With Zack Greinke now a Dodger via the second-most expensive contract for a pitcher in major league history and James Shields, long a top trade target, a Royal after finally having been traded, the market for above-average rotation reinforcements is quickly dwindling. In addition to Greinke and Shields, free agents Dan Haren, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Brandon McCarthy, Jeremy Guthrie, Joe Blanton, Hisashi Iwakuma, Bartolo Colon, Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Kevin Correia, Jason Marquis and Jeff Francis have all signed, and Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Tommy Hanson, Ervin Santana and Vance Worley have all switched teams via trade.
Not all of those pitchers are above average, but that only goes to show how limited the field is beyond the handful of top targets remaining. Here, then, is a look at the top seven starting pitchers still on the market (the leading trade target and six free agents), the latest rumors about each and where each might fit best.
On Friday, before Greinke signed his six-year, $147 million deal, ESPN's Buster Olney listed the
As the statistics listed here and my
The Angels bowed out early on Greinke, but CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman
Los Angeles' rotation has been in flux this offseason, with Greinke and Haren departing via free agency, Santana being traded to Kansas City soon after the Angels picked up his option, Tommy Hanson coming over from the Braves via a late-November trade and Blanton signing late last week. That leaves Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards to battle over the fifth spot, but Jackson would be an upgrade over either one, and, given the
Jackson would slot in the third or fourth spot in the rotation depending on Hanson's health and effectiveness. That's not going to get him the big contract he may have thought was finally coming his way, but it would put the Angels in a great position for a playoff run heading into the season.
Dempster has reportedly turned down two-year offers worth around $25 million from the
Marcum missed the entire 2009 season due to Tommy John surgery, looked like he was pitching hurt in the 2011 postseason, battled shoulder soreness in spring training this year and then missed more than two months of the season with an elbow strain suffered mid-year. That injury history raises enough red flags to significantly undermine his relative youth and effectiveness and could make him a buy-low candidate for a second-division team like the Royals, Padres or Cubs, all of whom have reportedly shown interest. Marcum has also said he'd be
Lohse had an awful, injury-plagued 2010 season, but in the two years since he has gone 30-11 with a 3.11 ERA (122 ERA+), a 1.13 WHIP and a 3.18 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He even picked up a handful of down-ballot Cy Young votes this past season. That performance has drawn the interest of the Red Sox and Angels, who aren't looking to make a big splash in terms of dollars but have room in their rotation for a pitcher like Lohse.
Saunders is underrated and the top lefty on the market. Pitching in hitter-friendly parks over the last two seasons, he has posted a 105 ERA+. Acquired by the Orioles in August, he posted a 3.63 ERA over seven starts in a pennant race, then posted a 1.59 ERA in two postseason starts, the first of which was a victory in the one-game wild-card playoff.
Saunders shouldn't be that effective. His strikeout rates are lousy, and he's a bit homer-prone, but after 189 big-league starts, his adjusted ERA is still better than average. That's worth something as a mid-rotation innings-eater, and it says something that two of his former teams, the Orioles and Angels, have expressed interest in his return, though the Twins, who favor contact pitchers, may find his career rate of 5.1 Ks per nine innings hard to resist.