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2016-17 Free Agency Preview: Starting Pitchers

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Where’s the star power?

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Los Angeles Angels
R. A. Dickey - already a Brave
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Brewers are probably a few years (at least) away from being major players in free agency, and one gets the feeling that they might never really go after the big money guys as long as David Stearns is the GM. But who signs whom might make some other whom available, and sets the prices, so we will look at the top available players by position groups this week.

The starting pitching group has already thinned with the Braves signing 40 (plus) year old veterans Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey. Both are one year deals, and numerous reports have Dickey in the $8 million range for a one year deal, and Colon at $12.5 million, also for one year. The Braves are drawing kudos for getting two innings eaters on one year deals, giving their young starting pitching a chance to develop for another year.

For the most part, there are not any front end starters available. You could put the top ten names in a bag and pull them randomly, and have just as much chance of success as with careful analysis. Teams will generally be getting at best a third starter, and in most cases a fourth or fifth level starter.

Top Ten (again, a consensus rating reflecting my biases)

  1. Rich Hill
  2. C. J. Wilson
  3. Edinson Volquez
  4. Jason Hammel
  5. Jeremy Hellickson
  6. Doug Fister
  7. R.A. Dickey
  8. Bartolo Colon
  9. Andrew Cashner
  10. Brett Anderson

Others: Jake Peavy, Jorge de la Rosa, Jared Weaver

Rich Hill is 37 years old, has had injury issues, was almost out of baseball a few years ago, but is the only one available that posted anything like good starting pitching numbers last year. He had a 2.12 ERA between Oakland and the Dodgers last year, with a 0.997 WHIP and 10.5 K’s/9. But he was only able to pitch 110.1 innings - blister problems truly complicated matters for him and other teams at the trade deadline. Hill made $6 million in 2016.

C. J. Wilson has seen his work load decline over the past few years, and only was able to go 132 innings last year. But he has been effective since 2010 for the Rangers and the Angels, and could give a team 180 solid innings next year. He is 36, and earned $20.5 million last season.

Edinson Volquez pitched about as much in 2016 (189.1 innings) as 2015 (200.1 innings) for the Royals, just not as effectively. His WHIP jumped to 1.555 from 1.31, and his ERA went from 3.55 to 5.37. His FIP went from 3.82 to 4.57, a less alarming rise. Volquez has generally been in the low 4’s for ERA in his career, and at 33 will probably be fine in the back end of somebody’s rotation. He made $9.5 million last year.

Jason Hammel pitched well for the Cubs the past 2 2/3 seasons, winning 33 games, giving them 446 innings in 78 starts with a 3.59 ERA (3.89 FIP). Why isn’t he higher on the list? Maybe he paled in comparison to the rest of the Cubs’ rotation. Anyways, the Cubs didn’t include him on their post season roster and didn’t pick up his option for 2017. At 34, he might do quite well for himself. He made $10 million last year.

Jeremy Hellickson won rookie of the year in his first full season in 2011, but he was a well-below average starter from 2013-2015. A trade to the Phillies seemingly re-energized the 30 year old, who posted a 3.71 ERA in 189 innings during his lone season in the city of brotherly love. He cut his walk rate and subsequently his WHIP in 2016, and will hit the market in search of a multi-year deal.

Doug Fister has seen his numbers decline each of the last two years after a terrific 2014 campaign. He did give the Astros 180 innings last year, but his WHIP has gone from 1.079 in ‘14 to 1.398 in ‘15 to 1.425 in ‘16, and he allowed a career high 24 homers last year. He is 33 and made $7 million last year.

R. A. Dickey is a Brave now, and will bring his 42 year old arm and 200 innings to the young rotation. He only worked 169.1 innings last year. His knuckleball will help educate whoever the Braves have behind the plate. He’ll reportedly earn $8 mil in 2017.

Should Bartolo Colon be higher on this list? Maybe. But he is 43, and the Braves will pay him $12.5 million next year. On the other hand, he has worked 190 plus innings each of the past 4 seasons, each time carrying a WHIP of about 1.2. Can he maintain that in Atlanta? Why not? It isn’t like he has much velocity to lose. And there’s that new-found power stroke.

Andrew Cashner only gave the Padres and Marlins 132 innings last year, and his success from 2013 and ‘14 is starting to look like a long time ago. His WHIP of 1.15 or so from then was up to 1.53 last year, and his FIP was up to 4.84, a run and a half higher than in his good seasons. Still, at 30 years old he might have something left. He made $7.25 million last year.

Brett Anderson got the Dodgers 180 innings in 2015, and then the lefty missed almost all of last season. He’s only 29, but will make less than his $15.8 million as he attempts to come back from back surgery. Probably a one year deal. If the market is apprehensive, would this make sense for the Brewers?

Starting pitchers make lots of money.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs