The Search for a No. 4 Starter

Jerry DiPoto certainly has his hands full this winter.

While DFA-ing Mathis and figuring out what to do with the logjam at LF/1B/DH are (hopefully) at the top of his list, another of DiPoto's biggest concerns this off-season will most likely be finding a another starter to replace Joel Piñeiro.

Ideally, DiPoto will sign (or trade for) a pitcher that exceeds the production Piñeiro gave the Angels. If that isn't feasible, or within the budget, then he should settle for a pitcher who is likely to match Piñeiro's numbers. DiPoto knows this, we know this, Tony Reagins is probably even vaguely aware of this. I'm not breaking any new ground here, but it's still important to narrow down exactly what we need vs what we want. While it would be great to add another ace to our rotation — I know I'd love to have Buehrle or Wilson — it may not in the team's best financial interests at the moment with only about $20m on the table (using Suboptimal's estimates).

In this post I hope to break down the possible candidates for the #4 spot. Since I wouldn't know where to begin speculating on possible trades this post will focus solely on free agent starting pitchers.

As of today, there are 41 starting pitchers (including Piñeiro) on the free agent market for this winter.

Some are worthwhile options, many are not. I thought it'd be instructive to examine each player rather than just the one or two big names so I spent the last week or so looking at each player and have given a brief summary for each. Fair warning, this post is definitely tl;dr material. Continue at your own peril.


The idea of a #4 starter is a rather vague one, as each team has a different level of injuries, depth and skill in their rotation. Hardball Times wrote a few articles (1 & 2) on it a while back in an attempt to clear things up, but it's still a rather muddy concept. Hell, last year Roy Oswalt was technically the Phillies #4 starter when most teams would've fielded him as their ace. In light of this, I'll be comparing possible replacements directly to Piñeiro rather than a vague idea of a #4.

Because three seasons is simply more data to work with than two, and because Piñeiro's 2009 campaign is likely a big reason we signed him, I'm comparing Piñeiro's numbers from '09-'11 with his possible replacements' numbers over the same time frame.

To categorize the pitchers into groups, I chose to focus the comparisons on average rWAR* and average innings pitched over the three-year timeframe. While there are countless other indicators out there, I believe these two provide us with the clearest, most basic overall picture of the production we can hope to expect. 

*I decided to go with Baseball-Reference WAR for all the following data because each player's page also included his salary information. I'm a bit curious as to why Piñeiro's 2011 season is rated so harshly by rWAR, especially when FanGraphs rates it at +1.3, but I worked too long on this to redo it with FanGraphs numbers, so, yeah.

Here are Piñeiro's '09-'11 numbers: 


(Click all charts to embiggen)

Based on these numbers, Dipoto should aim for someone who will put up 1.2 rWAR or more and throw at least 170 innings. For the following groups I've raised the rWAR level to 1.5 to account for possibly inflated numbers by the few pitchers who only have two years of data due to injury (Capuano) or otherwise (Colon). The IP numbers are averaged over three seasons whether they pitched in all three or not.

Based off the above numbers, I've placed all possible starters into three main groups:

1. The "No Chance in Hell" Group: (12 Players)


The first group of pitchers to remove from the equation are those that are so bad that they either mired away in the minors for a portion of 2011 or have put up a negative rWAR over the last three seasons. While some of these guys will probably end up as spot-starters somewhere, with our farm system seemingly chock-full of Quadruple-A starters they'd be a total waste to bring our way. If you hear any of these names mentioned in the coming weeks, start panicking.

Kyle Davies - RHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: −0.1 | Avg IP: 123

Davies was the fourth victim of the long, torrid love affair Dayton Moore has had with former Atlanta Braves (see: Perez, Pena Jr., Francoeur, Cabrera, Farnsworth, etc.). Davies wasn't anything special when arrived in KC, and he's been terrible since. Despite historically bad numbers — i.e. drinking game bad — Davies averaged 20 starts a year for the Royals from '07-'11. At one point last year, Ned Yost actually went out of his way to adopt a six-man rotation to get Davies into games. Seriously. I blame his athletic build. No word on whether he was once a back-up quarterback. The Royals finally released Davies on August 10, much to Dayton Moore's chagrin.

Doug Davis - LHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: −0.1 | Avg IP: 96

Davis is a junk-ball, control pitcher who has always struggled with his command. His 4.33 BB/9 is dead last among starting pitchers with 1,000 IP since 2005. Davis put up a decent string of seasons from '03-'09 in spite of his control issues, averaging 184 IP, 4.11 ERA and 7.0 K/9.

The last two years have not been kind to Davis. He has been signed and released by three separate teams in that timeframe, managing only 84 IP, a 6.96 ERA and averaging just 4.9 innings per start. He has not pitched in the majors since June 28th when he gave up 10 runs to the offensive juggernaut that is the San Francisco Giants.

Armando Galarraga - RHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: −0.3 | Avg IP: 110

When it comes down to it, Galarraga is a not very good pitcher who had one almost incredible moment. The Tigers seemed to realize this a day too late last year, agreeing to a one-year, $2.3m contract with Galarraga one day prior to DFA-ing him. After the D-Backs took Galarraga off the Tigers' hands (with Detroit footing the bill) he only managed eight underwhelming starts before being designated to Triple-A. Once there Galarraga fared much worse, giving up 24 runs in 23 innings over five starts.

Other than the near-perfecto Galarraga does not really have anything going for him. His agent's name is apparently 'Octagon', which I'm assuming is a pseudonym for Chuck Norris, so that's cool. Beyond that, however, he has a steadily declining K/BB and a propensity to give up HRs. Not ideal.

Kenshin Kawakami - RHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: 0.3 | Avg IP: 81 

The three-year, $23m deal Atlanta made for Kawakami in 2009 has been an absolute disaster. After a decent debut season (bogged down by a deceiving W-L record) and a downright awful sophomore slump, the Braves payed $6.7m last year to have Kawakami play for their AA affiliate. In explaining the move to Double-A rather than Triple-A, an Atlanta reporter stated:

They want to keep the Triple-A rotation open to pitchers who could have an impact in Atlanta this season.

Ouch. Don't let the door hit you in the ass, Kenshin.

All backstabbing aside, Kawakami proved Atlanta right this year by posting an 8.41 ERA in six Double-A starts. Somehow I don't see him sticking around the States much longer.

Rodrigo Lopez - RHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: −0.4 | Avg IP: 109

I honestly have no idea who Rodrigo Lopez is. The man has apparently played ten major league seasons for six different teams yet I have never heard of him. An impressive feat, but probably not a good sign. According to B-R, Lopez was runner-up to Eric Hinske in the AL Rookie of the Year vote the year we took home the title, and put up a 4.9 WAR season two years later.  Unfortunately for Lopez, those years seem to be nothing more than extreme outliers. Since 2004 he has put up a 5.04 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP in 805 innings while giving up 1.4 HR/9. 

John Maine - RHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: −0.1 | Avg IP: 40 

Maine's career is just about kaput. He's had injury issues for some time and has not pitched in the Majors since early 2010 because of shoulder surgery. Maine left the Rockies' Triple-A affiliate in June saying he "may retire".

Scott Olsen - LHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: −0.6 | Avg IP: 48 

There's really not much to say about Scott Olsen that these links don't cover. He's been involved in four separate clubhouse altercations with teammates and tried to fight off police officers while drunk before being tazed. Oh, and he's also a terrible pitcher. He was released from the Pirates this year following Spring Training.

Vicente Padilla - RHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: 0.6  | Avg IP: 84

Padilla exemplifies everything that has gone wrong with the Dodgers franchise the last few years. Following a surprising and small-sample-size-aided 2009 postseason, Padilla was courted by Colletti & Co. to the tune of $5 million to be their opening day starter. Padilla had been hovering at fair/not good for years but was granted the Dodgers' #1 spot over Kershaw, Kuroda and Billingsley because of two postseason starts. I don't get it. Padilla was injured mid-way through 2010 and only threw eight innings this year. No word on his status for next year.

Oliver Perez - LHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: −1.5 | Avg IP: 37

Our first Omar Minaya gem, Perez is the first of two pitchers on this list who were paid $12 million not to pitch this year. Released by the Mets at the end of Spring Training this year, the Nationals picked him up but sent him to Double-A for the entire season. While he put up a 3.09 ERA there in 15 starts, it's telling that the Nats didn't bring him up when he was essentially a free arm for them. Perez is another guy whose career is effectively over. 

Carlos Silva - RHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: 0.3 | Avg IP: 47

Was Bill Bavasi awful or what? Our second $12 million bench-warmer, Silva hadn't even put together a deceivingly good season when Bavasi signed him to a 4-year, $48 million contract (with a 5th year option) in 2008. His 2007 stat line was: 13-14, 4.19 ERA, 4 K/9. At least Kazmir was legitimately good at one point in time. Silva was traded to the Cubs in 2009 for Milton Bradley and was released by both the Cubs and Yankees this season without entering a major league game. Silva's contract buyout for next season ($2m) is more than Jeff Mathis' salary. Something tells me Silva is fine with getting paid gobs of money to do nothing.

Tim Wakefield - RHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: 0.0 | Avg IP: 141

Wakefield and R.A. Dickey are the last of a dying breed, the knuckle-baller. Entering 2012 at 45, I can't see anyone but the Red Sox taking a chance on Wakefield. He has been a replacement-level player the last three years and hasn't had an ERA under 4.00 since 2002. As fun as it might be to punish Mathis by making him Wakefield's personal catcher (I'm sure Saltalamacchia would appreciate it), that would still entail keeping Mathis, which can't happen.

Dontrelle Willis - LHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: −0.3 | Avg IP: 53

Willis pulled a Rick Ankiel in early 2008 and has been desperately trying to rediscover the strike zone ever since. His 7.3 BB/9 rate in 199 innings from '08 to present looks like a typo, especially when his career walk rate still sits at a not-terrible 3.7. Signed to a minor league contract by the Reds prior to the season, Willis fared considerably better with regards to walks this year, compiling a BB/9 of 4.4 in 75 innings. He may come around yet, but it's probably not worth the risk. At least not next year.


2. The "5th or 6th Starter" Group:  (10 Players)


On to group two. Most of these pitchers are within striking distance of the 1.5 WAR, 170 IP cutoff, but none quite make it. It is primarily made up of guys who could very well put together a decent season but have the odds stacked against them because of age, injury, inconsistency or a combination of the three. I wouldn't be devastated if we went with some of these guys, but I'd still be disappointed.

Since some of these pitchers are possible candidates, this group contains 2011 salary info along with the usual WAR and IP.

Chris Capuano - LHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: 1.3 | Avg IP: 84 | $1.5m

Capuano is one of the few pitchers in this group whose numbers are headed in the right direction. A 6'3" lefty, Chris' fastball sits in the high 80s and tops out in the low 90s. He also throws a slider and a change, both of which come in at about 80mph.

Chris missed all of '08 and '09 recovering from his second Tommy John surgery (not sure where they get the ligament for that one). After signing a minor league deal with the Brewers in 2010, Capuano worked his way into Milwaukee's rotation by June. With the Mets in 2011, Capuano posted a 4.55 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and a career-high 8.3 K/9 in 186 IP. I wouldn't mind seeing Capuano in the rotation so long as we triple-check his shoulder prior to signing him.

Bartolo Colon - RHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: 1.3 | Avg IP: 75 | $0.90m

Bart's stuff really looked good this year. Racking up 164 innings over 26 starts for the Yankees, Colon amassed his best K/9 rate in a decade at 7.4. It was also the first time since his receiving his Cy Young (2005) that he has thrown over 100 innings in a season.  As ever, it's difficult to overlook his "build" and whether this kind of performance is sustainable at 39 years old. There's also this odd bit of information. But, man, his stuff looked really good. 

Aaron Cook - RHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: 1.1 | Avg IP: 128 | $9.88m

Cook manages to inspire a whole lot of indifference from me. In the three years since making the All-Star team in '08, his innings pitched and ERA seem to have developed an inverse relationship. As his innings decrease (158, 127, 97) his ERA rises (4.16, 5.18, 6.02).

He's spent his entire career pitching for the Rockies, which could lead one to believe that maybe he's a better pitcher at sea level. Well, he's not. Cook actually fares slightly worse when pitching on the road when it comes to command (1.512 vs 1.428 WHIP) and is pretty much equal in everything else. Perhaps Cook should've been in the "No Chance in Hell" group.

Zach Duke - LHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: 0.5 | Avg IP: 150 | $3.5m

Duke seems to be one in a wave of mediocre pitchers to come up through the Pirates system in the last decade. After a stellar rookie season in '05 — 14 starts, 1.81 ERA, 1.205 WHIP — Duke has never achieved an ERA under 4.00. His career ERA is now at an unspectacular 4.56, including a 4.79 ERA over the last three years. After missing the start of '11 with a broken hand, Duke started 9 games for the Diamondbacks before being relegated to the bullpen.

Jeff Francis - LHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: 1.0 | Avg IP: 96 | $2m

Fully recovered from the shoulder surgery that sidelined him for all of '09 and finally free from Coors Field, Francis seemed like a safe bet for moderate success in Kansas City. While Jeff did manage to keep his ERA under 5.00 for the first time since '07, his K/9 dropped to a lowly 4.5 and batters put up a .301/.337/.457 slash line against him. Francis will probably end up getting a spot in a rotation somewhere, but he's not a great option.

Jon Garland - RHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: 0.8 | Avg IP: 153 | $4.42m

It's unfortunate that the year Garland gave us in '08 was probably the worst of his career. He has performed considerably better in the last few years but was sidelined with a serious shoulder injury mid-way through this season. It was his first time on the disabled list since 2000(!). Jon underwent surgery in early July and missed the remainder of the season. It's still up in the air whether he'll be ready by Spring Training.

Aaron Harang - RHP - Type: B  | Avg WAR: 0.4 | Avg IP: 148 | $3.5m

Harang has definitely taken a step backward the last few years. After a solid three-year stretch from '05-'07 Harang has been pretty uninspiring. After leading the league in K/BB ratio in '07, his walks steadily increased and his punch-outs declined. I hoped that moving to the friendly confines of sunny San Diego and into the loving arms of Bud Black last year would set Harang straight, but it really didn't. His ERA went down significantly to 3.68, but all his other numbers remained the same. I'd be extremely impressed with a 3.68 ERA if he didn't play for the Padres. Because half his games were at Petco Park his ERA+ was weighted all the way down to 98.

Rich Harden - RHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: 0.6 | Avg IP: 105 | $1.5m

Harden is one of many pitchers on this list who cannot seem to stay healthy for an entire season. He has only once thrown over 150 innings in a season and that came all the way back in '04. He hasn't broken 100 innings in a season since '09. Harden's strike out rate has always been great, and his walk rate always a bit high, but recently his HR/9 numbers have shot through the roof. After maintaining a rate of 0.7 his first six seasons, it has jumped to 1.7 in the last three years. 

Jason Marquis - RHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: 0.5 | Avg IP: 136 | $7.5m

Marquis has been pretty awful of late. Although, I would hazard to say he's just never really been very good, now he's just worse. Marquis managed to have his last semi-decent season pitching for Colorado in '09. He started out strong that year, making the All-Star team, but regressed to his normal self by the end of the year, finishing up with a 4.04 ERA. Marquis has only ever had an ERA under 4.00 twice in his career, and the last time was way back in '04. He's also managed an ERA over 6.00 twice as well, the second being last year.

Brad Penny - RHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: 0.5 | Avg IP: 137 | $3m

Remember when Brad Penny was the Dodgers' #1 starter? Man, that was funny. Penny has been a solid, middle of the rotation guy most of his career, but constantly deemed a disappointment because of his early branding as an "ace". He hovered around 2.5 WAR/season for five years, had one stellar year with the Dodgers in 2007 (5.9 rWAR, 3rd in the Cy Young vote) and then subsequently fell off a cliff, averaging a 5.11 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP over the past four seasons (eerily similar "production" to Piñeiro's disappointing 2011: 5.13 ERA, 1.51 WHIP). Penny also had the worst K/9 rate of any qualified starter in baseball this year at 3.67.


3. The Legitimate Possibilities: Groups A, B & C - (12 Players)


And finally we have the twelve pitchers that meet at least one of the 1.5 WAR, 170 IP criteria. Quite a few old guys on this list, a few surprises (Bruce Chen, anyone?) and many are sadly out of our price range. I've split up the qualifiers based on which criterion or criteria they meet. Group A = innings, Group B = WAR, Group C = both. Pretty straight-forward.


Group A: Quantity over Quality

Livan Hernandez - RHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: 1.0 | Avg IP: 190 | $1.25m

How is this guy not 40 yet? Hernandez doesn't have anything going for him except that he eats innings like crazy. He has averaged 208 IP over 15 full seasons, including an average of 190 IP over the last three years. His above average 2010 season came out of nowhere and probably won't come back. Take 2010 out of the equation and Hernandez hasn't had a decent season since 2005. Hernandez should be nothing but a last-gasp effort to fill innings if everything else falls through.


Group B: Quality over Quantity

Erik Bedard - LHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: 1.9 | Avg IP: 70 | $1m

I originally had Bedard in the "Dark Horse" group (see: below) but I moved him up here at the last minute because he is "healthy" at the moment. Erik is a quality pitcher with a body of glass. In the nines years since reaching the majors, he has made at least eight trips to the DL (twice for an entire season) with injuries to his elbow, oblique, hip, shoulder and knee, not necessarily in that order. I don't know what to add to that except to say, at least he's spreading it around.

Whenever Bedard is healthy enough to pitch he does a pretty damn good job at it. It's difficult to ignore a career 3.70 ERA and 8.8 K/9, but he has only reached the 170 inning threshold twice in nine years, never once eclipsing 200 innings (though 196 is close). Bedard scattered 129 innings over 24 starts between the Mariners and Red Sox this year, good enough for 1.7 WAR, only suffering one 15-day trip to the DL (sprained knee) If we're able to acquire him at a similar price to his '11 salary alongside a healthier pick-up, it's a low risk acquisition. If we only get Bedard, we're playing with fire.

Bruce Chen - LHP - Type: B  | Avg WAR: 1.5 | Avg IP: 119 | $2m

After floundering about various teams for parts of 13 seasons, Chen put together two decent seasons in a row and now has Type B free agent status. The '10 and '11 seasons mark only the fifth time in Chen's career that he has eclipsed even 100 innings in a season. His only season season over 170 innings was way back in 2005 with the Orioles.

Chen doesn't strike many batters out (5.9 K/9 this year) and doesn't throw hard (fastball tops out in the high 80s) but has been productive of late nevertheless. Some think that his success might be linked to the rare ability to actually depress BABIP, comparing his recent success to the second half of Jamie Moyer's career. The upside is he doesn't get hurt, with only two 15-day stints on the DL in his career (that I could find). The downside is that his upside has nothing to do with actual pitching. He seems like a nice enough guy, just not sure if he can continue his even moderate success.

Freddy Garcia - RHP - Type: B  | Avg WAR:  2.2 | Avg IP: 120 | $1.5m

The $1.5m listed above is a bit of a misnomer because Garcia's contract was "incentive-laden". He apparently made around another $3m because he performed so well. Word on the street right now is that the Yankees are in the process of offering Garcia another contract. Whether that means they actually want him or a draft pick remains to be seen.

After spending an abnormal amount of time recovering from a 2007 shoulder injury, Garcia finally returned in full force in 2010, throwing 157 innings at a 4.63 ERA for the White Sox. Signed to a minor league contract by the Yankees this January, Garcia made the team and threw up a 3.62 ERA in 146 innings. Garcia is not going to strike a lot of guys out (5.6 K/9 average over last three years) but his Weaver-esque fly ball tendencies (36% GB rate in '11) may play well to our outfield. MLB Trade Rumors estimates he'll be valued under $5m on the market.   

Kevin Millwood - RHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: 1.7 | Avg IP: 148 | N/A (minimum?)

Millwood' appearance in this group is largely riding on his '09 performance for the Rangers. Millwood spent most of this season looking for a way back into the majors after posting a 5.10 ERA and a 1.510 WHIP for the Orioles in '10. Unsuccessful in both the Yankees and the Red Sox' farm systems early this year, Milwood broke through to the majors late in the season in Colorado, making nine spot-starts for the Rockies and putting up numbers (3.69 ERA, 1.215 WHIP) much closer to his successful '09 campaign.

Determining how Millwood will do in the future is anyone's guess. Milwood has a rather bi-polar career, much like Ervin Santana. Unlike Santana, however, Milwood's good seasons — while really good — are much more sporadic. Millwood's ERA the last five seasons has either been under 4.00 or over 5.00, and his recent successes seem to be predicated on a low BABIP. Millwood will be 37 next year.


Group C: Solid Candidates

Mark Buehrle - LHP - Type: B  | Avg WAR: 4.0 | Avg IP: 210 | $14m

I really wish we could afford Mark Buehrle. The man is seemingly unstoppable. He has made at least 30 starts and racked up over 200 innings every year for the last decade. In that time he has amassed a 3.83 ERA (good for a 120 ERA+) and a nice, low BB/9 of 2.0. Mark didn't have any complete games this year for the first time since his rookie season, but he still managed to work up to 205 IP.

Buehrle is apparently looking to play two or three more years. I don't think he'll have much trouble finding offers on the market, I just hope his price tag is low enough for us to have a chance.

Edwin Jackson - RHP - Type: B  | Avg WAR: 3.0 | Avg IP: 208 | $8.75m

Jackson has played for at least one different team each of the last four seasons. He has become a human hot potato, traded six times since '06, for really rather unclear reasons. He's obviously worth having, otherwise teams wouldn't trade for him, but for some reason he's expendable as well. Still only 28, Jackson has turned himself into a good pitcher the last three seasons in spite of all the moving around. He has averaged a 3.96 ERA, 7.1 K/9 and 0.9 HR/9 in that timeframe, providing his services to Detroit, Arizona, Chicago, Toronto (sort of), and St. Louis. It should be interesting to see where he ends up, and for how long.

Hiroki Kuroda - RHP - Type: B  | Avg WAR: 2.1 | Avg IP: 172 | $11.75m

ESPN has a quote from Ned Colletti saying Kuroda "doesn't want to play anywhere else". If we interpret that to mean Southern California and not the Dodgers, that still leaves us on the table. Kuroka has put together four very strong seasons since coming stateside in 2008, accumulating a 3.45 ERA and 1.187 WHIP in 699 IP. Those worried about a wide home/road split will be happy to know his numbers outside of pitcher-friendly Dodger stadium are practically identical in every way. Kuroda's simply a good pitcher.

$11.75m is probably more money than we can spend on one player this offseason, at least one that doesn't swing a bat. I have no idea what Kuroda's asking price would be on the market but if he really does want to stay in Southern California at least that narrows down the competition.

Paul Maholm - LHP - Type: -  | Avg WAR: 1.5 | Avg IP: 181 | $6.25m

At first glance Maholm seems to be a younger, left-handed version of Piñeiro. Comparing their career numbers bears this out even more:


(Click to embiggen)

The similarity in the numbers is uncanny. In addition, both throw between the mid-70s to high-80s and thrive on mixing up their pitches: fastball (Piñeiro: sinker vs Maholm: two-seam), slider, cutter and change-up. The sole difference other than handedness seems to be that Maholm backs up his two-seam with a four-seamer every now and again. I realize we're not necessarily looking for a Piñeiro copycat but we do need a lefty and Maholm is coming off probably his best full season to date: 3.62 ERA, 1.294 WHIP and 0.6 HR/9 in 162 IP. 

Roy Oswalt - RHP - Type: A  | Avg WAR: 3.3 | Avg IP: 177 | $16m

Oswalt is still one of the elite pitchers in the game, even if age and injuries have slowed him down a bit this year. I think just about any other pitcher on this list would love for a 3.69 ERA and 1.338 WHIP to be considered a down year.

He is one of only two Type A starting pitchers available, so his initial asking price is bound to be high. His agent was recently quoted saying he wanted a "long-term contract" which is worrisome at 34. Now at the end of a 5-year, $73m contract, it should be interesting to see what Oswalt will be offered on the open market, especially with his recent back issues. I'm holding out hope that the price and years will be low enough for us to make a bid, but I'm not counting on it.

Javier Vasquez - RHP - Type: B  | Avg WAR: 2.5 | Avg IP: 190 | $7m

While infamous for underperforming for the Yankees on two separate occasions, Vasquez has been an above-average pitcher just about every other year. He has a 4.22 ERA, 1.249 WHIP and 8.0 K/9 over 2,840 innings and 14 seasons. He rebounded very nicely with the Marlins this year, putting up a 3.69 ERA over 192 innings, including a 1.85 ERA and 6.15 K/BB in his final 12 starts of the season.

Unfortunately for us, it seems that Vasquez is pretty set on staying in or near Florida, whether the Marlins want him or not, because his wife and child live in Puerto Rico. Vasquez has also made indications that he may retire.

C.J. Wilson - LHP - Type: A  | Avg WAR: 3.6 | Avg IP: 167 | $7m

I know he plays for the enemy but it's always nice to see a local guy succeed. Wilson defied pre-season forecasts crying for regression this year, putting together a stellar season for the Rangers. C.J. complimented his 2.94 ERA with career-bests in innings pitched (223), WHIP (1.817) and BB/9 (3.0).

With Sabathia off the table, Wilson is the most coveted pitcher on the market. Someone is going to end up overpaying for him no matter what his postseason numbers were, I just don't think it will (or should) be us.


The "Dark Horse" Group: (3 Players)

These three guys have missed serious time over the last few seasons due to injury but may be worth bringing around on a minor league contract just in case they become available. They are technically free agents but I doubt they're on anyone's radar right now.

Justin Duchscherer - RHP

Duchscherer has been battling serious health and hip problems since 2007. While he managed to pull together a stellar season in 2008 — 2.54 ERA, 0.995 WHIP — he really hasn't pitched at all since. Justin has made only five major league starts since late 2008 and underwent his fourth hip surgery just three months ago. While things don't look promising at the moment, if he's semi-healthy by January a minor-league contract or Spring Training invite wouldn't hurt.

Brandon Webb - RHP

Webb was at the top of his game when he went down on opening day of the 2009 season. Originally diagnosed as shoulder bursitis, Webb has had two surgeries on his shoulder since '09, the most recent occurring this August. His agent is quoted in articles from around that time saying Webb would try to be back for the 2012 season. Might be worth the major-league minimum just to see if he can do it. It would be nice to take something of value from Texas for a change.


Chris Young - RHP 

Young has had some major shoulder problems the last three seasons. At one time penciled in between Peavey and Maddux in the Padres rotation, Young has pitched just 120 innings since 2008 (and only 44 IP the last two seasons). Young was a solid pitcher prior to being sidelined by labrum and anterior capsule(?) tears, putting up a 3.72 ERA, 1.187 WHIP and 8.1 K/9 over his first five seasons. At 6'10", Young is a foreboding presence on the mound even if his shoulder issues have hurt his velocity.



The Import Group: (3 Players)

This group is made up of the three Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league players drawing interest from MLB teams this year. All cards on the table, I know jack squat about them.


Yu Darvish - RHP - Age: 25

I think it's safe to assume we won't be receiving Mr. Darvish's services. MLB Trade Rumors recently polled five execs about Darvish's price tag, returning with numbers between $35-50MM just for the posting fee. That's already out of our range. Then there's this:

As for the contract, most people predicted a five or six-year deal in the $72-75MM range.  One agent wondered if the winning team will "try to force some options down his throat," especially if it's the Blue Jays.

The bottom line: everyone I talked to expects a minimum of a $100MM commitment to acquire Darvish if he's posted this year.

If Yu Darvish comes stateside this year, it won't be with the Angels. 


Hishashi Iwakuma - RHP - Age: 31  &  Tsuyoshi Wada - LHP - Age: 31

Apparently, Iwakuma and Wada are eligible for regular free agency rather having to go through the posting fee nonsense. I had no idea Japanese players had that option. What's a posting fee again?



  • While our options are limited financially, there are still a few worthy candidates on the market that could really aid our need for pitching depth.
  • A lot of pitchers get paid more money than I've made in my life to really not do very much (or, in some cases, nothing at all).
  • Typing names into Google and allowing the engine to guess the rest of your query allows for all sorts of new, interesting information. (see: Kyle Davies drinking game, Bartolo Colon stem cells, etc.)
  • Whoever updates player pages on Wikipedia really loves throwing in random statistics completely devoid of context or use. (e.g. "[Millwood] went 14-12 with his new team, including throwing a no-hitter... he also led the majors in stolen bases allowed, with 41.)
  • Spreadsheets are a pain in the butt to insert into Fanshots at a readable size.

My two cents: In my dream world, we sign Mark Buehrle and Brandon Webb finally comes back and dominates. In reality, I'd be perfectly happy signing Capuano, Garcia or Maholm to a one-year deal, while also signing one of the "Dark Horse" guys to a minor league deal. I'd also be cool with Bedard so long as we get someone else as backup for when he goes down.

What do you think? Anyone on this list that sticks out to you? Think we'd find a better deal in a trade?

This Fan-Post is authored by an independent fan. Tell us what you think and how you feel.

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