A Preview of This Year's Free Agent Class: Part Two - The Pitchers
Before we know it, the baseball season will be over and the discussion will have progressed from the pennant race to the playoffs to the World Series to this year's class of free agents. We got a jump on the latter by previewing the free agent position players yesterday. Today, we review the starting pitchers and relievers about to hit the open market.
If you didn't care for the hitters, you won't like the starters at all. Yes, this year's class of starting pitchers is thinner than Julian Tavarez. In fact, other than a few oldies (and maybe one goodie), there isn't a single pitcher that could be much more than a fourth or fifth starter on a middle-of-the road team.
Kris Benson BAL Paul Byrd CLE Shawn Chacon PIT Matt Clement BOS Bartolo Colon LAA Scott Elarton CLE Josh Fogg COL Casey Fossum DFA Freddy Garcia PHI Livan Hernandez ARZ Jason Jennings HOU Brian Lawrence NYM Jon Lieber PHI Kyle Lohse PHI Rodrigo Lopez COL Wade Miller CHC Eric Milton CIN Odalis Perez KC Joel Pineiro STL Kenny Rogers DET Curt Schilling BOS Carlos Silva MIN Julian Tavarez BOS Brett Tomko SD Kip Wells STL Randy Wolf LAD Jaret Wright BAL Victor Zambrano TOR
Who could have imagined that a soon-to-be-41-year-old pitcher would headline this year's crop of pitchers? Curt Schilling may not have much left in his tank but could garner some interest from a few contending clubs interested in signing him to a one-year deal. Don't rule out the Red Sox and Schilling agreeing to an incentive-laden deal that could bring back the veteran pitcher to Beantown for a fifth season.
In a similar vein, the Tigers and Kenny Rogers may see fit to work out a one-year contract to keep the 42-year-old southpaw in Detroit. Rogers, who is scheduled to start tonight for the first time since late July, is 3-2 with a 5.23 ERA in only 32.2 innings. He began the season on the disabled list after having surgery in March to remove a blood clot from his left shoulder and has spent additional time on the DL with inflammation in his elbow.
As for club options, Paul Byrd ($8M) is the only pitcher who is apt to be renewed. The likes of Kris Benson ($7.5M) and Odalis Perez ($9M) are overpriced, while several pitchers with such options have already been released or designated for assignment (Casey Fossum and Brett Tomko) or are on the disabled list and out for the season (Randy Wolf). In picking up Joel Pineiro's contract, the Cardinals and their newest addition to the starting rotation have a mutual option for 2008. Depending on how Pineiro pitches in September (and possibly October) could determine his fate next year.
Jeremy Affeldt COL Armando Benitez FLA Hector Carrasco LAA Francisco Cordero MIL Rheal Cormier CIN Vic Darensbourg DET Elmer Dessens MIL Scott Eyre CHC Jason Isringhausen STL Todd Jones DET Jorge Julio COL Joe Kennedy TOR Byung-Hyun Kim FLA Scott Linebrink MIL Ron Mahay ATL Trever Miller HOU Mike Myers CWS Joe Nathan MIN Chris Reitsma SEA Mariano Rivera NYY Rudy Seanez LAD Mike Timlin BOS Mike Venafro MIN Luis Vizcaino NYY Bob Wickman DFA Scott Williamson BAL Jay Witasick TB
The relievers are a horse of a different color. Five closers top this group, including a future Hall of Famer and another who currently ranks among the best in the business. However, the cream of the crop may never become free agents because of loyalty and club options.
Mariano Rivera, who has made $10.5M in each of the past three seasons, will be free to negotiate with any team in a couple of months. It's hard to fathom him pitching for any team other than the Yankees, but I guess one has to at least ponder the possibility. Like teammate Jorge Posada, New York can afford to keep him if it so chooses. Unlike Posada, Rivera is not coming off a career season. However, if his K/BB numbers (62 SO and 8 BB in 59.2 IP) mean anything, he is far from done (despite an ERA which is the highest since his rookie season in 1995 when he started 10 out of 19 games).
Unless Joe Nathan suffers a major injury over the final four weeks of the season, consider it a foregone conclusion that the Twins will pick up the $6M club option on their All-Star closer. Although his strikeout rate is down from 2006, Nathan is enjoying another marvelous season. He would probably command a contract in the neighborhood of $10M per year in the open market.
The Cardinals hold an $8M club option on Jason Isringhausen with a $1.25M buyout. With a 1.77 ERA and 28 saves, a healthy Izzy is a good bet to be back in St. Louis next season.
Source: Cot's Baseball Contracts