team not picking up their contract option for next season—they should be available for any interested suitors or patient bidders.
Let's take a look a few big names who are being rumored to be moved this offseason.
Josh Johnson, Florida Marlins
If a team is willing to give up a few prospects or swing a trade to add pitching, Josh Johnson might just be available.
Despite some talk out of Florida that the Marlins won’t deal Johnson, who can become a free agent after 2014, the 28-year-old will be trade bait. The Marlins would likely get a boatload back from teams such as Baltimore, Toronto, Boston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Texas, and the Dodgers. The Red Sox were interested at the trade deadline. The 69-win Marlins look as if they’re cleaning house again and they, like Cleveland, could be a good trading partner for the Red Sox.
While Johnson didn't have the stuff of an ace this season, he finished with an 8-14 record, a 3.81 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 165 strikeouts. Still, the oft-injured pitcher has A-plus stuff when he's fully healthy, and you can bet there will be plenty of suitors for his services.
Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox
Speaking of injury-prone pitchers, Cafardo also thinks Jake Peavy will be a sought after pitcher this offseason. Unlike Johnson, however, it will be in free agency.
His $22 million option will not be picked up by the White Sox, but the righthander should make a nice payday in free agency, perhaps even remaining with the White Sox. Peavy was 11-12 with a 3.37 ERA and a low 1.096 WHIP in 219 innings. He finally seems to be over his injury issues. It would appear, at age 31, Peavy would be a target for the Red Sox. Peavy may also prefer going back to the NL.
For a team that doesn't mind Peavy's prior injury concerns or the fact that he's 31, he'll certainly be an intriguing option. Then again, to land him a team will probably have to pay a lot of money to take the risk.
Personally, I'd rather have Johnson, though being able to simply sign Peavy is a plus. It will be interesting to see how the market settles over the veteran pitcher.
James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays
Jason A. Churchill of ESPN (Insider) believes that Shields—after Johnson—could be the top pitcher to be traded this season:
Tampa Bay's James Shields may be the top starter that could be shopped this winter, possibly followed by Marlins' ace Josh Johnson, who might be the best pitcher in the National League if it weren't for shoulder problems.
Shields has a $10.25 million option for next year, and it remains a possibility the team won't bring him back, as Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reported.
After being one of the best pitchers in baseball in 2011, Shields came down to earth a bit this year, though he still finished 15-10 with a 3.52 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 223 strikeouts. Hardly shabby numbers, and you know he'll have plenty of suitors.
Churchill also speculates that Ricky Nolasco, Mark Buehrle, Cliff Lee, Jason Vargas, Jair Jurrjens and Justin Masterson could potentially be moved via trade. Of that list, Lee moving seems to be the least likely by a long shot—if the Philadelphia Phillies can stay healthy, they should be competitive again in 2013.
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