Now that the 2011 MLB baseball season is over for most teams, GM's and front offices are taking close looks at their teams to see which positions they'll need to focus on upon entering the offseason. Although there are many good free agent batters this season, the free agent pitching class in not very strong, and if you miss out on C.J Wilson or Mark Buehrle, then you better look to make a trade if you want to try to improve your rotation. A lot of players who were put on the trade market before the deadline will be on the market again, and a lot of teams will be looking to unload big salaries. Here are the top 10 potentially available pitchers this offseason.
Contract Information: Arbitration Eligible ($4.8 million in 2011)
2011 Stats: 101.1 IP, 4-7, 4.26 ERA
Jonathan Sanchez had a great year in 2010; he had a career high in almost every category. However, Sanchez battled injuries and was placed on the DL twice in 2011, and when he was healthy he didn't exactly pitch like the No. 3 pitcher he is supposed to be. Sanchez has been considered to be the most easily movable player from San Francisco's rotation, and with the Giants having missed the playoffs in 2011 they may want to make a move to improve their lineup. Sanchez didn't have a great season, but he is still worth a decent player in return and has the ability to be a No. 3 starter in a lot of MLB rotations, if not a No. 2 in some.
Contract Information: Signed through 2013, Two years/$20.5 million
2011 Stats: 206 IP, 10-12, 4.67 ERA
Ricky Nolasco had the first losing season of his career this year, and he also gave up an NL leading 244 hits. Probably the only good thing that came out of his season was the fact that he was able to stay healthy and log more than 206 innings in 33 starts, as opposed to last season when he was shut down in August with a knee injury. The right-handed pitcher is owed $9 million in 2012, and the Marlins could be looking to unload his salary in order to make room for free agents such as Mark Buehrle. Florida will most likely look to get a low-end starter or prospects out of him. Nolasco still has potential to be a good player. He is already the Marlins all-time strikeout leader, and he could still be a good No. 3 starter in a lot of rotations in the league.
Contract Information: Signed through 2012, One year/$15 million.
2011 Stats: 187 IP, 9-17, 5.05 ERA
Derek Lowe is continuing to decline each season, and after this season where he led the NL with 17 losses it looks like he will be looking at retirement sometime in the next few years. Right now, the Braves owe Lowe $15 million next season, and because the Braves have a rotation featuring Hudson, Jurrjens, Minor and Beachy, Lowe is no longer needed or wanted. The Braves will take anything as long as they get rid of Lowe. The only problem is, the chances of a team being interested in Lowe are slim.
Contract Information: Signed through 2013, Two years/$23.5 million
2011 Stats: 199 IP, 9-12, 5.07 ERA
Last offseason the Reds decided to give Bronson Arroyo a three-year extension because he had been doing so well. After this season, they realize that what they did was a huge mistake. Arroyo was coming off two seasons in a row of more than 200 innings pitched, at least 15 wins and a sub 3.90 ERA. This year, his HR/9 innings is a career worst, his 10.3 Hits/9 innings is the worst since his rookie season and he had a plus 5.00 ERA for the first time since his sophomore season in 2001. His 46 home runs were the most given up by any NL pitcher. While he may not have another season where he finishes 12th in Cy Young voting like he did in 2010, he may still bounce back to a decent middle of the rotation pitcher, and the Reds could probably find a team interested in him. As for the Reds, it would be best for them to unload his salary to make room for their younger rising players.
Contract Information: Third year Arbitration Eligible ($5.75 Million in 2011)
2011 Stats: 208 IP, 9-17, 4.33 ERA
Guthrie was a player who seemed to be on the trading block mid-season, and he may be up for grabs yet again. Although there are some who say that Guthrie is very much a part of Baltimore's plans, not many people are buying it. Don't let Guthrie's record deceive you. He didn't have a terrible season. Although most categories were worse than 2010, he had a decent 4.33 ERA, a 1.341 WHIP and walked fewer than three batters per nine innings for the fifth straight season. He is a good price for any team; he only made $5.75 million in 2011. Although he is aging, he is still young enough to consistently perform at his current level for a few more years before he starts his decline. Baltimore could get a decent trade out of Guthrie, and even if they aren't going out of their way to trade him they will listen to offers.
Contract Information: Third year Arbitration Eligible ($4.3 Million in 2011)
2011 Stats: 134.1 IP, 9-10, 5.09 ERA
Minnesota's pitching struggled much more than expected this year. Opening Day starter Carl Pavano went 9-13 with a 4.30 ERA, Brian Duensing was 9-14 with a 5.23 ERA, Kevin Slowey was out most of the season and Liriano had a disappointing season. Liriano came off a great 2010 season where he had a 14-10 record with a 3.62 ERA. He looked like he could become the ace of the staff one day. But this season, he collapsed. His ERA and WHIP went up substantially, he walked 17 more batters in two-thirds as many innings as last year, and he had a few small injuries that limited him to 134 innings. Liriano probably won't re-sign in Minnesota after 2012, so the Twins should make a move for a trade now, and should get decent players in return and free up some cap space to use for re-signing other players they wish to use in their future plans.
Contract Information: One year/$3 million left
2011 Stats: 154 IP, 12-11, 4.79 ERA
Don't let Kevin Correia's all-star appearance this season fool you. The fact that he was an all-star doesn't describe his full season. Between July 3 and August 19, he went 1-5 with an 8.12 ERA in just nine starts before he fell to an injury that would keep him out for the rest of the season. His performance after the All-Star Break was horrendous, and he was looking like one of the worst pitchers in the league, logging only 41 innings in those nine starts. He also had a career low 4.5 Ks/9 innings. On the bright side, he would be cheap and wouldn't take much in a trade. Hopefully his second half performance was only a slump, but it's always hard to tell how he'll recover from a bad stretch of games and an injury, and trading for Correia could be a risk. At least you know you wouldn't blow too much money on him if he doesn't perform well next season.
Contract Information: Second year Arbitration Eligible ($12 million in 2011)
2011 Stats: 202 IP, 13-16, 3.07 ERA
Kuroda had another good season this year, logging more than 200 innings and posting a career best 3.07 ERA. By the time his current contract expires and he becomes a free agent in 2014, he most likely will not be playing at his current level and will demand a smaller contract. But for now, he probably wants to stay near L.A., and because of his age and expensiveness most teams will look elsewhere for a middle of the rotation starter like Kuroda.
Contract Information: Two years/$23 million left ($13 million team option for 2014; becomes player option with a trade)
2011 Stats: 191 IP, 11-11, 3.49 ERA
Wandy Rodriguez is one of the more appealing names on this list of pitchers. He enjoyed his fourth straight season of a sub 4.00 ERA and is almost always able to stay healthy enough to get 30 starts. He has certainly proved that he can play at his current level at a consistent basis, and a lot of teams would be interested in getting him. The Astros would expect a couple of top notch prospects for Rodriguez, as they showed in August when Colorado almost claimed Rodriguez off trade waivers and the Astros pulled him back because they weren't offered prospects Wilin Rosario or Drew Pomeranz. Sure, the Astros would like to get a few good prospects and unload his large salary, but as they showed with the Rockies, they won't go out of their way to trade him for just anything.
Contract Information: One year/$18 million left ($19.25 million vesting option for 2013)
2011 Stats: 145 IP, 9-7, 4.82 ERA
Carlos Zambrano had the worst season of his career this year. He had an ERA over 4.00 for the first time since his rookie year (in which he only pitched seven innings). His strikeouts were down, his home runs and hits allowed were up, and he also missed games with injuries and suspensions along the way to round out his season into an amazing disappointment. The Cubs have made it clear that they don't want any part of Zambrano and are looking to trade him. But even if the Cubs eat most of the salary, what team is looking to get a headache both on the field and in the locker room by trading for this guy? It looks like there are some takers in Florida. New coach Ozzie Guillen has been talking on the phone to Big Z and is trying to convince him to leave Chicago and come to Miami. Even if the Cubs get rid of Zambrano, I don't believe they can expect too much in return. Maybe the two teams will come to a bad contract swap and base a trade around Big Z and Nolasco. But it definitely looks like Zambrano without a doubt won't be on the Cubs roster next season.