Signing pitchers to long-term deals is terrifying because nobody knows how long any of them are going to stay effective.
Some of them could blow out their arms. Others could inexplicably lose their magic touches, or their fastballs. Others could maintain their dominance, but it's always a toss-up. Just because someone was good last season doesn't mean he'll be good the next.
That being said, here's a look at some of the free agent hurlers who are worth a contract in 2013.
Haren's glory days came back in Oakland, like so many of the pitchers the Athletics developed and then traded away. For five seasons split between the A's and the Arizona Diamondbacks, Haren never won fewer than 14 games, he had a 3.48 ERA and averaged 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings.
In his first season and a half with the L.A. Angels, he was almost as effective, though he didn't finish 2010 with quite as many wins as usual. But in 2011, he was back to his usual ways, compiling a 16-10 record and throwing 238.1 innings, his most ever. Last season, though—for the first time since his rookie campaign—he finished with a sub-.500 record. The Angels struggled at times last season, and so did Haren: He went 12-13 with a 4.33 ERA.
But aside from that blip on the radar last season, Haren has tended to be remarkably consistent over the last eight years, and at 32, he likely still has several good years left in him. He is definitely one of the most attractive free-agent pitchers out there this offseason.
Well, he helped the Detroit Tigers get to the World Series last season, so there's that. And in his first-ever trip to the postseason, he was extremely solid, starting three games and going 1-2 with a 1.77 ERA and 8.0 K's per nine innings.
The only problem is, he—perhaps as a result of that playoff run—is commanding a six-year, $90 million deal, according to FOXSports.com. That could be more than some teams are willing to pay him, and it could be one year longer than most teams are willing to commit to.
But if there is any pitcher on this offseason's market who is worth a lucrative long-term deal, it's Sanchez. His win-loss total has never been stellar (he's never finished better than 13-12), but prior to this season, he had never played for any team other than the Florida/Miami Marlins, who finished above .500 just twice in the six-plus years Sanchez was there. His ERA has always been solid (3.75 in his career), and he's proven to be pretty clutch in the postseason. And he's only 28.
He may be a little bit older than some of the other risks worth taking this offseason, but Dempster's numbers suggest that despite turning 36 in May, he still has something left in the tank. It may not be what he had in the tank in 2000 or 2001, but it's something, and it can help a team that needs another starter.
Dempster was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers this summer and went 7-3 over the latter part of the season with 5.09 ERA. Not great, but it was a new team and a new league—one he'd never pitched in. Prior to the trade, he'd gone 5-5 with a 2.25 ERA for the Cubs, and from 2008 until last season, he's averaged a 3.74 ERA in 32 starts per year.
He can still log a lot of innings. He can still make his starts. His age is a concern, but nobody's saying he has to get a four or five-year deal. He's definitely worth a shot.