Think of this as an 'Idiot's Guide to Available Starting Pitching in 2010'. I'd been sifting through like 5-6 different sources with a few weeks now and eventually I thought I'd just put it all together. Hopefully it'll serve as sort of a comprehensive guide to refer back to throughout the winter. I'll do varying degrees of stat-based analysis, pros & cons, risks, all based on how relevant each player is; all with a bit of a Mets slant of course. Free agents on top, trade targets down below.
*in alphabetical order
Erik Bedard - '09 WAR: 1.9
When he's out there the stuff is still great (FB velocity up over one full MPH in '09) and the numbers back that up. but hes definitely too much of an injury risk to rely on.
Risks: Coming off his second shoulder surgery in a calendar year, health is the big BIG concern. To make matters worse, it was discovered to be a torn labrum, baseball's most debilitating pitching injury. BP injury-guru Will Carroll figures only 3% of such cases return to previous levels of performance. He's pitched <85ip for the last 2 years and only might be ready for ST. Risky enough for you?
Maybe the most intriguing pitcher available this offseason is Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman. In case you're just tuning in the kid is 21, lefty and possesses a VERY good fastball. Obviously the upside of a lefty who can regularly hit 100mph is amazing but IMO the risks here outweigh the benefits by quite a bit. For better or worse, Chapman reminds me of a young Oliver Perez in a lot of ways.
Risks: He will no doubt be looking for a Daisuke level contract, upwards of $50+M and 5+yrs. Yet Chapman doesn't have nearly the same polish that Matsuzaka had and even Daisuke hasn't been an overwhelming success. What's more, Chapman has problems throwing strikes and in his last season in Cuba posted a 4.03 era. Things will only get worse in his first year(s) here until he learns to make adjustments, assuming he ever does and thats a lot of money to throw away.
*Watch Chapman pitch against Australia's WBC team here
Doug Davis - '09 WAR: 1.7
Here's a "Plan B" kind of guy. Although I must say, his VERY consistent ability to post low to mid 4 ERA/FIP's shouldn't be overlooked. Nor the fact that he pitches 200 innings every year. And he's got a damn good curve but he certainly won't solve our Base on Balls problem. On a cheap, 1yr deal he would fit well into middle of a rotation.
Justin Duchscherer- '08 WAR: 3.0
Remember when this guy posted a 2.54 era back in '08? Well as quickly as he appeared he vanished, missing the start of the '09 season with elbow pain and he never made it back, due in part to a diagnosis with clinical depression. Realistically Duchscherer can't be counted on to take a rotation spot, who knows where his head will be come ST. Not only that but even in his that fateful 2008 (his only season as a starter) he made only 22 starts due to day-to-day stuff and spent most of the season before on the DL requiring hip surgery.
Jon Garland - '09 WAR: 2.4
Could he be had for a cheap 1-2yr deal? Yes. Will he pitch a ton of innings and avoid injury? Yes. But the bottomline is that the guy pitches to a 4.50-5era year in, year out and while I'm willing to take a hit on performance for good value, this is kind of a stretch. While those numbers might get a bit better at Citi, I'd say he's a 'Plan B' at best.
Risks: Just about the only risk is his performance bottoming out.
Rich Harden - '09 WAR: 1.8
Of course we all know about the enticing stuff (see: league-leading swing and miss rate) but the guy has topped 180ip once in his career. In fact, with his issue getting deep into games due to pitch counts, his spotty health and his excellent fastball, he reminds me a lot of John Maine. Beyond health, his poorer final totals this year came as a result of by far the worst HR/FB of his career. However, since the rest of his ratios didn't drop too badly one can reasonably expect more typical results next year.
Risks: Health. In 6 full seasons, he's stayed healthy enough in three to be a ~4 WAR pitcher. So basically he's a 50/50 shot to be an excellent contributor which for a cheap 1yr deal would be acceptable but probably not your first option.
Hudson only becomes available if the Braves drop his $12M option this winter, which seems unlikely according to Jayson Stark. Hudson returned in September from TJ and looked strong; his velocity returned to pre-TJ levels and all of his ratios matched his past few seasons. There is already some talk that Hudson and the Braves will work out an extension past 2011 and as Hudson wants to stay in ATL, he's already talking hometown discount.
John Lackey - '09 WAR: 3.9
Lackey is probably the best/most reliable arm available this winter. But even he has his warts: Some people say his stuff is declining, numerous arm injuries over the past 2 seasons, he's on the wrong side of 30. But the big issue here for me is the contract. He rejected a 4yr, $60M offer by the Halos coming into this season so he is clearly looking for an ace-level contract. And as much as I like him as a top of the rotation work horse, I don't like him that much. Jon Heyman had an anonymous GM guesstimated a 5yr/$75M contract for Lackey. Would I sign him? Of course, but do I? Probably not unless all other holes are filled very creatively.
Risks: Don't worry about the stuff, he's still going strong. But he has spent 74 days on the DL with elbow injuries in the past 2 seasons. Way too much of a concern to give him 5 years. I'd love to see him behind Johan in 2010 but you just can't sink yourself into a 4-5yr deal unless it's a really special talent with little risk attached which Lackey is not.
Jason Marquis - '09 WAR: 3.8
Yes, he pitches a lot of innings. Yes, he just had an ok year in Colorado. The problem is that in his previous 3 seasons his ERA was closer to 5 (sometimes 6) and that' s when he hadn't been demoted out of the rotation. Remember what I said earlier about not rewarding a guy for suddenly pitching well in his FA season? Well someone is going to give him a multi-year deal and chances are they're going to regret it.
Risks: Lowering K-rates and sudden drop in HR/9 make '09 look lucky. Sorry Frenchy, but Marquis seems like the biggest 2010 FA bust in the entire class.
Brad Penny - '09 WAR: 2.5
Penny has always been inconsistent year-to-year, now he seems to have reached the point where he's going from bad to worse. In his last 150+ip he's posted an ERA around 5.50 and he's giving up more longballs than ever. His fb velocity is actually up this year but that was never the problem; Penny looks nearly done to me.
Joel Pineiro - '09 WAR: 4.8
Risks: I hate to reward a pitcher (w/ a career 4.37era) for a career year in his free agent season. He'll also be leaving Dave Duncan, which is always a bad thing. He has been relatively durable but arm problems tend to pop up every few years or so, most recently shoulder pain in '08. And finally there are rumors that he is looking at Kyle Lohse's 4yr/$41M (and full no trade) monstrosity as a starting point which would negate any good value.
Ben Sheets - '08 WAR: 4.4
Here is an interesting high risk/ high reward option. However it's not if he'll get hurt, it's when. In fact Sheets has made at least one trip to the DL every year since 2005 with a wide assortment of injuries. However, when he pitches he is still very effective. In '08 he managed to pitch nearly 200 innings, his K rates were very strong, not a lot of walks and he remained one of the less hittable guys in baseball to the tune of a .244 BAA and a 3.09 era. There were rumors last offseason that the Mets were one of two teams most interested in Sheets, despite his injury history and as a flyball pitcher, he could thrive in Citi.
Risks: Obviously health. Though he's pitched well despite injury before, his most recent injury was the most significant of his career, a torn flexor tendon in his pitching elbow. Who knows if he can come back strong, though he has been rehabbing all season long down in Texas. At this point he seems too big a risk to bank on as a primary pitching acquisition.
John Smoltz - '09 WAR: 1.5
After being shut down in September due to shoulder tendinitis, at age 42 can he still be expected to pitch through a full season? His velocity, while still decent, is down a bunch and despite reports of still decent stuff, he hasn't had ANY semblance of fastball command. One note: His FIP was actually decent but his BABIP of .364 was way too high; is this bad luck or a result of way too many middle-middle fastballs creating more LD's? Either way its too risky for the Mets to take that chance.
Jarrod Washburn - '09 WAR: 2.1
Risks: He could probably be had for a cheap deal following his collapse in DET/creaky old knee woes but he is going to turn back into a pumpkin in 2010, no doubt. Not only that but the guy is 35 and has heard the words 'day-to-day' more than a few times in the last couple seasons.
Brandon Webb - '08 WAR: 6.1
The D-Backs have hinted that following his shoulder surgery they will NOT pick up Webb's option, hoping instead for a compromise from Webb to accept a pay cut. Webb stated: "If it comes down to that...I would have to see what else is out there and see if there's something better." Webb will most likely be back in time for ST and has remained nearly injury free up until this year. IMO this represents a unique option to add an ace-caliber pitcher to back up Johan for likely a 2-3 year deal.
Risks: Coming off of shoulder surgery who knows what you'll get with Webb. Dr. James Andrews stated that this wasn't a structural issue and most importantly there was NO labrum tear so he should come back fine but it is the same Shoulder Debridement surgery Erik Bedard had prior to his injury plagued 2009. Josh Byrnes has also stated recently that there is a chance the option gets picked up.
Randy Wolf - '09 WAR: 3.0
Though not a dominator, Wolf has been posting FIP's at or below 4 for the past few seasons which is acceptable. He seems to have settled into that finesse lefty, Moyer-esque niche very nicely late in his career and I don't see a reason why he can't continue to do so. Coming off a one year, $5M contract, I doubt he goes for less than two years this winter after he wanted 3yrs, $30M last winter. If you can get him at two years for less than $15M, not a bad deal but no more.
Risks: Unsustainably low .258 BABIP suggests that his ERA will not remain in the low 3's like this year; expect closer to 4. At 33 age is a minor issue. Missed some time a few years back due to shoulder problems but seems relatively durable since.
Bronson Arroyo - '09 WAR: 1.8
While he may seem like a tremendous option to arrogant drivetime radio hosts, Arroyo really isn't. This is a guy whose posted mid-4 FIP's in each of the past 5 seasons. His last 2 "good seasons" according to ERA (2006 & 2009) have come thanks to career-low BABIP's. And for what it's worth he is wildly inconsistent start-to-start. Meanwhile he's being paid $11M for the next 2 years. No thanks.
Roy Halladay - '09 WAR: 7.3
He's greatness. He has arguably the best combo of stuff and command in baseball. He is regularly putting up 5+ WAR seasons and despite his age (32) hes only getting better, posting a 6.5 in '08 and he's on pace for a similar figure in '09. Fangraphs' Dave Cameron equates this performance in terms of trade value and suggests that it translates into 3 top prospects; "Mets fans? Fernando Martinez, Wilmer Flores, and Jenrry Mejia."
Risks: He costs too much. Ricciardi made it clear that he wouldn't talk without 3 top prospects in the mix. Maybe his successor, Alex Anthopoulos, will be more lenient. All that said, if we can lock him up for a few years after a trade (a la Johan) I'd be willing to give significant value (i.e. a package around Wilmer & Holt).
Aaron Harang - '09 WAR: 2.5
Harang was one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball for years, posting ~6 WAR seasons from '04-'07. However, these last couple years instead of ERA's in the mid-3's, he's been in the mid-to-high 4's while his key ratios haven't declined too much. He posted a .339 BABIP this season but he's always been one to post +.300 levels, even in his best years so that may be meaningless. So what to make of him? I'd say he'd probably make a decent buy-low candidate as he's still only 31, if it weren't for that $12.5M salary next year.
Felix Hernandez - '09 WAR: 6.9
It's just not possible. Exhibit A: For those who didn't hear, Boston and Seattle were linked in trade talks around the trade deadline; Theo approached SEA, offered any 5 of a group of 8 prospects that included Bucholz, Masterson, Bowden, Hagadone, Bard & Reddick, among others. Seattle rejected. The moral of the story is that we could literally clean out our system and still not afford Felix. And probably rightly so, he was downright incredible this year at age 23(!), posting a 6 WAR and hasn't even entered into arbitration years yet. Seattle also wants to talk about an extension this winter (good luck with that).
Derek Lowe - '09 WAR: 2.7
Believe it or not, there are rumors that Frank Wren will be shopping Lowe this offseason. It actually makes sense; they've got a definite pitching surplus, Lowe costs a lot and they need another bat. The problem is, how much would we really want to give for a guy coming off a pretty sub-par year in his age 36 season who is owed $15M for the next 3 years? I mean he saw declines across the board from K/9 and BB/9 to his bread and butter GB/FB. He might make for a decent buy-low candidate but the Braves would never deal him within the division for very cheap.
Risks: His key indicators definitely point to some declining ability and thats the last thing you want to hear with 3yrs/$45M left. However, I keep looking to that .330 BABIP and if the Braves are really motivated to move him I'd consider it.
Gil Meche - '09 WAR: 1.5
After signing that 5yr/$55M deal, Meche pitched a couple of decent seasons as if to prove he was worth it. However, '09 was not as successful with an ERA above 5 and a FIP to match. But there were some solid signs for Meche, including his vast improvement in GB/FB and his career-best LD%. In addition, he suffered some bad luck in the BABIP dept this season.
Risks: The aforementioned contract w/ 3 years left is definitely a whopper if he's not pitching well. In addition Meche has always had difficulty controlling his good stuff and walks are an issue with him. He also suffered a back injury in '09. Probably too much of a long shot for us.
Roy Oswalt - '09 WAR: 3.1
While he's obviously not the CY Young candidate he was back in '01-'02, Oswalt is still pretty effective. Even his 4.12 ERA this year isn't as bad when you see his 3.76 FIP. He has seen slight declines in K/9 but otherwise his ratios have remained pretty stable, even the BAA. The only question is whether or not the Astros finally bite the bullet and deal him (and would the unabashed country boy even accept a deal to NY?)
Risks: Health has been a factor throughout his career, though to be fair he hasn't pitched less than 180ip since 2003. But you can mark down at least 1 trip to the DL just about every season, including a serious back issue this year. Money always ties into health and he doesn't come cheap; Oswalt will receive $15M in 2010 and $16M in 2011 with an option for $16M in 2012.
Javier Vazquez - '09 WAR: 6.6
Now the Braves clearly have some decisions to make regarding their pitching surplus but why would they deal Vazquez? He's always healthy and he's coming off a career year where he was clearly their best starter. Not only that but other than Roy Halladay he's the only pitcher to pass 4.5 WAR in each of the last 4 seasons. However, the performance/salary of both Lowe and Kawakami make them difficult to deal if you're looking to get a big bat back to replace/supplant Chipper. And at age 34, Tim Hudson is coming off TJ surgery. Obviously Jurrjens and Hanson are untouchable.
Risks: To acquire Vazquez within the division we'd have to give the Braves the moon and the stars. Too much basically.
Carlos Zambrano - '09 WAR: 3.6
Word on the street is that the Cubs will be shopping Big Z this winter. And while that sounds tempting, most people have yet to realize that Zambrano is not the pitcher he once was. In fact, before this season he hadn't posted a FIP below 4 since 2005. Even this season required quite a bit of luck to do so. Many key ratios like FB velo., BAA, GB/FB & HR/9 have been trending down for years and many point to his massive workload at such a young age.
Risks: At ~$18M for 4 more season, this contract could get VERY ugly, very fast if/when Zambrano's gradual decline continues.