Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Pitcher's Market, Part I

On the heels of Randy Johnson's new one-year pact with the Giants, let's take a look at some of the many options remaining in the free agent pitching market. As I mentioned yesterday, there's been very little movement in the overall market but especially with starting pitchers, where only CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett have signed out of all the top-tier candidates. Here we go:

Jon Garland - Age: 29 - 2008 salary: $12 million
Garland is coming off his seventh consecutive season with over 190 innings under his belt. He'd probably be in line for a deal like Carlos Silva's or Gil Meche's or even better in any other year. Unfortunately for Garland, the best he'll probably be able to do in 2009 is a three-year pact with an option for a fourth with an average right around his $12 million 2008 salary. Deep in this Heyman article (with a headline that makes me grit my teeth) is mention that the Dodgers, White Sox, and Mets are options for Garland, and Heyman also makes the excellent point that Garland is "two years younger than Burnett with a better lifetime record (106-89)." I believe Garland could trive in the National League as a potential No. 2 starter. Should the Mets lose out on one of Derek Lowe or Oliver Perez, I see them making a play for Garland, and I doubt they'll be disappointed with the outcome.

Braden Looper - Age: 34 - 2008 salary: $5.5 million
Looper has been solid in two seasons as a starter for the Cardinals, and he's looking for a multi-year deal heading into 2009. The team most interested in his services appears to be the Brewers, but nothing is likely to get done until after the New Year. A nice two- or three-year deal could be in the works, and the Brewers need all the help they can get after losing Sabathia and potentially Ben Sheets.

Derek Lowe - Age: 35 - 2008 salary: $10 million
There's no question that Lowe is one of a select few free agents the Red Sox have let go in recent years that done very, very well in a different uniform. Lowe was consistently excellent for four years in Dodger Blue, his ERA never getting higher than 3.88 and his IP never getting lower than 199. He's still got that great sinking fastball, and he's one of few starting pitchers in this market likely to get four years, despite his age. The Mets are reportedly deep in negotiations with Lowe, but nothing his imminent, according to Omar Minaya. I've heard the Red Sox are maintaining contact with Lowe, and Lowe would love to come back to Boston, but I'd be surprised if that's the rout the Sox go. Lowe's numbers came while playing in the weakest-hitting division in baseball, and teams must be aware of that while courting him. I expect Lowe to wind up with the Mets on a four-year deal that will pay him around $15-$16 million per year, slightly less than Burnett's deal with the Yankees.

Brad Penny - Age: 30 - 2008 salary: $9.25 million.
Penny only made 17 starts in 2008 while dealing with constant pain in his right shoulder. There's been durability issues with Penny throughout his career, and he's only thrown 200 innings twice. Still, Penny is only a year removed from finishing 3rd in the NL Cy Young voting, and the talent has always been there. The Red Sox were said to be "monitoring" Penny at the beginning of the offseason, and his name has come up constantly as a possibility for that fifth slot in their rotation. I personally would love to see Boston take a flier on Penny and see what happens. He would not cost a lot in money and years. I'm sure plenty of other teams have interest as well.

More to come.

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