Cole and Strasburg top list of MLB free agent pitchers
Teams looking for starting pitching this offseason are in luck with a crowded market involving staff aces, reliable veterans and potential bargains. Here are the top 10 starters available on the open market this winter.
1. Gerrit Cole, age 29Cole will more than likely fetch the biggest contract of any free agent this offseason. The Scott Boras-represented three-time All-Star is fresh off a career year as he went 20-5 in Houston with a 2.50 ERA and an MLB-leading 326 strikeouts. He was also outstanding in the playoffs, going 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA.
2. Stephen Strasburg, age 31Strasburg opted out of the final four years and $100 million left on his contract with the Nationals to pursue a huge payday. Another Boras client, the San Diego State product went 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA in six postseason appearances this year and has a career WHIP of 1.086.
3. Madison Bumgarner, age 30Bumgarner has lost a step since his last All-Star game appearance in 2016, but his 3.13 career ERA and playoff pedigree (8-3, 2.11 ERA in postseason play) make him an tantalizing option for GMs to consider this winter.
4. Dallas Keuchel, age 32Keuchel held out until June for a multi-year deal but was forced to settle on a one-year, $13 million pact with the Braves. The bet on himself didn’t pay dividends as he produced his highest FIP (4.72) and WHIP (1.367) since 2013. Another one-year deal at a similar price tag may be in the cards for Keuchel.
5. Hyun-Jin Ryu, age 33Ryu is fresh off his best year since the Dodgers signed him in 2013 (14-5, 2.32 ERA), but his injury history is frightening. He’s tossed just 740 1/3 innings over six seasons and lost a whole year to recovery from Tommy John surgery.
6. Cole Hamels, age 36GMs in “win now” mode should probably be in on the durable Hamels, who has started 30 or more games in 10 of his last 12 seasons. His “walk year” was less than stellar (7-7, 3.81 ERA, 1.391 WHIP in 27 outings), which could drive the four-time All-Star’s price down.
7. Zack Wheeler, age 29Wheeler hinted at promise in 2013 and ’14 before losing two seasons to Tommy John surgery and rehab setbacks. 2017 was another injury-shortened disaster, but 2018 (12-7, 3.31 ERA) and ’19 (11-8, 3.96 ERA) were much better for Wheeler, although he struggled to stay consistent. He could prove a popular commodity on the open market if the Mets choose not to extend him a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer.
8. Jake Odorizzi, age 30Odorizzi had a breakout 2019 in Minnesota, producing the lowest FIP (3.36) of his eight-year career. It would not be surprising if he re-upped with the Twins either with a qualifying offer or traditional contract extension as Minnesota is also slated to let Michael Pineda, Kyle Gibson and Martin Perez walk. But Odorizzi is a name worth keeping tabs on this offseason.
9. Wade Miley, age 33Miley had a 3.06 ERA through his first 28 starts of the season for Houston before unraveling in September, producing a 16.68 ERA. He only worked 2 2/3 innings in the postseason, allowing five baserunners, before eventually being removed from the Astros’ playoff roster. A one-year deal in the $10 million range would seem to be Miley’s ceiling.
10. Gio Gonzalez, age 34Teams in need of a back-end starter could do a whole lot worse than Gonzalez. He struggled to find employment last offseason, finally settling on a one-year, $2 million pact with the Brewers in late April. Injuries led Gonzalez to pitch just 87 1/3 innings, but his 3.50 ERA in that span was solid.