As MLBTR learned in January, and FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal notes in his most recent column, 34-year-old right-hander Tim Hudson holds a mutual $12MM option with the Braves for 2010. He's only made two starts this season, and still carries some injury risk, so the Braves aren't likely to pony up that kind of cash. If the option is declined, or Hudson simply opts out (the most likely scenario), he'll join a fairly intriguing 2010 free agent pitching class.
As for the other big names headed toward the open market? Rosenthal places the Angels' John Lackey right at the top:
"After Lackey," Rosenthal writes, "the top free-agent starters probably will be Cubs right-hander Rich Harden, Dodgers lefty Randy Wolf, Tigers lefty Jarrod Washburn, Rockies righty Jason Marquis, Diamondbacks lefty Doug Davis and Dodgers righty Jon Garland.
Veterans such as Phillies right-hander Pedro Martinez, Cardinals righty John Smoltz and Giants righty Brad Penny also will be back on the market."
We'd also throw Erik Bedard, Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer into the mix, despite the question marks surrounding their readiness. And Joel Pineiro is likely to score a major deal with the exceptional season he's having. It is going to be a fun offseason.