Next Offseason’s Best Available Starters

Starting pitchers Wandy Rodriguez, Bronson Arroyo, and R.A. Dickey signed multiyear contracts this offseason, weakening an already poor 2011-12 free agent class.  Let's take a look at the best remaining options for next winter's shoppers.

Free Agents

  • C.C. Sabathia – There is an expectation that Sabathia will opt out of his remaining four years and $92MM with the expectation of a bigger contract.  If he does, there is the possibility of the Yankees extending him before he hits the open market.  Sabathia could top his own seven-year, $161MM record for a pitcher.
  • C.J. Wilson – Wilson is in the running as the second best free agent starter in this group, though an extension with the Rangers remains possible.
  • Mark Buehrle – Buehrle seems unusually willing to talk about his future.  Assuming he doesn't retire, he told Dan McNeil, "It's going to have to be with a contender and somewhere where my family is comfortable."  His list of potential destinations will be pretty short, with the White Sox and Cardinals leading.
  • Ryan Dempster – Dempster has a $14MM player option for 2012.  I imagine interest is mutual in Dempster remaining with the Cubs, but the righty is entitled to seek more security than one year and $14MM.
  • Edwin Jackson – Jackson is a breakout candidate for 2011, as explained here.
  • Hiroki Kuroda – Like Buehrle, Kuroda is not going to market himself to the highest bidder.  He'll probably aim to re-sign with the Dodgers or at least remain on the West Coast.
  • Roy Oswalt – Oswalt gets a $2MM buyout on his $16MM mutual option regardless of which side declines.  The best business move is to test the market, but like some others on this list Oswalt figures to be picky.
  • Joel Pineiro – He'll need to come back strong from a shoulder injury.
  • A few more free agent starters will surely emerge during the season, as Pineiro did in 2009.  Click here to browse the full list.  Others will join the list as non-tenders, but probably not anyone who belongs on this list.

Trade Candidates

  • James Shields: His contract offers the best flexibility you'll find for a solid veteran starter, with club options for '12, '13, and '14.  If the Rays have someone ready to take his place, next offseason might be the time to cash in.  Fausto Carmona is on a similar contract, but doesn't have Shields' trade value.
  • Chris Carpenter: Theoretically the Cardinals could exercise Carpenter's $15MM option for 2012, and then try to trade him for a cheaper starter.
  • Braves starters: They're in the catbird seat, with Jair Jurrjens and Derek Lowe among the trade candidates if they decide to use their pitching surplus to fix another area.
  • Astros starters: Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez would be attractive trade chips, whether at this year's deadline or in the offseason.  Still, I see the Astros keeping them.  Same goes for the Orioles and Jeremy Guthrie.
  • The Brewers, Mets, Giants, Phillies, and Angels have some interesting trade candidates, most of whom will be getting more expensive in 2012.  It's too early to call whether guys like Shaun Marcum, Mike Pelfrey, or Jonathan Sanchez will become available, though. 

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