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Top remaining FA starters drawing interest

Teams ready to pounce when price is right for Arrieta, Cobb, Lynn
MLB.com @jonmorosi

Yu Darvish's six-year, $126 million contract with the Cubs was supposed to clarify the starting-pitching market and create a cloudburst of signings.

Yet, two weeks have gone by and Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb are still available.

Yu Darvish's six-year, $126 million contract with the Cubs was supposed to clarify the starting-pitching market and create a cloudburst of signings.

Yet, two weeks have gone by and Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb are still available.

The issue isn't a lack of interest. One source said Saturday night that the Brewers, Yankees, Phillies, Rangers, Orioles and Nationals are among the teams continuing to monitor the top available starting pitchers.

The Yankees have maintained contact with Lynn throughout the offseason. In some ways, the Yanks are an even better fit for Lynn today than earlier in the month, when it seemed possible that a signing of Mike Moustakas would occupy a large percentage of the team's remaining budget for players.

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By instead acquiring Brandon Drury from the D-backs, the Yankees added a potential everyday third baseman who will earn close to the Major League minimum in 2018. Thus, the Yanks have preserved roughly $25 million in spending power for additional signings, trades and callups this year -- while still remaining under the luxury-tax threshold of $197 million.

Why is Arrieta still unsigned?

So Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has two choices: He can shop for a pitching upgrade now, when the calendar may begin exerting downward pressure on the asking prices for Arrieta, Lynn and Cobb. Or Cashman can wait until the non-waiver Trade Deadline, when he can leverage one of the top farm systems in baseball after assessing the development of 25-year-old Jordan Montgomery and the health of the team's more veteran starters.

Meanwhile, there's plenty of intrigue within the industry surrounding the Nats' plans. Washington GM Mike Rizzo sounded content with his roster in comments to MLB.com's Jamal Collier over the weekend. Right-hander A.J. Cole, 26, begins camp as the favorite to be the team's No. 5 starter, in a rotation headlined by Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark.

But rival club officials believe the Nationals will be opportunistic if Arrieta, Lynn or Cobb falls into their price range. With Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gonzalez all beginning contract years, the team's collective urgency is extraordinarily high. The franchise is desperate to win a playoff series -- at the very least -- for the first time since relocating to Washington, D.C.

And then there is the Scott Boras factor. Boras represents Arrieta, along with six of the Nats' eight highest-paid players in 2018, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts: Scherzer, Harper, Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, Gonzalez and Matt Wieters. The longstanding relationship between team and agent could create the right circumstances for a deal.

From the standpoint of strategic spending, the acquisition of a starting pitcher now would be tantamount to finding Gonzalez's replacement one year early -- although there's optimism within the organization that right-handed prospect Erick Fedde will be a full-time member of the rotation by 2019, if not before.

Meanwhile, the Angels aren't looking seriously at free-agent starting pitchers, but they would consider free-agent closer Greg Holland at the right price.

Holland, 32, is coming off a season in which he reestablished himself as an All-Star closer and led the National League with 41 saves. Blake Parker, who has 10 career saves in the Major Leagues, currently projects to be the Halos' closer.

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network.

Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn