Cliff Lee is by far the most attractive, and at the same time, most expensive option on the market this off-season. But after Lee, there's a big drop off in the market.
There are still a couple of pitchers who have the potential to be a solid top of the rotation starter available though, who are far cheaper than Lee. Unfortunately, they haven't shown any of that in recent seasons.
Some suffered injuries that have derailed their careers, while others have had down years. A few have just plain stunk. Here are nine Free Agent pitchers who I think will bounce back in 2011 and are worth taking a chance on if your team is in need of pitching.
Former Cy Young award winner Brandon Webb had surgery in August of 2009 after injuring his shoulder on opening day of that season. Before that, Webb was one of the top pitchers in the National League. From 2003-2008, Webb won 87 games and had a 3.24 ERA in 1,315 inning pitched, along with a 1.237 WHIP and 1,063 strike outs. In the year Webb won the Cy Young, he had a 3.10 ERA in 235 Innings Pitched.
Those numbers are good enough to be a number #1 starter on most team, if not a great #2 starter on good teams. Remember, it wasn't too long ago he was putting up good numbers.
Before his injury, he had a 3.30 ERA in 225 innings pitched, while winning 22 games. It's not out of the question that he might be close to his former self. Webb pitched in a couple of instructional League games this fall, and should be good to go when Spring Training rolls around. Now that he's healthy, why not take a chance on Brandon Webb? He seems like a good bet to put up good numbers in 2011 for whichever team decides to pick him up.
Erik Bedard is a similar story, a pitcher who pitched well whenever he was on the mound, except that has been the problem. The lefty missed half of 2009 and all of 2010 and has only started in 30 games for the Mariners since being traded from the Orioles before the 2008 season. In those 30 games, he had a combined 164 Innings pitched and pitched to a 3.24 ERA. This shows that despite the fact that he's been injury prone, he still can pitch very well in the Majors.
In 2007, his last season with the Orioles, he had his best season. He had a 3.16 ERA, with a 1.088 WHIP, and 221 Strikeouts. In only 182 Innings Pitched. That's a 10.9 SO/9. It just shows how talented of a pitcher this man is if he can manage to stay healthy over the course of a season. With his stock being so low, why not take a chance on him? He should be a fairly cheap, high risk, high reward type player.
Even though his better days are behind him, Millwood has shown he has something left in the tank. With Texas in 2009, he had a 3.67 ERA in a little under 200 innings, which is a pretty good number. You can also consider that he did pitch in a hitter's park in Texas and had good home numbers as well. (3.16 ERA in 97 innings)
Unfortunately, a move to the AL East as a member of the Orioles didn't fare very well for him. Millwood finished with an ERA of just over 5.00 and a WHIP of 1.510. With the teams in the AL East being very competitive, it takes a lot to be successful over the course of a season. Millwood struggled in the first half, but managed to be more productive in the second half, especially from August until the end of the season.
Millwood finished off his season strong and could bounce back in 2011 with a different team(perhaps a National League team). Millwood will obviously come at a cheap price and would be a decent short-term signing for a team willing to take a chance on him. What do you got to lose?
Vasquez has been quite inconsistent over the course of his career, but there's no denying that the talent is there. As recently as 2009, he's put up great numbers with Atlanta. He had a 2.87 ERA with 238 strikeouts and a 1.02 WHIP. This interested the Yankees enough to trade Melky Cabrera and prospects for the right-hander for a second tour of duty in New York.
Unfortunately, this time around was a lot worse than his 2004 debacle. He struggled as a starter. Was moved to the Bullpen. Finished with an ERA over 5.00 and was left off the post-season roster. Since 2004, it's been a roller coaster ride with Vasquez, who seems to be a better pitcher in the National League. He's struggled with the Yankees and had only one good year with the White Sox from 06-08. Along with that great year with the Braves, he's had a few good seasons with the Expos as well earlier in the decade.(Now known as the Washington Nationals) It should also be said that both Yankee Stadium and U.S Cellular field are hitter's parks.
Talent wasn't the question, but consistency is. Perhaps Vasquez was never meant to succeed in the American League. That said, Vasquez should be a very intriguing free agent and his asking price shouldn't be really high. In my opinion, he would be a good fit for any National League team in need of pitching, evident by his success in the NL.
Come on. Just look at the guy's numbers. A combined 2.82 ERA from 2003-2008. That's extraordinary, isn't it? Problem is, he's pitched in ONLY 412. Just one word. Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. This guy has had a lot of those. Out of everyone on this list, I think he is the best choice to rebound next season given his talent.
Obviously his issue hasn't been his performance on the field, which has been great, but staying on the field on a consistent basis is the problem. Teams shy away from injury prone players, but in most cases, there is a high reward to go along with the high risk. This is yet another case. Most teams should at least take a flier on Duchscherer given his potential.
One thing they'll look at is his 2008 season, where he had a 2.54 ERA in 22 starts and was selected to the All Star team. Duchscherer would miss the following season with shoulder surgery and only pitched in 28 innings in 2010. He may be injury prone, but why wouldn't anyone take a gamble on someone who's as talented as this? Bottom line is that his numbers in limited action are fantastic and there's always a chance he could finally stay healthy over the course of a season. He isn't going to be an expensive pitcher anyway. According to several reports, there already are several teams that are interested in the right-hander, such as the Pirates and Red Sox. Talent like this is definitely worth taking a shot on.
When Young became a member of the Padres in 2006, he was coming off two less than stellar seasons in Texas. However from 2006-2008, Young was one of the top pitchers in the National League until a string of injuries ended that run in 2009 and 2010. In those three good years he had in San Diego, Young had a combined 3.44 ERA and a 1.155 WHIP in 79 games striking out 424 batters.
He's not an overpowering pitcher, but last season he started four games and looked pretty impressive. He's a good candidate to rebound in 2011 if he can manage to stay healthy for a full season. I'm sure there are several teams who would want to give Young a look considering that he's shown recently that he can pitch well at the Major League level and he should come at a cheap price. Still, his history of being injury prone is likely to drive a few teams away, (He's never pitched in more than 180 innings), but he's still worth a look. He'll only be 32 in May, so should definitely have plenty left in the tank.
Harang was one of the Reds' best starters from 2005-2007, but since then, he's suffered from multiple injuries and when he has been on the field, he's been terrible. The Reds left Harang off the post-season roster and didn't exercise their option on him. Simply put, things have been pretty ugly for the right-hander.
Despite all of that, he's still an interesting option for a team in need of pitching, especially if it's an inexpensive veteran who did have a bit of success a few years ago. It's no sure thing what you'll get out of Harang, but any cheap pitcher with something left in their arm is always an interesting option. According to reports, the Cubs have expressed interest in Harang.
Francis was one an important piece of the Rockies' rotation in 2007, helping them get all the way to the World Series in that year. That year, he finished with a 4.22 ERA in 215 innings, which isn't exactly bad, but it's serviceable. You can also consider 2007 was a year where hitters had more success than pitcher, a trend that did reverse in 2010. But Francis wasn't one of those pitchers.
Since that amazing run in 2007 with Colorado, Francis pitched horribly in 2008 and missed the entire 2009 season with shoulder surgery. Francis came back in 2010 to finish with an ERA of 5.00, which was enough for the Rockies to decline their $7 million option on him. Francis still finished with a decent K/BB ratio and is only turning 30 in January. There should be several teams interested in Francis.
Like I said, he's in his prime, he's very cheap, and he should be healthy this time around. There's potential for him to be a solid pitcher, but then you wouldn't lose much of anything if he doesn't pan out.
De La Rosa has great stuff, but he hasn't been able to put it all together yet. The lefty turns 30 in April and there are plenty of teams already interested in De La Rosa. He's coming off a year where he posted a 4.22 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 123 innings which is serviceable at best.
Despite that, he still has talent in that arm of his and seems to be the most valuable free agent on the market besides Cliff Lee. With both the Rangers and Yankees going after Lee, most teams out of the Lee race will start bidding on De La Rosa right away. He certainly has the potential to put up solid numbers, but because of the market for pitching being so shallow, his price might be a bit too high for someone who hasn't had an ERA under 4.00 for his career. Perhaps he can finally put it all together in 2011.