Even if CC Sabathia opts out of his mega-contract with the New York Yankees, this year's free agent market is going to be a little light on pitching.
Which is a bummer, of course. Pitching is always at a premium, and it seems like more teams than usual could use a little pitching help these days.
Those teams are going to have to get creative, "Moneyball" style. This essentially means that the trick will be finding value where nobody else can see it, maybe even where nobody else is looking.
Just like Brad Pi... er, Billy Beane.
For GMs who are going to be on the lookout for value, here are five pitchers they might want to inspect.
The Washington Nationals' 2011 season came to an end a couple weeks ago, but my guess is that Livan Hernandez is still pitching somewhere out there. I don't know where or why, but it's just what he does.
Because Hernandez is going to be 37 by the time next season rolls around, and because his best days have long since passed him by, Hernandez could very well decide to hang 'em up. However, he said in late September (per MLB.com) that he wants to keep playing, even if it means returning to a long relief role.
If the Nats want a long man, they would do well to re-sign Hernandez. But Hernandez represents a very cheap starting pitcher ($1 million salary in 2011) who can log plenty of innings, so there could and should be some interest in him out on the open market.
I mean, how many other active pitchers can you name who have pitched at least 175 innings every year since 1998?
In 2009, George Sherrill was probably the best lefty reliever in baseball, as he compiled a 1.70 ERA and 1.12 WHIP with the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers.
The road has been a bit rockier ever since. Sherrill struggled mightily with the Dodgers in 2010, and he battled elbow problems with the Atlanta Braves in 2011.
The bright side is that Sherrill was effective when he was out there in 2011, posting a 3.00 ERA and striking out 38 hitters in 36 innings pitched.
To be sure, Sherrill probably isn't an every-day reliever any more. But as a lefty specialist, he could be deadly. Throughout Sherrill's career, lefties have hit just .180 against him.
Not bad for a guy who will likely be signed for less than $1 million.
A year after saving 42 games between the Washington Nationals and Minnesota Twins, Capps was a huge disappointment in 2011. He blew nine saves and struggled with gopheritis all year.
As such, there probably won't be much interest in Capps as a closer once free agency starts. Especially not while he's sharing the market with Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez and Ryan Madson. That will result in a major pay cut.
But there are still things to like about Capps. For all his struggles, he managed to keep his WHIP at 1.20, which should stand out for clubs that would sign Capps as a middle reliever. He also had a BABIP of .263, which was lower than Mariano Rivera's.
Perhaps Capps just had a bad year? If a team thinks so, they could end up being rewarded.
Chris Young hasn't had a healthy season since 2007, but the word from Newsday's David Lennon is that Young is hoping to be in a major league camp come springtime. He also likes the New York Mets, for what that's worth.
Because Young would cost the Mets next to nothing, I can see them bringing him back. But if there is one guy on this year's market who is a low-risk, high-reward option, it's Young.
This is because Young is generally very good when he is healthy. Before he hurt his shoulder in 2011, Young was 1-0 with a 1.88 ERA in four starts.
Much like Livan Hernandez, Young is a guy who is going to be had for roughly $1 million. The difference is that Young could very well pan out to be an ace if he is able to stay healthy.
It's a big if, no doubt about that. But it's the kind of if that's worth a gamble.
Joel Pineiro probably had no business getting a two-year, $16 million deal from the Los Angeles Angels. That's on now-former GM Tony Reagins.
One thing we know for sure is that Pineiro will not get a similar deal this winter. His tenure with the Angels was disappointing, and he is coming off a season in which injuries limited him to just 145 innings.
But Pineiro's career has looked dead before. I don't think any of us thought he was going to do anything of note after the Boston Red Sox designated him for assignment in 2007, and he ended up resurrecting his career with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Pineiro will be looking to resurrect his career again, and he will have to do so at a discounted price. If he is able to do so, he'll be a good buy.