MLB Free Agency/Trades 2013: 15 Predictions for the Offseason Pitching Market
This offseason's pitching market lacks a true ace outside of Zack Greinke, but it is an incredibly deep group of starters capable of making a significant impact on the upcoming season.
The trade market has a handful of intriguing names, with the potential for the Rays to deal a pitcher for offensive help ranking as the most intriguing potential trade situation.
Here are my predictions on where the top 15 pitchers, both free agents and trade targets that I think will be dealt, will be playing when the 2013 season starts.
Zack Greinke Re-Signs with Los Angeles Angels
Contract Prediction: six-year, $150 million
The prize arm of the free-agent market, Greinke is reportedly seeking a six-year, $150 million deal (h/t John Perrotto), and it appears that the Angels and Dodgers are the front-runners to sign him.
After cutting ties with Dan Haren and Ervin Santana and with Torii Hunter gone, the Angels have money to spend, and bringing back Greinke to shore up the staff should help their title hopes. I think they're the first to meet his asking price, and they sign him as a result.
James Shields Traded to Milwaukee Brewers
I've written many times before that I think the Brewers and Rays are a good match as trade partners, with Milwaukee looking for a veteran starter and Tampa Bay looking for big league-ready position player.
Shipping oft-rumored James Shields to the Brewers for a package of 1B Hunter Morris, C Martin Maldonado, 2B Scooter Gennett and P Ariel Pena would solve a number of problems in Tampa, and the team would still be able to run out a stellar rotation.
Kyle Lohse Signs with Los Angeles Dodgers
Contract Prediction: three-year, $36 million
Should they lose out on Zack Greinke as I predict, I think Lohse would be the Dodgers' No. 1 fallback option to fill the No. 2 spot in their rotation behind Clayton Kershaw.
There is no doubt some risk with giving Lohse a contract of that length and value, as he is a 34-year-old coming off of a career year (16-3, 2.86 ERA). While he likely won't match those numbers, he should continue to be a solid veteran arm with frontline stuff for at least the next couple of seasons.
Anibal Sanchez Re-Signs with Detroit Tigers
Contract Prediction: five-year, $65 million
Early reports have Anibal Sanchez seeking a six-year, $90 million deal this offseason (h/t Fox Sports), and while he is one of the top arms on the market, it is hard to see him getting a bigger deal than what C.J. Wilson signed for last season (five-year, $77.5 million).
With Torii Hunter signed to bolster the outfield, the Tigers will now turn their attention to finding a starter to fill out their rotation. Their No. 1 target is likely Sanchez after he went 4-6 with a 3.74 ERA in 12 starts after joining the team at the deadline and then made a pair of terrific starts in the postseason.
The two sides will come to terms, with Sanchez dropping a year and $2 million annually from his asking price while still getting a good deal.
Edwin Jackson Signs with San Diego Padres
Contract Prediction: three-year, $33 million
The Padres have quietly put together a solid offensive core, and that, alongside a terrific bullpen, leaves the starting rotation as their biggest area of need.
Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard figure to be a key part of the upcoming season's rotation, but the team could use a veteran starter to fill the role of staff ace. Edwin Jackson is capable of doing that and thriving in Petco Park, and he's a relatively affordable option compared to some of the alternatives.
Hiroki Kuroda Re-Signs with New York Yankees
Contract Prediction: one-year, $12 million
Last offseason, it looked as though Hiroki Kuroda would either re-sign with the Dodgers or return to Japan, but the Yankees managed to change his mind and brought him aboard on a one-year, $10 million deal.
The 37-year-old went 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA as the Yankees' only reliable starter behind CC Sabathia, and the Yankees will no doubt want to bring him back. Another one-year deal with a slight raise should be enough to keep him in pinstripes.
Brandon McCarthy Signs with Boston Red Sox
Contract Prediction : two-year, $24 million
Brandon McCarthy will likely be too expensive for the A's to bring him back, and with ace-caliber stuff (17-15, 3.29 ERA past two seasons), there is no shortage of teams interested in him.
His injury history will drive his price down, but he could wind up being the steal of the offseason for a team willing and able to take a chance on him.
The Red Sox have a ton of money to spend this offseason if they decide to go that route, and starting pitching is clearly their biggest need. With the team set to undergo at least some level of rebuilding, and not looking to be bogged down by big-money, long-term deals again, McCarthy may be the perfect answer to bolster their staff.
Ricky Nolasco Traded to Minnesota Twins
The Marlins have already traded five key pieces to the Blue Jays in a blockbuster deal that screamed fire sale, and they may not be done as starter Ricky Nolasco is being shopped along with Logan Morrison (h/t Joe Capozzi).
Nolasco has gone 64-51 with a 4.42 ERA over the past five seasons, winning double-digit games each season, and at 29 years old he is a capable workhorse starter entering the final year of his contract.
The Twins need starting pitching badly, and Nolasco can likely be had for relatively cheap if it means unloading his $11.5 million salary in the process for Miami.
Rafael Soriano Re-Signs with New York Yankees
Contract Prediction: two-year, $24 million
The Yankees made a qualifying offer to Rafael Soriano earlier this offseason that would have paid him $13.3 million this coming season, but he turned that down in favor of pursuing a multi-year deal on the free-agent market.
However, teams may be a bit more hesitation to shell out big money for a closer after Heath Bell's flop last season. There are a number of intriguing bounce-back options in Ryan Madson, Joakim Soria and Kyle Farnsworth who will come at a much lower cost and as a result with much less risk.
In the end, I think Soriano will wind up back in New York, where the Yankees will give him a raise from the $11 million he made last season but won't give him more than two years.
Ryan Dempster Signs with Toronto Blue Jays
Contract Prediction: two-year, $20 million
The Blue Jays have already had an incredibly busy offseason, adding five impact veterans in their blockbuster with the Marlins and then signing Melky Cabrera as a free agent.
That said, the team could still stand to upgrade its starting rotation, which currently projects to be Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero and J.A. Happ.
While Ryan Dempster may prefer a return to the NL after struggling following a trade to the Rangers, the Canada native may welcome a chance to play north of the border. For a team with legitimate title hopes, Happ just doesn't cut it as a rotation piece, and Dempster would be a terrific addition to the middle of the rotation.
Shaun Marcum Signs with Chicago Cubs
Contract Prediction: two-year, $18 million
The Brewers thought highly enough of Shaun Marcum two years ago to trade Brett Lawrie to the Blue Jays to acquire him, and he went 20-11 with a 3.60 ERA in 54 starts during his two seasons with Milwaukee.
However, after injuries limited him to just 21 starts last season, he projects to be one of the biggest bargains on the free-agent market this coming offseason.
After making $7.73 million last season in his final year of arbitration, a two-year, $18 million deal would still be a raise from last year, and he would give the Cubs the type of veteran arm they need to make things a bit more bearable.
Dan Haren Signs with Texas Rangers
Contract Prediction: one-year, $10 million with 2014 option
The Rangers took a shot on veteran rebound candidates Joe Nathan and Roy Oswalt last offseason, and while that brought mixed results, the team could try that approach again this offseason as it looks to add some starting pitching depth.
Haren went 12-13 with a 4.33 ERA last season, and the Angels turned down his $15.5 million option as a result. However, he's just a year removed from being regarded as one of the top starters in all of baseball, and he could potentially be an impact arm for the Rangers.
James Paxton Traded to Washington Nationals
If the Nationals sign an outfielder and bring back first baseman Adam LaRoche, the team will likely put slugger Michael Morse on the trade block.
The Mariners, after ranking dead last in batting average and runs scored in the AL last season, would benefit greatly from adding a bat like his, and they have a wealth of young pitching talent that could be enough to acquire him.
James Paxton (9-4, 3.05 ERA at Double-A) has big upside, but he ranks behind Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker in terms of upside among Mariners prospects. A package built around him would likely be enough to land Morse, and he'd give the Nationals a good, young arm to replace Edwin Jackson in the rotation.
Jeremy Guthrie Re-Signs with Kansas City Royals
Contract Prediction: two-year, $16 million
The Royals and Rockies traded underperforming starters at the deadline last season, with Kansas City shipping Jonathan Sanchez to Colorado for Jeremy Guthrie.
Guthrie impressed in going 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA over 14 starts, and the Royals understandably would like to bring him back.
He's reportedly seeking a three-year, $34 million deal (h/t Kansas City Star), but my guess is no one will be willing to give him that much money. In the end, I think he comes back to the Royals and helps make the staff better alongside newly acquired Ervin Santana.
UPDATE: Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 1:35 p.m. ET
According to CBSSports.com, Guthrie signed a three-year, $25 million deal with the Kansas City Royals.
---End of update---
Joe Saunders Signs with Los Angeles Angels
Contract Prediction: two-year, $14 million
With the Angels for the first six seasons of his career, Joe Saunders was dealt to the Diamondbacks as part of the package to acquire Haren at the deadline back in 2010.
He proved to be a solid pickup for the Orioles at the deadline last season, as he went 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven starts in Baltimore to help boost his stock this offseason.
Even if the Angels sign Greinke, they will still likely look to add another veteran starter to join Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards in the team's rotation.