Best Pitchers Still Remaining on MLB Free Agent Market
The initial rush of MLB free agency has passed and most of the top players know where they will be playing to start the 2013 season. However, there are still many talented players that remain unsigned for teams with money left to spend and roster spots to fill.
While there aren't many top-end starters or premier closers available, there is still talent available to complete a rotation or find a setup man.
These are the best pitchers available for teams in free agency.
8. Francisco Rodriguez
Former closer Francisco Rodriguez is on the free agent market after less than two seasons with the Brewers.
In 2012 Rodriguez posted a 4.38 ERA, the highest of any season in his career--his previous high was 3.71 in 2009 with the Mets.
While the single season record holder for saves is undoubtedly past his prime, he can still be a useful setup man and hopefully can bounce back from his underwhelming 2012 season. He is only one season removed from a 2.64 ERA and 23 saves.
7. Mark Lowe
Mark Lowe is a solid setup man that has spent his entire eight-year career in the AL West. He is a power pitching righty with a high-90s fastball.
Lowe has had an ERA under four the past two seasons for the Rangers, but struggled after the All-Star break in 2012, posting a 7.88 ERA and allowing opposing batters to hit .371 against him.
There will inevitably be a team that will sign a 29-year-old setup man that can throw as hard as Lowe does. However, he must combat the perception that the Rangers lost confidence him in the second half of last season.
6. Brian Wilson
After undergoing a second Tommy John surgery, Brian Wilson needs to prove that opposing teams still have reason to "fear the beard."
Wilson only appeared in two games in 2012 before the surgery, but before that he was one of the most dominant closers in baseball. Between 2008 and 2011 Wilson appeared in 258 games, recording 163 saves.
He has to show teams that he is worth the financial commitment after the surgery, but if Wilson can regain his velocity he would be a very high upside signing for any team still searching for a closer.
5. Brandon Lyon
After pitching for six teams in his eleven seasons, Brandon Lyon is again looking for work.
The right-handed relief pitcher had a very solid 3.1 ERA last season with the Blue Jays and Astros and struck out 63 batters in 61 innings.
Lyon has been a very consistent relief pitcher in both leagues. He has had an ERA under four in five of the previous seven seasons.
Lyon should be able to to find work this season, but teams will be reluctant to sign him to more than a two-year deal, as he is already 33.
4. Matt Capps
For any team still trying to find a closer, Matt Capps is likely the safest player available.
Although the Twins declined to bring him back for the 2012 season, Capps has been a very steady closer for the previous seven seasons, managing 14 or more saves in each.
Capps had an ERA of 3.68 in 2012 and had a 1.09 WHIP, not far from his career numbers of 3.52 and 1.19.
He may not be a dominating pitcher—his fastball is in the low-to-mid nineties—but Capps is a very reliable option at closer. He is not as big of a name as Wilson or Valverde, but Capps is the safest available.
3. Jose Valverde
The Tigers and Jose Valverde parted ways after a postseason where he gave up nine runs in two and one-third innings. Does this signify the end of Valverde as a closer, or does he just need a change of scenery?
Over the previous six seasons Valverde has saved 226 games, but his velocity appears to be slipping. In 2012 he only managed 48 strikeouts in 69 innings (.7/inning). In the previous five seasons he had struck out 349 batters in 325 and two-thirds innings (1.07/inning). His 1.25 WHIP is his highest since 2006.
Even with these red flags, Valverde will certainly find a new home this winter. He does need to prove to a GM that he can be trusted with the ball in his hand during big moments.
2. Joe Saunders
Joe Saunders is the second best remaining starting pitcher in the free agent market. He may not be a top of the rotation pitcher, but Saunders is a reliable lefty that could fill out a rotation.
Saunders has had an ERA under 4.25 in each of the last four seasons and has pitched at least 170 innings each of the last three.
The Orioles may be favored to bring him back, but there will be many teams looking for an above-average starter to finalize their rotation.
1. Kyle Lohse
The Cardinals' Opening Day starter in 2012 is still available to the highest bidder.
Kyle Lohse was the third-best available pitcher and sixth overall player, according to ESPN. In 2012 he finished with a 16-3 record, tied for the eleventh most wins in baseball. He had a 2.86 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP, sixth among all pitchers.
Two things hurt Lohse: his consistency and his age.
Lohse was excellent in 2011 and 2012, but he is only two seasons removed from a 4-8 campaign where he posted a 6.55 ERA. His career ERA is 4.55 and WHIP is 1.37, much higher than his 2012 numbers.
If that isn't enough to make a GM think twice, Lohse is already 34 and his velocity will continue to drop. Teams will be wary to give big money or more than a two-year contract to a pitcher his age.