These are strange times, baseball fans. As the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies took the baseball world by storm this winter, the New York Yankees were strangely quiet. Not only did the Yankees fail to make a big splash in the free agent market, but after a highly public and contentious contract negotiation with Derek Jeter, and Andy Pettitte's sudden retirement, the Yankees went positively backwards this offseason.
Now, with pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training this week (can I "getta" Amen!) the Yankees suddenly look to be in some big trouble. Indeed, the hot talk of the past weekend has been the possibility that C.C. Sabathia might actually opt-out of his contract after the 2011 season in order to test the free agent waters!
What has become of the New York Yankees?
Truth be told, Sabathia might not be the only guy making a move soon. Let's take a look at 25 pitchers who might hit the open market after the 2011 baseball season.
Roy Oswalt is part of the Philadelphia Phillies' Mount Rushmore pitching rotation, the group of four guys who will attempt to become the greatest rotation in baseball history. Of course, Oswalt is also 33 years old and has hinted at the idea that he might take the opportunity to retire if things go the Phillies' way this season.
Even if Oswalt doesn't retire, he and the Phillies have a $16 million mutual option for 2012, with a $2 million buyout, and frankly with all the money the Phils have committed to Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard, they simply may not be able to afford Oswalt...even if he wants to play for 10 more years.
Adam Wainwright has a $9 million vesting option with the St. Louis Cardinals which kicks in if he finishes in the top five in the National League Cy Young Award voting at the end of the 2011 season.
The Cardinals are currently at DEFCOM 2 with Albert Pujols, and may find themselves throwing upwards of $30 million at their superstar to keep him in St. Louis. If this happens, there ain't gonna be a whole lot of money to go around. If Wainwright fails to finish fifth in the NL Cy Young voting and becomes a free agent, he could be long gone.
(Especially after the Yankees finish fourth in the AL East and turn their wallet towards acquiring every pitcher that isn't nailed down).
The fact that Joe Blanton even made it to the 2011 Spring Training as a Philadelphia Phillie is a surprise to most.
Because last year was both a fluke and a deceptively bad season by this kid, the Yankees will be looking to cut bait by August, and will ship Hughes out in advance of 2012.
Heck, Hughes might be in the bullpen by July if not for the desperate situation Andy Pettitte's retirement has put the Yankees in.
The St. Louis Cardinals have a $15 million dollar option on Chris Carpenter for the 2012 season with a $1 million buyout. If the Cardinals are serious about re-signing Albert Pujols, they will need to save every dollar they can.
And between Carpenter and Wainwright, the Cards are less likely to pick up the option on a guy who has made 30 or more starts only four times in a 14-year career, and who will be 37 years old in the 2012 season.
Scott Kazmir was once a no-doubt, can't-miss, big-stud prospect. And, actually, Kazmir made good at the major league level, establishing himself as an elite pitcher by the age of 23 and leading the Tampa Bay Rays to the World Series.
But that was then. This is now.
Do you know what happens when a guy like Kazmir loses his stuff? Only the teams he plays for see it, and only the teams he plays for believe it. Other teams remain interested because: "Hey, he used to be awesome. What if he can get back to where he used to be?" Of course, once they have him, they realize that he isn't awesome any more, and pass him on to the next willing sucker.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have now had a season and a half to see Kazmir up close, first hand, that he has lost his stuff. Once he becomes a free agent after the 2011 season, it will be another sucker's turn.
The Chicago White Sox have John Danks signed through 2011. After that, Danks is arbitration eligible for 2012, and becomes a free agent in 2013. If the White Sox have a good 2011 season, and Danks is part of that, he probably stays put and signs a new deal that buys out his arb-eligible season and keeps him in Chicago through 2016.
If the White Sox struggle in 2011, however, Danks will be prime trade-bait and should command a significant return for Kenny Williams, who has made a career out of retreading veteran starting pitchers.
I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say: Carlos Silva is the pitcher that he has been for most of his career, and not the pitcher he was for the first half of the 2010 baseball season.
With Silva on fire and the Cubs already struggling, watching the Cubs NOT sell high on Silva at the trading deadline last year was incredibly frustrating.
They won't make the same mistake once Silva becomes a free agent after the 2011 season.
Let's play a game called "A plus B equals C."
A = The Colorado Rockies just gave absurd contracts to Troy Tulowitzski and Carlos Gonzalez.
B = Aaron Cook has spent nine seasons in Colorado posting a respectable 4.42 ERA but is now entering his thirties.
C = Even if Cook was willing to re-sign with Colorado after the 2011 season, which he probably won't be, it is doubtful that the Rockies could even afford to sign him.
The Minnesota Twins have already stated for the record that they are open to trading Francisco Liriano and reluctant to re-sign him. He is signed through 2011, has an arbitration eligible 2012 season and then hits the free agent market in 2013. Given his injury history and the pitching talent coming up behind him, it is not difficult to imagine the Twins dealing him.
More importantly, it appears as though the Twins will never spend big money on pitching, and will never have been burned by it. The team saved boat-loads of money by letting Johan Santana and Carlos Silva walk as free agents, not having regretted either move. It only makes sense that with Liriano nearing "free-agent-dom," the Twins will see what they can get in return rather than holding on too long.
As nearly impossible as it is to imagine Mark Buehrle in any uniform other than the Chicago White Sox, Buehrle is a free agent after the 2011 season and must be wondering what it might be like to pitch in a more pitcher-friendly environment.
Last season Buehrle became just the sixth pitcher in the last 15 years to strike out fewer than 100 batters in 210 or more innings pitched. And if this is the direction his career is going he needs to get out to San Diego and fast.
Here's a "Worst Case Scenario from Hell" for Phillies fans:
What if one of the "Phantastic Four" gets hurt? What if the offense slumps in 2011? What if Jimmy Rollins is done, and Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are now on the down-slope?
What if the Phillies manage to miss the playoffs in 2011?
Let's go another way:
What if the Phillies are awesome? What if Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay finish one-two in Cy Young voting, and Rollins, Utley and Howard have renaissance years? What if the only player who fails to live up to the hype is Cole Hamels?
Hamels is arbitration eligible in 2012, and then becomes a free agent in 2013. Frankly, if all goes well, it will be difficult to sign Hamels given the Phillies' current obligations.
But if all goes poorly, the Phils may not even want to pony up what Hamels will make in his first year of arbitration, and might try to rebuild their dwindling farm system by shipping him out.
The New York Mets owe Johan Santana almost $100 million over the course of the next four seasons. This isn't the 1990s anymore, and the Mets and the Yankees aren't the only teams that can afford $100 million contracts.
Combine the Mets' recent poor performance with the fact that the team apparently owes Bernie Madoff victims approximately $300 million, and suddenly trading Santana to any team willing to eat most of his contract seems like a legitimately possibility.
Do not underestimate the Chicago Cubs' moves as a franchise over the last 18 months. The team found itself underneath several big, bloated, long-term contracts, and is trying to free itself of them as efficiently as possible.
Carlos Zambrano might be the greatest pitcher in the history of Wrigley Field, but he is also an overpaid psychopath, and entering a season in which several wealthy teams look to be begging for pitching, Zambrano might be on his way to New York or Los Angeles in short order.
Twice Javier Vazquez has looked like one of the pre-eminent starting pitchers in Major League Baseball.
Twice Javier Vazquez has moved on to the New York Yankees.
Twice Javier Vazquez has been absolutely screwed by the move.
Now Vazquez is in Miami, working on a one-year $7 million deal to pitch in a National League pitchers' park and prove to the rest of baseball he is a commodity.
Look for him to have an excellent 2011 season and move on quickly. Hopefully not to New York.
A free agent after the 2011 season and coming off a down year in 2010, Jonathan Papelbon may price himself out of the Boston Red Sox's plans after this year if he doesn't have a bit of a resurgence. Papelbon will probably finish the 2011 season with well over 200 saves, but he is also 30 years old now. Throw in the fact that he'll make $12 million this year and will likely be looking for a raise, Paps could very well be on his way out.
And given that Mariano Rivera will (presumably) retire one of these days, that could open up the possibility of the Red Sox's worst nightmare...Papelbon in a Yankees uniform.
Tim Wakefield must be well aware that knuckleballers can pitch forever. Hoyt Wilhelm and Phil Niekro narrowly missed pitching until they were fifty.
But Wakefield must also be aware that his days are numbered if he continues to pitch in Fenway Park, in the AL East and in the American League.
It would not be hard to imagine Wakefield in a Florida Marlins or Houston Astros uniform in 2012 as he seeks to extend his career—and with it his earning potential—for a few more years.
Edwin Jackson has pitched for three teams in the last two years.
Edwin Jackson will be 27 years old in 2011.
Edwin Jackson is a free agent after the 2011 season.
Edwin Jackson's agent is Scott Boras.
Edwin Jackson will not be with the Chicago White Sox in 2012.
In his first season as a major league starter, C.J. Wilson had one of the most successful pitching seasons in the history of the Rangers Ballpark at Arlington. Now, Wilson enters the final year of his contract with only one thing to prove: it wasn't a fluke.
If Wilson has another year in 2011 like he had in 2010, he would be an idiot to not take the money and run. Rangers Ballpark is where pitchers go to die.
Having pitched only one game in the last two seasons, Brandon Webb is in Texas to prove one thing: he is still Brandon Webb.
This is not a get-to-know-you tour. This is not a long-term solution. This is not Webb's home for the future.
Webb is playing for his next contract, and he will get it, with a new team, after the 2011 season.
I don't know if Erik Bedard will be able to return to his old form in 2011 after missing all of 2010 and making only 30 starts between 2008 and 2009 combined.
But I do know this: the Bedard situation is a catch-22. If Bedard struggles or re-injures himself, the Mariners will have no interest in him at any price. And if Bedard performs well, he will expect to be paid like the pitcher he once was, which the Mariners will have no interest in doing.
One way or another, Bedard plays somewhere else in 2012.
Once the McCourt Divorce Fiasco finally ends, the Los Angeles Dodgers are going to have more questions than answers, more holes than plugs, more problems than solutions.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Broxton will be hitting the free agent market as a 28-year-old relief pitching beast, and will be commanding top dollar.
He won't likely get it from the Dodgers. Let's just hope he gets to sign with a team that never, ever has to play the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Philadelphia Phillies have a $12.5 million option on Brad Lidge for 2012 that increases to $13 million with certain incentives. The option comes with a $1.5 million buyout.
I don't think the Phillies put together the Mount Rushmore rotation with the intention of not protecting leads in the ninth inning with a shut-down closer. But I also don't think that the Phillies think Lidge is that guy. Lidge has been a Human Roller Coaster Ride for the last five years, and now at the age of 34 this season (and 35 in 2012), I don't see the Phillies expending their precious dollars to keep him around.
A free agent after the 2011 season, Oliver Perez has been such a colossal disaster for the Mets, both financially and performance-wise, that if he went 30-0 without allowing a single earned run all season the Mets wouldn't bring him back for 2012.
Go look at Livan Hernandez's 2010 statistics right now.
No, seriously, right now. I'll wait. Here's the link:
I'll bet you a dollar you didn't realize Hernandez was that good in 2010. A free agent after the 2011 season, Hernandez will be making ONE MILLION DOLLARS in 2011, which is great if you're Austin Powers holding the world hostage, but not so great for a veteran major league pitcher who only has a few years left.
Livan will be pitching his way out of Washington in 2011.