Free Agent Starting Pitchers Have a Market?

Ubaldo Jimenez

Ubaldo Jimenez

The free agent market for starting pitchers has been a strange one this off-season.

31-year-old Ricky Nolasco received 4 years-$48 million from the Twins, Tim Hudson at 38 got 2 years-$23 million from the Giants and the 40-year-old Bartolo Colon hijacked 2 years-$20 million from the Mets.

All strange contracts for these guys, but that has set up the market for starting pitchers, so what about the remaining five big name free agent starting pitchers left. Where will Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, Bronson Arroyo and A.J. Burnett end up and at what cost?

When I look at the starting pitcher with the most value, I go with Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez made $5.75 million last year and is 29-years-old. He also posted a 13-10 record with 3.30 ERA and 9.6 strikeouts per 9 innings for the Indians. Jimenez is probably looking for something in the 4-5 year $15-16 million range, and that market will exist for him. The Indians should still be the logical landing spot for Jimenez as he is a tendered free agent.

Ervin Santana is a strange situation for a team. Santana made $13 million last season and hasn’t had a winning season since 2010. He did post a 3.24 ERA for the Royals, which could translate well for a National League club, but Santana has been rumored wanting $15-16 million dollar range contract. It would be real hard for me to pay that money for a pitcher with career ERA over a 4. Santana market should be the $13 million he made last season for 3-4 years. He then might attract some teams looking for a number three starter. Plus since you would have to give up a first round pick for him, his market might be only the Royals or a protected pick team.

Matt Garza is someone who doesn’t warrant a big time contract. I see him as a consistent average pitcher who would do well with a team that has dominant top of the line starters. He made $10.25 million last season, and has been dealing with injury problems the last two seasons. He is 67-67 lifetime and will be 30 as we enter the 2014 season. I give him the same contract as Nolasco and I know that is fair value, as Nolasco contract is a ridiculous over pay, which probably is hurting the Garza market. A NL team like the Dodgers or the Phillies could use Garza.

Let’s group Burnett and Arroyo together at this point. Both will be 38, they both made 16+ million this season and the market is very limited for them at this point in their careers. Burnett is probably more in the Hudson range and Arroyo in the Colon range of contracts. They will have to be satisified with taking big pay cuts, but 2yrs-$20-22 million is fair for both of these guys now. I would expect the Reds, Phillies, Blue Jays, Indians, and Royals might give some interest to them.

Ultimately their markets will not be fully set until the Masahiro Tanaka situation is resolved, and if Tanaka gets posted, the market for all these guys will become less and they will have decisions to make on what their real value truly is.

Follow Outside Pitch Sports Network CEO Vince Lombardi Jr. on Twitter for more updates @Vlombardijr

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