Market For Free Agent Starting Pitchers Comes Into Focus for San Francisco Giants

Aug 30, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo (61) delivers a pitch in the fourth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

With Monday’s deadline for extending qualifying offers to type A and type B free agents, the market for starting pitching will begin to shake itself out for the next week.

A total of 13 players received the one-year, $14. 1 million qualifying offers from their clubs and will now have a week to decide whether to decline or accept those offers.

Among the starting pitchers on the list are Ubaldo Jimenez of the Cleveland Indians, Hiroki Kuroda of the New York Yankees and Ervin Santana of the Kansas City Royals (h/t CBSSports.com).

Any team wanting to sign Jimenez, Kuroda or Santana would have to surrender their first round pick in next June’s draft (except for the teams with selections in the top 10; those teams surrender a second round pick) as well as the accompanying draft slot money.

Teams that lose such a free agent gain a sandwich pick in between the first and second rounds and draft slot cash.

The San Francisco Giants go into 2014 with a definite need for starting pitching, even after re-signing Tim Lincecum to a two-year deal last week. On Monday, the team declined its $6.5 million option on right-hander Ryan Vogelsong , but are expected to continue negotiating. The Giants also declined its $18 million option on lefty Barry Zito.

So who does that leave out there in free agency without a qualifying offer? Here’s a short list (with last year’s team(s) and stats; *-denotes left-hander):

  • Bronson Arroyo (Cincinnati, 14-12, 3.79 ERA, 1.153 WHIP, 32 GS, 202 IP, 124 K)
  • A.J. Burnett (Pittsburgh, 10-11, 3.30 ERA, 1.215 WHIP, 30 GS, 191 IP, 209 K)
  • Bartolo Colon (Oakland, 18-6, 2.65 ERA, 1.166 WHIP, 30 GS, 190.1 IP, 117 K)
  • Scott Feldman (Chicago Cubs/Baltimore, 12-12, 3.86 ERA, 1.183 WHIP, 30 GS, 181.2 IP, 132 K)
  • Matt Garza (Chicago Cubs/Texas, 10-6, 3.82 ERA, 1.236 WHIP, 24 GS, 155.1 IP, 136 K)
  • Roy Halladay (Philadelphia, 4-5, 6.82 ERA, 1.468 WHIP, 13 GS, 62 IP, 51 K)
  • Dan Haren (Washington, 10-14, 4.67 ERA, 1.238 WHIP, 30 GS, 169.2 IP, 151 K)
  • Tim Hudson (Atlanta, 8-7, 3.97 ERA, 1.188 WHIP, 21 GS, 131.1 IP, 95 K)
  • Phil Hughes (New York Yankees, 4-14, 5.19 ERA, 1.455 WHIP, 29 GS, 145.2 IP, 121 K)
  • Josh Johnson (Toronto, 2-8, 6.20 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 16 GS, 81.1 IP, 83 K)
  • *Scott Kazmir (Cleveland, 10-9, 4.04 ERA, 1.323 WHIP, 29 GS, 158 IP, 162 K)
  • *Paul Maholm (Atlanta, 10-11, 4.41 ERA, 1.412 WHIP, 26 GS, 153 IP, 105 K)
  • Ricky Nolasco (Miami/Los Angeles Dodgers), 13-11, 3.70 ERA, 1.209 WHIP, 33 GS, 199.1 IP, 165 K)
  • *Jason Vargas (Los Angeles Angels, 9-8, 4.02 ERA, 1.387 WHIP, 24 GS, 150 IP, 109 K)

There are others out there, but these represent the best of the lot for those who would not require compensation.

Arroyo has been incredibly consistent, if not particularly overpowering. He has thrown 200 innings every year but one since 2005 (he pitched 199 innings in 2011). Over those nine seasons, Arroyo is 119-104 with a 4.10 ERA and 1.271 WHIP. He’s started 297 games and worked 1,895.2 innings.

The downside with Arroyo is his National League-leading 32 home runs surrendered. Of course, he’s been pitching in Cincinnati’s Great American Band Box, which might have something to do with the inflated total. But he also led the league in gopher balls in 2011, when he allowed 46.

Arroyo is a guy who is steady, will fill into the No. 3 or No. 4 slot in the rotation, and give you decent big-league pitching—nothing more, but likely nothing less. At age 36, he’s probably looking for one more decent contract.

Hudson is intriguing even at age 38, but he is coming off a major ankle injury and may not be ready for spring training.

Aug 11, 2012; Flushing, NY,USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Johan Santana (57) pitches during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most intriguing names out there isn’t on the list, former two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana, who was let go by the New York Mets. The Mets, oddly enough, didn’t want to pick up Santana’s $25 million option for 2014 after the lefty missed all of the 2011 and 2013 seasons with shoulder problems.

But Santana will turn 35 next March and was a dominant starting pitcher not all that long ago. If his shoulder is right, Santana could be an incredible bargain. Even when struggling with the bad shoulder in 2012, he posted a 4.85 ERA and 1.333 WHIP in 21 starts and fanned 111 in 117 innings. He also threw a no-hitter* (official scoring controversy sold separately) against the St. Louis Cardinals and, to revisit his stat line one more time, allowed a career-worst 9.0 hits per nine innings. Career-worst. That’s a mark that would threaten to be a career-best for a lot of guys earning a living as big-league starting pitching.

So there are options out there for the Giants that won’t require losing that No. 14 pick in June. The Giants rotation, outside of Madison Bumgarner, cratered in 2013 and San Francisco has no chance of winning a third straight even-year World Series title without some upgrades.

Topics: Bronson Arroyo, Free Agency, Johan Santana, MLB, San Francisco Giants, Tim Hudson

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