MLB Free Agents 2012: Top 15 Starting Pitchers on the Market

Chuck PlattCorrespondent IIOctober 19, 2011

MLB Free Agents 2012: Top 15 Starting Pitchers on the Market

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    C.J. Wilson and CC Sabathia account for the bulk of the free-agent buzz thus far but there are many other worthy pitchers on the market this winter.

    While formal free-agency filing and talks between players and teams is still several weeks away, it's a good time as a fan to get a sense of who's available and who your team might go after.

    Here are the top 15 pitchers who will be free agents this offseason:

Bartolo Colon

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    Bartolo Colon breathed new life into his career this season but how much of a market can there be for a 38-year-old pitcher with a weight problem?

    Colon also became less effective as the season went on. Beginning with June, Colon's monthly ERA totals for the final four months of 2011 were 2.25, 3.82, 4.82 and 5.96.

Bruce Chen

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    Bruce Chen, 34, isn't exactly a hot name in free agency, however the journeyman lefty had a decent season for the Royals.

    Chen's 25 starts with a 3.77 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP represent his most complete season since 2005.

    With 155.0 IP in 2011, Chen posted consecutive 100-plus IP seasons for the first time in his career.

Jeff Francis

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    Another free-agent starting pitching option is another Royal, Jeff Francis.

    The 30-year-old Francis has never lived up the lofty expectations he inspired with his minor league success eight years ago.

    2011 was, however, Francis' first season of 30-plus starts since 2007.

    This can be taken as a sign, perhaps, that Francis has turned a corner of sorts after several seasons of mediocre results and injury issues.

Freddy Garcia

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    Freddy Garcia, 35, had a strong season for the Yankees, something which will likely bode well for the former Seattle Mariners phenom.

    His solid production on a contending team could make Garcia an attractive option to shore up the back end of any team's rotation.

Rich Harden

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    Three years after being traded away to the Cubs, Rich Harden returned to the A's in 2011. He was nearly traded to the Red Sox in July.

    Durability remains a concern, however Harden pitched considerably better this season than he did with the Rangers in 2010. 

    Harden may never be the ace he once was, but his 2.94 SO/BB ratio is a promising stat.

Brady Penny

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    After success, albeit limited, with the Giants and Cardinals the previous two seasons, Brad Penny returned to the AL this season with the Tigers and struggled similarly to how he struggled with the Red Sox in 2009.

    Penny will probably return to the NL on the cheap for the team willing to take a low-risk gamble on the 33-year-old veteran.

Chien-Ming Wang

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    After a two-season absence, Chien-Ming Wang returned to the majors in July and made 11 starts for the Nationals, going 4-3 with a 4.04 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.

    Wang's base contract this season was only $1 million, which makes him a relatively attractive bargain.

Jason Marquis

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    Jason Marquis broke his leg in August and may not be ready for Opening Day next season. 

    Marquis had been pitching well for the Nationals before being traded to the Diamondbacks in July, with a 3.95 ERA and 1.42 ERA over 120.2 IP.

Paul Maholm

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    Paul Maholm is only 29 and has progressed quite nicely with the Pirates.

    Maholm's put together six straight seasons of 25-plus starts. His 3.66 ERA is the best of his career.

    Maholm would be a savvy pickup for any team, contenders included.

Joel Piñeiro

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    Joel Piñeiro only hurt his value this season after a strong 2010, his first year with the Angels. 

    Piñeiro, 33, can still be expect to command a long-term contract though.

    Maybe Piñeiro will ask about returning to the Cardinals, where he pitched from 2007 through 2009.

    He revitalized his career there once under the tutelage of pitching coach Dave Duncan, so why not again?

Edwin Jackson

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    At 28, Edwin Jackson will be one of the younger free-agent starters this winter, and he can expect to be rewarded accordingly.

    Jackson has not pitched particularly well in the postseason, however he did put together a solid regular season with his combined stats from the Cardinals and the White Sox.

Roy Oswalt

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    Roy Oswalt, 34, struggled with back injuries this season, his second with the Phillies.

    Oswalt's 23 starts were his fewest since 2003. Oswalt still has his stuff but, on the wrong side of 30, it will be interesting to see who courts him this winter and what kind of contract offers he receives.

Mark Buehrle

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    Mark Buehrle is arguably the best pitcher available this winter who's not named C.J. Wilson or CC Sabathia. 

    After spending his whole career with the White Sox, Buehrle might be tempted to leave the South Side for a more competitive team.

    With 11 straight seasons of 30-plus starts and 200-plus innings, Buehrle has a justified reputation as a durable workhorse. 

    Perhaps Boston or New York are in his future?

C.J. Wilson

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    C.J. Wilson, who turns 31 next month, has blossomed in Arlington since being converted to a starter in 2010.

    It's a good bet that Nolan Ryan will make his ace a strong offer, however it's very hard to imagine the Yankees not pulling out all of the stops on Wilson after losing out on Cliff Lee last December.

CC Sabathia

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    It's all but a forgone conclusion that CC Sabathia will exercise his opt-out clause, making him a free agent after three terrific seasons in the Bronx.

    Sabathia figures to stay on with the Yankees, however the requisite suitors (the Red Sox, the Phillies, the Mets, the Rangers, etc.) figure to at least ask about acquiring the big lefty's services.

    Sabathia has pitched well and stayed healthy over a prolonged stretch in New York, a stamp of big league approval if there ever was one. 

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