New homes await veteran free-agent starting pitchers
Former Cy Young Award winners, crafty experienced arms on open market
The big news in baseball on Monday was that one of the first relatively big-name free agents of the season left the board when veteran right-handed starter Tim Hudson signed with the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants got a durable, smart pitcher with a lot of career wins and strikeouts and a tenacious approach to his work on the mound, an exemplary clubhouse leader and community presence, and, well, maybe a bargain if Hudson returns from a broken ankle to be the Hudson of old.
The rest of baseball got a good idea of what could happen starting Tuesday as the slew of veteran starters remaining on the market continue to search for their next employer.
Hudson's two-year, $23 million contract can now be a barometer for the handful of starters who are viewed as the cream of this year's free-agent set, warts and all.
They include Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Bartolo Colon, Hiroki Kuroda, A.J. Burnett, Ricky Nolasco, Matt Garza, Josh Johnson, Scott Kazmir, Phil Hughes and maybe even Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka, who would vault to the very top of this list in a heartbeat if he were permitted to leave his Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and head to Major League Baseball via the posting process.
One could look at Hudson's current situation, and the pact he landed in spite of it, and surmise that the aforementioned group -- which includes veteran pitchers who were excellent in 2013 and pitchers who are young enough and throw hard enough to indicate they might do so in 2014 -- will land many years and many, many millions, and we'll see in a few years which deals paid off and which went sour.
But the pitching market doesn't end there. In fact, there are scores of battle-tested pitchers who are looking for jobs and have the experience, the know-how and the arms to help teams for a lot less money. Here are some of those wily vets.
Bronson Arroyo, RHP: He'll turn 37 in February, but Arroyo is a virtual lock to pitch 200 innings, which is a huge commodity. The only time he hasn't reached that milestone in the last nine years was 2011. Arroyo only pitched 199 innings that year.
Dan Haren, RHP: A decline in fastball velocity and an increase in ERA the last two seasons indicates he might be on the decline as he gets further along into his 30s, but Haren still can strike guys out (151 in 169 2/3 innings last year for Washington) and projects as a solid fourth or fifth guy.
Scott Feldman, RHP: Feldman rebounded from a tough 2012 to pitch quite well for the Cubs (3.46 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 15 starts) and Orioles (4.27, 1.22 in 15 starts), and he will be only 31 years old on Opening Day. Remember that this is a guy who won 17 games for Texas in 2009.
Roy Halladay, RHP: Coming off a winter of rest for his ailing right shoulder, general managers have to wonder how much this possible Hall of Famer has left in the tank. Odds are Halladay will land some sort of make-good contract with incentives based primarily on innings. If he's anywhere close to the form that made him a two-time Cy Young Award winner, that would be a great deal for someone.
Bruce Chen, LHP: Somehow this guy has made it through 15 big league seasons, and somehow he's still effective. Chen is hardly a top-of-the-order ace, but he could be a good fourth or fifth option for a contending team that is looking for a lefty or two to round out the rotation.
Jason Vargas, LHP: Ditto for Vargas, although he's got more oomph than Chen, and it's showed over the last four years as he transformed himself into a consistent mid-pack starter in the American League who could strike a few guys out with a terrific changeup and occasionally throw a shutout.
Jason Hammel, RHP: Hammel still throws hard, and that's what will land him a deal after a 2013 season (4.97 ERA) that he'd probably like to forget. Hammel has had some injury issues and has never made more than 30 starts in a season, so a multiyear offer seems like a stretch at this point.
Jake Westbrook, RHP: Westbrook's injury-shortened 2013 season never allowed for him to be at his best. When he is that pitcher, he's the epitome of a durable, dependable ground-ball-getting innings-eater, perfect for the back of a good rotation. Maybe Westbrook still has a season or more of that left in that right arm.
Barry Zito, LHP: The seven-year, $126 million deal with the Giants is finally in the rearview mirror, and Zito now looks at a future in his mid-30s with a fastball that maybe hits 84 mph. The curveball is still a thing of beauty, but Zito is very hittable. It seems unlikely that a team will give him more than one year, and a big league deal might even be iffy.
Chris Capuano, LHP: He's had two Tommy John surgeries, but he's left-handed and he still gets hitters out. Capuano had his issues in an up-and-down 2013 with the Dodgers, suffering from early calf and lat injuries that had him on the cusp of a move to the bullpen, but he pitched his fair share of good games and could be in line for a solid season if he can stay healthy.
Other possibilities: Scott Baker, RHP; Erik Bedard, LHP; Chris Carpenter, RHP; Gavin Floyd, RHP; Jeff Francis, LHP; Freddy Garcia, RHP; Jon Garland, RHP; Aaron Harang, RHP; Roberto Hernandez, RHP; Jeff Karstens, RHP; John Lannan, LHP; Colby Lewis, RHP; Ted Lilly, LHP; Paul Maholm, LHP; Shaun Marcum, RHP; Jason Marquis, RHP; Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP; James McDonald, RHP; Randy Messenger, RHP; Jeff Niemann, RHP; Roy Oswalt, RHP; Mike Pelfrey, RHP; Clayton Richard, LHP; Johan Santana, LHP; Joe Saunders, LHP; Kevin Slowey, RHP; Ryan Vogelsong, RHP; Edinson Volquez, RHP; Tsuyoshi Wada, LHP; Chien-Ming Wang, RHP