Yesterday, we went position-by-position to determine the best lineup of free agents the market has to offer, assigning a predicted contract value to each player along the way.
Today in similar fashion, we’ll be selecting a five-man rotationa��the best of the besta��some bullpen pieces, as well as the ever-overpriced a�?closer.a�? Without further ado…
SP a�� David Price
It’s clear to me that Price, given his age and overall body of work since 2010, is the class of our pitching free agents.
He just turned 30 in August, holds a career ERA/FIP of 3.09/3.19, has won the Cy Young Award once and finished runner-up twicea��most recently this season behind Houston’s Dallas Keuchela��he strikes plenty of batters out (8.6 K/9a��though that mark has been considerably higher the past two seasons), and the fewest starts he’s ever made (23) happened way back in 2009. He’s logged 27 or more every year since.
Price has spent the bulk of his career with the Tampa Bay Rays, but put on a show last year between the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jaysa��particularly down the stretch with the latter. All in all, Price tossed 220.1 inningsa��the fifth year he’s eclipsed 200a��finished with an ERA/FIP of 2.45/2.78, and struck out 9.2 batters per ninea��all career highs except for K/9 (9.8 in ’14).
Prediction: Let’s just say Price picked a helluva time for a career year. Again, he’s only 30 and is now seeking his first huge multi-year deal. Someone will provide that for him, somewhere in the range of $200 million over seven years.
SP a�� Zack Greinke
Greinke may have narrowly missed being named Cy Young for the second year in his career, but that won’t stop him from getting paid handsomely this offseason. The right-hander, who just turned 32 in October, is coming off a season to remember.
An ERA/FIP of 1.66/2.76, a strikeout rate of 8.1 per nine, and an opponents average of only .185a��a career besta��made him decide to opt out of his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, one that would have paid him $71 million over three years.
After 12 years in the big leagues, Greinke has registered an ERA/FIP of 3.35/3.31a��not quite as low as Price, but exceptional marks nonethelessa��and a strikeout rate of 8.1 per nine. If his numbers remain anything like they were in three years with LAD going forward: 2.30/2.97; 8.3 K/9… then whichever team lands him will be very happy indeed. And hey, it could always be the Dodgers.
Prediction: Had Greinke not opted out, his remaining $71 million would have broken down to roughly $23.7 million per year. He’ll surpass that this offseason, eventually inking a six-year deal worth $160 million.
SP a�� Johnny Cueto
Cueto is an interesting case. He turns just 30 in February, and his career totals of 3.30/3.82, 7.4 K/9 are admirable, yet unspectacular. The FIP is a little high for my liking, and he doesn’t possess consistently high strikeout numbers like Price and Greinke do.
Yet as we saw during KC’s championship run, when Cueto is on, he’s on. He’s also shown that aside from 2013, he can stay healthy, starting 30 games or more in six of his eight seasons. In the two years following his injury-shortened campaign, Cueto posted a 2.85/3.42 ERA/FIP line, striking out 8.2 per nine as well.
One thing to note: his 13 regular seasons games with the Royals, in the second half of the season, were less than stellar: marks of 4.76/4.06 and 6.2 K/9 were among some of the worst numbers of his career. Will that have a noticeable impact on his market?
Prediction: A soon to be 30-year-old, potential Cy Young Award-winning arm? Cueto’s market will be just fine. So fine, in fact, that he’ll net roughly $112 million over five years.
SP a�� Jordan Zimmermann
Remember how Price picked the best time to have a career year? Turns out, Washington’s Zimmermann picked the worst time to put up his poorest numbers since 2010. Otherwise, I’d rank him ahead of Cueto based on the four seasons he posted between 2011-2014. Last season would have been a perfect career year, yet here we are.
But even when you take into account his a�?downa�? 2015, Zimmermann’s numbers are better than Cueto’s. Five years of consistent positive production and he still might be the most under-appreciated big-name starter on the market.
First off, he’s tallied 32 or more starts in each of the last five seasons, making 26 in 2011. Excluding this past campaign for just a moment, Zimm posted an ERA/FIP of 3.01/3.18 and a K/9 rate of 7.2a��almost better than Cueto’s numbers across the board. Add in his 2015 campaigna��3.66/3.75, 7.3 K/9a��and these career numbers still look better: 3.32/3.40, 7.4 K/9.
Prediction: Sure, it would have been nice for Zimmermann had last year been the ‘ol contract year, but 2015 shouldn’t impact him too much on the open market, though he did sort of land in the wrong class as far as starting pitching talent goes. He won’t be the first one off the board, but he’ll be pricey nonetheless, eventually inking a five-year deal for roughly $118 million.
SP a�� John Lackey
What more can be said about Lackey? The 37-year-old only pitched for $507,500 last season due to an interesting injury clause in his previous contract with the Boston Red Sox, and went on to put up some of the best numbers of his career.
His 2.77 ERA will seem a little luckier when paired alongside the 3.57 FIP, but that’s not too egregious. Not to mention, at 36, Lackey finished within the Top 10 of Cy Young voting. Not bad for the fourth option in the St. Louis Cardinals staff.
He also logged 200+ innings for the first time since 2010, keeping his K/9 rate steady at 7.2 all the while.
Prediction: Obviously the fact that he’s 37 plays against him, but after the resurgence he just experienced, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see a team take a chance on a multi-year deal. It’s going to be tricky, though, as I imagine a third year will be sought out. Therefore, I expect him to be signed in the area of three years for roughly $32 million.
RP a�� Darren O’Day
If O’Daya��the former Orioles reliever for the past four seasonsa��gets his way, he’s going to become a very, very rich man this offseason. Ken Rosenthal reported on Wednesday that he’s seeking four years, and between $28-$36 million.
Keep in mind he’s not a closer, but this is what he’s done since coming to Baltimore in 2012: an ERA/FIP of 1.92/3.08 with a K/9 of 9.7. Yeah, that will get him some green in the open market.
Prediction: I know he’s a reliever, but he might be the best there is on the market, and that’s even without the dreaded a�?closera�? tag. He’s worked 62 or more innings the past four seasons, and had a career year in his contract yeara��hey, that doesn’t sound familiar at all. So let’s play along; O’Day will earn $33.5 million over four years in free agency.
RP a�� Antonio Bastardo
Gauging how much a reliever should make is always tricky, given the fluctuation they seem to experience from year to year. As far as Bastardo is concerned, however, he hasn’t had a bad season since 2012a��and even then, it fell on the unlucky side.
That year, he tossed 52 innings with a K/9 of 14.0 (!) but an ERA of 4.33. Yet, his FIP was just about a full run lower at 3.34. The following three seasons have looked like this:
2013 a�� 2.32/3.00; 9.9 K/9
2014 a�� 3.94/3.10; 11.4 K/9
2015 a�� 2.98/3.33; 10.0 K/9
Two other factors that give Bastardo an advantage: his age (just turned 30 in September), and he throws left-handed. Relievers that can throw left-handed are generally highly sought after, plus you can never have too many quality bullpen arms. Just ask the Royals.
Prediction: Remember how Zach Dukea��who with all due respect, has never been the pitcher Bastardo isa��got signed to a three-year deal worth $15 million last season? Well, Bastardo, should clear that by a significant amount. How does $21.5 million over three years sound to you?
RP a�� Bobby Parnell
This is where it gets a little tricky, as Parnell and Clippard could both arguably be billed as a�?closers,a�? but given their recent history, we’re not going to do that.
Parnell was in line for the Mets closing role, until injuries took him out of the mix. In 49 appearances in 2013, spanning 50 innings, Parnell compiled very good numbers: 2.16/2.33; K/9 of 7.9. Unfortunately, he would only make one appearance the following season.
Enter 2015, and injuries limited the hard-throwing right-hander to just 24 innings, his final numbers coming to: 6.38/4.18a��not particularly good anyway you slice ita��and only a 4.9 (!) K/9. Parnell makes this list entirely based off what he did in 2013, with the hope that 2016 brings about the return of a healthy hurler.
Prediction: But until that’s known for sure, one-year deal for $2.2 million sounds pretty fair. Teams need to know what they have to work with, right? No need for another Jim Johnson-type scenario.
SU a�� Tyler Clippard
Don’t use Clippard as a a�?closer,a�? folks. He’d hardly be worth the money and he’s definitely more lucky than gooda��or at least that was the case this past season.
In 71 innings between the Athletics (38.2) and Mets (32.1), the numbers showed the following: 2.92/4.27; 8.1 K/9. While the ERA is excellent, an FIP almost a run and a half higher is an issue.
But, the 70.1 innings he threw with Washington in 2014 were phenomenal: 2.18/2.75; 10.5 K/9. How much of that will play into his next contract?
Prediction: Clippard saved 17 games for Oakland in 2015, but the last time he was a definite closer was the year 2012. He did make $8.3 million this past season, and if everything were based on your latest season, I imagine he’d be sitting on noticeably less than that going forward.
That said, $13.5 million over two years wouldn’t shock me.
CL a�� Joakim Soria
How good must Soria feel? After carving out a successful career as the Royals closer from 2007-2011a��earning two All-Star appearances and a Top 10 Cy Young finish along the waya��Soria missed all of 2012 through injury.
His 2013 was shorta��he only pitched 23.2 inningsa��but he appeared to be nearly all the way back the following season between Texas and Detroit, tossing 44.1 innings, with numbers of 3.25/2.09 alongside a K/9 of 9.7.
Unfortunately, FIP-wise at least, this past campaign just doesn’t look as good: 2.53/3.71; 8.5 K/9. Between the 2014-15 seasons, though, he did take home a total of $12.5 million.
Prediction: Soria doesn’t turn 32 until May, and he’s shown the ability to close out games once again, which typically leads to a reliever being overpaid. Therefore, he’ll take in $15.5 million over the next two seasons.
What do you think? Would you have altered the rotation to possibly include Yovani Gallardo or Jeff Samardzija over Lackey? How about the bullpena��did I include too many fringe closers?
Like you, I’ll be watching the madness unfold over the next several weeks.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs