By Corey Goldstein
As the number one-caliber starting pitchers have been given monumental deals, the rest of the market is up for grabs as contenders are still scrambling around to sign the remaining pitchers.
On Tuesday, former Orioles starter Wei Yin Chen signed a 5-year, $80 million contract that could become a 6-year, $96 million contract if Chen reaches his maximum innings limit in his fifth year. Chen was the best available lefty left on the market.
However, teams have made it clear that they believe Cliff Lee still has gas in the tank and would take a chance on him. Mark Buehrle is also still on the market, as teams who are trying to make a serious playoff push this year would love to add a lefty with experience in the postseason to their rotation.
Another remaining pitcher is former Rangers and Brewers SP Yovani Gallardo, who may have fallen out of his prime, but won 13 games in 2015 and posted a 3.42 ERA, showing that he is still able to command a pitching staff for a team looking for an ace, such as the the Orioles and the Brewers.
Free agent SP Ian Kennedy may offer the most upside of any starter remaining. Even though he had an average season in 2015, pitching to a 4.28 ERA. Kennedy was still able to strike out 9.3 hitters per nine innings. He also decreased his walk rate from 3.1/9 innings in 2014, when he finished the season with a 3.67 ERA, to only 2.8 walks per nine innings in 2015. The 31 year-old has good stuff as well, throwing his fastball in the low-mid 90’s. I would say Kennedy has the best pure stuff left on the market. However, signing Kennedy will result in the loss of a draft pick because he declined his qualifying offer, Kennedy definitely offers upside as teams look to fill out their starting rotation.
Free agent starters like Doug Fister and Mat Latos may be looking for one-year, bounce back deals as they look to get a more lucrative contract next winter. Both are coming off poor seasons, but do have a track record of performing well in a starting rotation. I look for them to go to a pitcher friendly park, probably in the NL, where they can get their numbers back to where they are used to be.
Former Giants veteran Tim Hudson save shown he still has the ability to occupy a starter spot. Hudson posted an ERA just over 4.00 and averaged right around 6.5 innings a start. A team who is a perennial contender in October could use someone like Hudson for a few innings in relief or a spot start when giving their front end pitchers a rest.
Although these starters may not have eye-popping statistics, they are all viable options to bolstering a rotation that needs to fill spots and earn a few more key wins in pursuit for a spot in the playoffs. Veterans are an ideal option to fill theses spots, as they have most experience in October. Teams that are looking to add to their respective rotations will begin to make a strong push for these pitchers, as the market begins to shrink more and more.