Free agency; the offseason; payday. Those are three terms that define the downtime between the end of the World Series and before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.
Today, in the first of five parts, we take a look at the pitchers that could be looking to cash in. Though there are a ton of free agents, we’ll only be looking at seven to 10 in every part. Got to get the inches some way without boring you all, am I right?
Anyway, today we look at pitchers. Starters, middle relievers, and closers.
CC Sabathia, LHP
How can we talk about the big-name free agents without naming the biggest (literally) free agent available? Sabathia is a great talent, a past Cy Young award winner, and a perennial 20-game winner in either league. He’ll make Johan Santana money (six years, $137.5 million) or more.
A.J Burnett, RHP
Now, it’s true that Burnett won’t be a free agent unless he opts out of his contract (which is very likely), but he could be in line for a big payday. Burnett gets high strikeouts, he’ll eat six or seven innings, and he’s solid No. 2 guy. He’d be stupid to not opt out with the lack of big-time, free-agent arms on the open market.
Ben Sheets, RHP
The Boston Red Sox showed that it is logical to give disabled-list players big money, so why not Sheets? J.D Drew received big time money from the Red Sox, and Sheets is in line for much more than what Drew received (five years, $70 million).
If he’s healthy and efficient, he’s an ace. If he’s hurt or ineffective, he’ll get his brains bashed in. Nevertheless, some general manager will be dumb enough to throw a lot of money his way.
Ryan Dempster, RHP
Dempster is having a superb year. Remember, he was a closer for the Chicago Cubs for the past four seasons, and now he’s their No. 2 man. Dempster will make a lot of money, and with good reason. When he’s on, he’s tough; however, 2008 was his first year as a starter since 2003. He’ll break 200 innings this season, but there’s no telling how his arm will hold up.
Carl Pavano, RHP
Who? That’s right folks, Mr. Pavano. He’ll be a very intriguing free agent. He has officially made his comeback to the Yankees in the final year of his then-unprecedented contract (four years, $39.95 million).
He has pitched well since his return and could be a major player in the offseason. If he would agree to a one-year, incentive laden contract, a team could be making a real steal.
Kyle Lohse/Braden Looper, RHPs
These two really go together. Both have seen time as the St. Louis Cardinals de facto ace, and both are solid No. 3 pitchers. If they’re given a lead, they’ll generally hold it and give six or seven innings. They both know how to pitch and will look to cash in on solid 2008 seasons.
Brandon Lyon/Juan Cruz, RHPs
These two were suppose to be the closers for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2008. Lyon won the job and did a solid job, up until the middle of August. Though he’s still the registered closer, Cruz is still a solid arm. Both could be solid closers for a contending team, and both have proven to be lights out set-up men.
Francisco Rodriguez, RHP
K-Rod (as he’s better known) could be a free agent, only time will tell. He’ll be looking for $15 million a season over four or five years. Why not? He’s certainly worth it. Sure, there’s no telling how his arm will hold up, but you can’t argue with the single-season saves leader. He has over 200 career saves, and he’s going to be 27 in early January.
Well, there you have it. Those are the best of the best when it comes to free agent arms.
As I said earlier, this is one of five articles examining the upcoming free-agent market. Part II is coming tomorrow, with Parts III-V coming in the three days following.
Following the end of this five-part series, there will be a four-day, eight-article period in which I’ll hand out the awards for the season (Gold Gloves, Most Valuable Players, Cy Youngs, and Rookie of the Years).
I hope you enjoy today and the next eight days.
As always, you can see the potential 2009 free agents here.