Major League Baseball teams looking to shore up their rotations this offseason may be in for a massive bidding war.
Though names like Zach Greinke and Kyle Lohse adorn the free-agent crop of 2012, the lack of starting pitching depth is rather disconcerting. After the top-tier stars, there's immediately a steep drop-off, meaning that most teams will be rolling the dice if they miss out on the big names.
Luckily for those stars, that likely means a huge upcoming payday. But it also means widespread uncertainty about where they will play next season.
With that in mind, here's a breakdown of the best starting pitchers on the market and predictions on where they will end up.
The breakout star's performance in Game 7 of the NLDS may leave a sour taste in most Cardinals fans' mouths, but don't expect it to stop teams from breaking the bank on Kyle Lohse this winter.
After years of languishing as a back-end starter, the right-hander did what many do in St. Louis and found stardom. Lohse combined for a 30-11 record with a 3.11 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over the past two seasons, emerging as the ace on a loaded Cardinals rotation.
However, that abundance of pitching talent almost certainly means Lohse will be headed elsewhere in the offseason. Even general manager John Mozeliak said it is "probably unlikely" that the 34-year-old pitcher will return, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
If Lohse actually does leave the friendly confines of Busch Stadium, he might want to look into staying in the NL Central. The Milwaukee Brewers are in desperate need of pitching help, and, having traded Zack Greinke midseason, the team actually has some money to spend.
Lohse may have to wait a bit until Greinke and others find their destinations, but he should be in line for a nice contract if patient.
Predicted Destination: Milwaukee Brewers
Continually underrated, Anibal Sanchez had another strong season and should be in line for a nice pay raise from the $8 million he made in 2012.
Sanchez split his time with the Miami Marlins and Detroit Tigers, compiling a 9-13 record with a 3.86 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. Those numbers were almost perfectly aligned with what he's done his entire career, so there's no reason to think he'll drop off in a new uniform.
The 28-year-old righty also emerged as a star in the postseason. Throwing with pinpoint control, Sanchez posted a 1.77 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, though he finished with just a 1-2 record.
That type of performance should ingratiate Sanchez enough with the Tigers to keep him around. Detroit made the World Series on the back of its pitching, and it's not as if this is a small-market club.
Teams like the Toronto Blue Jays may come calling, but look for Sanchez to stay with the Tigers this offseason.
Predicted Destination: Detroit Tigers
Pitching in a contract year certainly proved to be no problem for Greinke, who split his time with the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels in 2012.
The 29-year-old righty finished with a marvelous stat line (15-5, 3.48 ERA, 1.2 WHIP) and was the Angels' best starter by far down the stretch.
Outside of your standard season-wide stats, there are a bunch of outlying stats that point to Greinke being a fantastic offseason target for any team. First and foremost, Greinke proved that he can still pitch in the American League, as his ERA rose a mere 0.09 points after he moved to Los Angeles.
What's more, Greinke is improving in underlying categories that are necessary for aging pitchers. Known mostly as a strikeout master, the former Cy Young winner posted a career-high 49.2 ground-ball percentage, as the cut fastball became an increasing part of his repertoire.
All of those signs definitely point to some team dropping a massive sum of money on Greinke this winter. As for the team most likely to make a huge offer, it seems like the Texas Rangers are preparing a doozy, according to Angels beat writer Alden Gonzalez:
Considering the fact that whichever team writes the biggest check usually wins, I'm going with Texas to win out here.
Predicted Destination: Texas Rangers