Having already hypothesized where the top tier position players would sign, we now turn our attention to making half-assed guesses… I mean, educated assertions to where the top Starters available will wind up.
Position: LHP Age: 29
2018 Stats: 33 GS • 200.0 IP • 3.15. ERA • 2.61 xFIP • 1.05 WHIP • 11.07 K/9 • 2.16 BB/9 • 6.3 WAR
Who Should Sign Him: Philadelphia Phillies. It’s no secret that the Phillies plan on throwing some serious cash around. It’s also no secret that they plan on upgrading their starting rotation. They have already been linked to the big names (Paxton, Kluber, and Carrasco) available on the trade market, but by signing one of the premier free agent arms instead, they could choose to trade their top prospects to fill other areas of need. With the likes of 2018 Cy Young nominee, Aaron Nola, and 2015 Cy Young winner, Jake Arrieta, already in the fold, the Phillies wouldn’t need Corbin to be their figurative ace; a role he is better suited for. The trio of Nola, Corbin, and Arrieta immediately give the Phillies one of, if not the best, front end of the rotations in all of the MLB. Something that will come in handy when the calendar turns to October.
Who Will Sign Him: New York Yankees. Entering the offseason, the Yankees had one clear goal in mind: upgrading their starting rotation. Despite having already traded for LHP James Paxton, it should come as no surprise that the Yankees, Corbin’s childhood favourite team, have already been rumoured to be the front-runners to garner his services as well. Similar to the Phillies situation mentioned above, the Yankees don’t need Corbin to be their proverbial “ace.” However, seeing as how the starting point for a contract with him should be along the lines of the contract that Yu Darvish signed prior to last season – 6yrs/$126mil – the Yankees will be paying an ace price for a guy who is really more of a solid number two. With that being said, the Yankees, who seem to want to move on from the Sonny Gray experience, are still going to be in need of adding an arm to fill out their rotation. Why settle for starting the season with an unproven arm like Chance Adams or Jonathan Loaisiga as your number five, when you could sign Corbin, and enter the season with 38yr old, CC Sabathia, to anchor your rotation instead?
Position: RHP Age: 28
2018 Stats: 21 GS • 111.0 IP • 3.81 ERA • 3.67 xFIP • 1.13 WHIP • 8.19 K/9 • 1.62 BB/9 • 2.2 WAR
Who Should Sign Him: Houston Astros. The Astros were already looking at having to possibly replace two starting pitchers as both, LHP Dallas Keuchel and RHP Charlie Morton, were slated to hit free agency. Then they got the news that another one of their starters, RHP Lance McCullers Jr., was going to miss the entire 2019 season with Tommy John surgery. Even though the Astros do have a few arms – RHP Brad Peacock, RHP Colin McHugh, RHP Josh James, and RHP Forrest Whitley – that could step into the rotation to begin the season, adding an impact veteran arm like Eovaldi would allow them to bring along their younger arms (James and Whitley) at a more suitable pace; as well as having a contingency plan if either of the veteran arms of Peacock or McHugh don’t pan out.
Who Will Sign Him: Boston Red Sox. Acquired from the Rays at the trade deadline, Eovaldi’s solid regular season performance was overshadowed by his now legendary one in October. Eovaldi pitched 22.1 innings over six games in the Playoffs including two starts, and a relief appearance for the ages. You could argue that he was the odds on favourite to be the World Series MVP until Steve Pearce did his best Reggie Jackson impression. Post season success aside, what makes a reunion with Eovaldi truly appealing to the Red Sox is that he gives them another right handed option – along with Rick Porcello – to offset their lefty heavy rotation. With few holes to fill this offseason, I expect the Red Sox to be more than willing to spend in order to upgrade both their rotation and bullpen.
Position: LHP Age: 30
2018 Stats: 34 GS • 204.2 IP • 3.74 ERA • 3.84 xFIP • 1.31 WHIP • 6.73 K/9 • 2.55 BB/9 • 3.6 WAR
Who Should Sign Him: Cincinnati Reds. Despite being perennial cellar dwellers for the past number of seasons, the Reds have been one of the more talked about teams as far as trading for or signing a top tier starting pitcher. Rumoured to have inquired about the Blue Jays young righty, Marcus Stroman, it appears that the Reds are targeting pitchers capable of inducing a high rate of ground balls; which isn’t surprising when you consider that they play in a hitter friendly ballpark (Great American Ballpark). By targeting a free agent like Keuchel, it allows the Reds to refrain from having to part with some of their highly touted prospects; which in turn lets Cincinnati use them as trade bait for other needs. Speculation and rumours aside, one thought to keep in mind is that the Reds have historically shied away from offering lucrative contracts to high profile free agents.
Who Will Sign Him: Philadelphia Phillies. Similar to the position the Yankees are in, the Phillies would like to add another arm but don’t need them to be their ace. Enter Keuchel. Despite his lack of velocity and low strikeout numbers, his pinpoint control, and ability to keep the ball in the yard due to a high ground ball%, make him a logical fit for a team that plays their home games in a sin bin like Citizens Bank. That being said, with Keuchel on the wish list of numerous other teams, the Phillies might not want to get in a bidding war for the services of Keuchel, and instead could look to acquire a top tier pitcher via trade.
Position: LHP Age: 36
2018 Stats: 31 GS • 177.2 IP • 3.65 ERA • 3.88 xFIP • 1.13 WHIP • 9.78 K/9 • 2.58 BB/9 • 3.2 WAR
Who Should Sign Him: Toronto Blue Jays. This one is fairly straight forward; the Blue Jays need to add a veteran arm or two to help ease the workload on their young, and oft-injured starters. Having already had two stints North of the border in his career, Happ is no stranger to the organization, and that’s with taking into account the new coaching regime that is in place; although long time Pitching Coach, Pete Walker, does remain. Although a reunion between the two would make sense, at least on paper, for both parties, Happ’s potential price tag, and desire to win now, could be the reason that this doesn’t pan out.
Who Will Sign Him: Los Angeles Angels. As stated in the previous article, the Angels should be doing everything in their power to surround Mike Trout with as much talent as possible. Seeing as how their biggest need, which there are numerous, is the starting rotation, targeting one or two of the top arms available should be priority number one for this offseason. Although there are “better” arms and “bigger” names available, the 36 yr old Happ might offer the best bang for the buck on the market. Since his resurgence with the Pirates in 2015, Happ has quietly been one of the more consistent starters during that time. The market for Happ should begin to heat up once the bigger names have signed, as the teams that missed out on their top targets begin to look at their Plan B’s. The Angels would be smart to not play the waiting game or they may risk getting in a bidding war and having to overpay.
Position: RHP Age: 35
2018 Stats: 30 GS •167.0 IP • 3.13 ERA • 3.42 xFIP • 1.16 WHIP • 10.83 K/9 • 3.45 BB/9 • 3.1 WAR
Who Should Sign Him: Oakland A’s.
Who Will Sign Him: Washington Nationals. Despite looking like they were about to jump start a rebuild at last season’s Trade Deadline, not to mention potentially losing Bryce Harper any day now, the Nationals enter the offseason rumoured to be looking to add pieces. It’s hard to argue against the Nationals still believing that they have a window to contend as they still have a pretty stacked rotation and roster, but it is hard to see them shelling out big bucks for long term deals because a rebuild could take place at a moments notice. Morton, despite being 35, has been one of the top starters for the past few seasons in regards to strikeout numbers (364 K’s in 313.2 innings over the past two seasons) and average fastball velocity (95.4mph). Signing Morton would give the Nationals a solid mid rotation starter to pitch behind Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, while not having to commit to a lucrative multi-year deal. It also allows the Nationals, if they plan on contending, to spend money elsewhere on other needs, as well as give them a potential trade piece if they are forced to sell off.
Best of the Rest:
Lance Lynn • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR: 2.9 • Tampa Bay Rays
Anibal Sanchez • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 2.4 • San Diego Padres
Gio Gonzalez • Age: 33 • 2018 WAR: 2.0 • Oakland A’s
Trevor Cahill • Age: 31 • 2018 WAR: 2.0 • Toronto Blue Jays
Derek Holland • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR: 2.0 • Texas Rangers
Clay Buchholz • Age: 34 • 2018 WAR: 1.9 • Arizona Diamondbacks
Wade Miley • Age: 32 • WAR: 1.5 • Milwaukee Brewers
Matt Harvey • Age 30 • 2018 WAR: 1.4 • Cincinnati Reds
Jeremy Hellickson • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR: 1.2 • Chicago White Sox
Garrett Richards • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR: 1.0 • Baltimore Orioles
Tyson Ross • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR: 1.0 • Cincinnati Reds
Will Remain Unsigned Until Spring Training:
Brett Anderson • Age 31 • 2018 WAR: 0.9
James Shields • Age: 37 • 2018 WAR: 0.8
Jason Hammel • Age: 36 • 2018 WAR 0.8
Edwin Jackson • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 0.7
Marco Estrada • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 0.5
Francisco Liriano • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 0.3
Doug Fister • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 0.3
Bartolo Colon • Age: 46 • 2018 WAR: 0.2
Yovani Gallardo • Age: 33 • 2018 WAR: 0.1
Jaime Garcia • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR:0.0
Martin Perez • Age: 28 • 2018 WAR: -0.2
Drew Pomeranz • Age: 30 • 2018 WAR: -0.3
Miguel Gonzalez • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: -0.3
Chris Tillman • Age: 31 • 2018 WAR: -0.4
Ervin Santana • Age: 36 • 2018 WAR: -0.5
Nate Karns • Age: 31 • 2018 WAR: N/A
Part Three – Top Free Agent Relief Pitchers Available – Coming Soon