MLB Free Agency: 10 Best Starting Pitchers Who May Be Available Next Offseason
Depending on how the next seven months play out, we could see several high quality starting pitchers enter the market during the offseason.
Currently, many of the top starting pitchers in the game are young players that will be locked up by their original teams for at least one more year. However, there are several accomplished veteran starting pitchers that may be on the move this offseason. Some of these starting pitchers are unrestricted free agents, while others have options for next season.
Although there are no elite starting pitchers, in their prime, that can become free agents this offseason, there are plenty of very good starters that may be on the market.
Here are the top ten.
10. Edwin Jackson, Chicago White Sox
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Jackson has been impressive of late, and he is set to be a free-agent after the season.
The Chicago right-hander had extremely high expectations when he first came into the league at the age of 19, but he struggled a bit for a number of years.
However, after nearly five seasons filled with a series of injuries and inconsistencies, he is finally starting to look like the pitcher everyone thought he could be. He has increased his accuracy and improved his slider considerably.
Jackson has won at least 10 games in each of the last three years, including an All-Star appearance with Detroit in 2009. So far in 2011, he has pitched very well, currently spotting a 2-1 record with an ERA of 3.51.
Still just 27 years old, Jackson figures to be a hot commodity this offseason if he goes on to have another successful season.
9. Joel Pineiro, Los Angeles Angels
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Pineiro is expected to be healthy very soon and is set to be a free-agent in the fall.
His career began on a high note, as he went 37-20 with an ERA of 3.29 through his first four seasons. But Pineiro struggled throughout the next five seasons, before pitching well over the last couple years.
Since the start of 2009, Pineiro is 25-19 with an ERA of 3.64.
Pineiro missed the last two months of the 2010 season with an oblique injury. He was finally healthy at the start of Spring Training, but recently suffered a shoulder injury that has kept him sidelined to start the 2011 season.
Pineiro, who will be 33 years old at the start of next season, is expected to be back in the starting rotation in the next few weeks. If he pitches well this season, then he will undoubtedly be pursued by a plethora of teams during the offseason.
8. Hiroki Kuroda, Los Angeles Dodgers
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Kuroda signed a three year, $35.3 million deal with the Dodgers prior to throwing a single pitch in the big leagues. While he had a very mediocre win-loss total of (28-30) during those three seasons, Kuroda pitched well enough to earn himself a one year, $12 million deal that will expire after this season.
Throughout Kuroda's three-plus year career, he has been extremely consistent. He has had an ERA under 4.00 in every season and rarely puts together back-to-back poor outings. Much of this can be attributed to Kuroda's excellent control and ability to limit home runs allowed.
Kuroda will be 37 years old at the start of next season, but appears to have a lot left in the tank. Don't be surprised to see him sign a two-year deal after the season worth the upwards of $25 million.
7. CJ Wilson, Texas Rangers
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Wilson will be a free-agent after the season and is poised to sign a long-term deal if everything goes right in 2011.
Prior to the 2010 season, Wilson had spent the better part of the his career in the bullpen. He was solid in relief, though nothing amazing.
After nearly four seasons in the pen, Wilson finally got the chance to start for Texas once again and seized the opportunity. Despite a league-high 93 walks, Wilson was 15-8 in 2010 with an ERA of 3.35. He also pitched well in the postseason, helping Texas reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
Wilson is off to a hot start in 2011, and he will need to have another big season in order to prove to teams around the league that he was not just a one-year wonder.
6. Ryan Dempster, Chicago Cubs
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Dempster is in the final year of a three year, $31 million deal with Chicago, but he has a player option for next year worth $14 million.
A 14-year veteran, Dempster was mediocre throughout the first 10 years of his career, but he has gotten better after turning the age of 30. He has not changed his mechanics much, but has improved his command significantly.
Dempster was 34-24 from 2008-2010 with an ERA of 3.49, more than a run better than his previous career ERA.
If Dempster declines his player option for next season, he will be hard-pressed to find another team willing to spend $14 million for his services.
However, due to the Cubs' recent struggles, Dempster may decide to switch teams this offseason in hopes of making a deep playoff run in the near future.
5. Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox
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Buehrle has spent his entire 12-year career as a White Sock, but he could be on the move after the season.
A fan favorite in Chicago, Buehrle is one of the most consistent pitchers in the game. He has pitched at least 200 games and won at least 10 games in 10 consecutive seasons, easily the longest stretch of any current player.
Although Buehrle, 32, has a great relationship with the White Sox organization, he has made it clear that money is not a top priority and that he would either like to play for a contender next season or retire.
If Chicago does not make the playoffs this season, then don't expect to see Buehrle in a White Sox uniform in 2012.
4. Roy Oswalt, Philadelphia Phillies
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Oswalt has had an outstanding major league career, and he has pitched as well as ever since being traded to Philadelphia last July.
After a great eight year run in Houston, Oswalt is 9-1 as a Philly with an ERA under 2.00
Throughout his successful career, Oswalt has been among the top six in Cy Young voting six times.
He has a $16 million mutual option for next season with a a $2 million buyout. While he may want to remain a Philly next season, Philadelphia may decline the option in order to save money.
If Oswalt, who turns 34 in August, becomes a free-agent during the offseason, he could end up signing a three or four deal worth upwards of $13 or 14 million per season with a new club.
3. Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
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Carpenter has been excellent throughout his time with St. Louis, but he could find himself in a different uniform in 2012.
Since signing with the Cardinals before the start of the 2003 season, Carpenter is 84-35 with an impressive ERA of 2.99.
After having Tommy John Surgery at the start of the 2007 season, which sidelined him nearly two full years, many wondered if Carpenter would be able to come back to full strength. He has certainly does so, as he has a 33-15 record with an ERA under 3.00 in the two-plus years since the surgery.
Carpenter has a $15 million club option for next season with a $1 million buyout.
Many Cardinals, including Adam Wainright, Yadier Molina and most notably, Albert Pujols, can become free agents after the season. Depending on how the 2011 season plays out for St. Louis, the team may either re-sign most of their free-agent players or instead go the opposite direction and rebuild.
2. Adam Wainright, St. Louis Cardinals
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Prior to the recent news during Spring Training that his elbow would require Tommy John Surgery, Wainright's future in St. Louis was all but certain.
By finishing in the top five in Cy Young voting last season, Wainright triggered a $9 million option for 2012 and a $12 million option for 2013. However, the contract included a clause that will allow St. Louis to void the two years if Wainright finishes the 2011 season on the Disabled List with any sort of arm injury.
Seeing as though the recovery time for Tommy John Surgery is generally between 12-18 months, Wainright likely won't be back until the beginning of the 2012 season at the earliest. Therefore, St. Louis is likely to void the next two years of the deal.
Once thought of as an touchable starting pitcher, Wainright, 29, could very well become a free-agent after the season, and a heavily sought-after one indeed.
1. CC Sabathia, New York Yankees
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Next season, Sabathia is expected to enter the fourth year of a seven year, $154 million deal. However, he could opt out before the season if he chooses to do so.
Sabathia is one of the top pitchers in all of baseball and has finished in the top five in Cy Young voting each of the last four seasons. He has more wins than any other major league pitcher over the last two years and is by most accounts the Yankees best starting pitcher.
If Sabathia remains with New York, he can make $92 million over the next four seasons.
Although Sabathia can switch teams during the offseason and take some pressure off of himself, it seems very unlikely that he would choose to opt out of his current deal for a couple reasons. First of all, there is no other team that would pay him $92 million over the next four seasons, and secondly, the Yankees will do everything in their power to make sure he comes back next season.