Baseball’s 2010 FA Pitchers Steering ‘09’s Market?

Pastor KyleContributor IDecember 22, 2008

A little homework never hurt anybody.  At least, not intentionally…

Take the 2008 free agent pitching class, for example.  The biggest names on the market—CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett—were signed by the same team (Yankees).  That wouldn’t normally be big news, as the Yankees are notorious for monopolizing both the market, and the rumors.  

But there is one major factor that seems to get very little press: the decline in production from the remaining available starting pitchers is steep.  

Teams that may have been hoping to add a top-of-the-rotation starter and “go light” on the offensive pick ups no longer have that option.  Derek Lowe is arguably the top available starter on the market, and to label him an “ace” is a stretch.  The biggest bat not yet signed is clearly Manny Ramirez, and from there (much like the pitching story), the drop-off is dramatic.

So how does that affect front-office management decisions heading into the 2009 season? 

For the sake of argument, let’s give all current MLB general managers the benefit of the doubt that they (or some mid-level scrub with a line-13 job description that reads “… and any other duties assigned by management…”) have peered into the near future before shelling out millions of dollars these past two months.  Let’s go even further and suggest that all GMs in the game today actually attempt good stewardship.  A stretch for the major markets, I know.

Given those assumptions, most (if not all) GMs have already taken a highlighter pen to at least seven names on the 2010 free agent pitching class.  

Why? Because those names are Josh Beckett, Brandon Webb, Erik Bedard, Rich Harden, Tim Hudson, John Lackey, and Cliff Lee.  There also are over a dozen additional names to add to that list (including Miguel Batista, Jose Contreras, Chris Capuano, Brett Myers, and Justin Duchscherer) that can comfortably fill the many No. 2 and No. 3 rotation openings expected next season.

When was the last time seven arguable “Aces” hit the market at one time?  Factor in the general down-turn of the US economy (already revealing its impact in some recent creative contracts in the professional baseball world), and the writing is on the wall for how the rest of this offseason may play out.

The smart money is spent here: one-year deals offered to over half of the currently available pitchers.  Middle-of-the-rotation hurlers such as Randy Wolf, Randy Johnson, John Garland, Jason Jennings, and John Leiber will certainly be disappointed, but mark my words:  GMs are already salivating over the 2010 class. 

The only thing stopping next December from being the most out-of-control spending season in Major League Baseball’s history may be the economy.  

Homework.  Who knows? Maybe it does have some relevancy in the real world after all.