Few Innings Eaters Remain In Free Agency

You might think that finding an innings eater is a simple task, but there were ten teams last season that didn't have a single pitcher crack the 200 inning plateau*.  It helps tremendously to have a pitcher who can give you that level of output.  Statistically, the Blue Jays (73-89) had one of the weaker bullpens in baseball last season with a combined 4.33 ERA with 8.58 K/9 and 3.51 BB/9.  However, their relievers were asked to cover 527 and 2/3 innings.  Had they gotten more work out of their starting rotation, their pen would have had more time to rest and as a result likely would have performed better.

At this point in the offseason, most of the durable starters are off the market.  The Angels picked up on this last week when they flipped Kendrys Morales for Seattle's Jason Vargas, who has logged 611 innings across the last three seasons.  In fact, the only pitcher still available on the open market who pitched more than 200 innings in 2012 is Kyle Lohse, who delivered 211 IP for the Cardinals last season.  Obviously, Lohse will be expected to bring more to the table than just soaking up innings and his contract will reflect that.  Teams looking to get creative can look to a couple of other available names who have demonstrated the ability to go deep into games in years past.

Brett Myers was converted into a reliever in 2012 but says that he hopes to start (and, presumably, command starter money) again in 2013.  The right-hander logged 439 innings between 2010 and 2011 for the Astros.  Shaun Marcum missed a large part of last season with elbow issues, but he hovered around 200 innings in the two years prior to that.  Left-hander Joe Saunders missed the cut in 2012 (174.2 IP), but had no trouble earning the innings eater label in '10 and '11. 

At this time last winter, Saunders, Hiroki Kuroda, and Edwin Jackson stood as the only true innings eaters left available on the market.  There are even fewer free agent options this time around for teams hoping to ease the burden on their bullpen.

*Nationals' innings leader Gio Gonzalez came dangerously close as he pitched 199 and 1/3 innings.  The Rockies are one of the ten clubs, but it should be noted that they earned this distinction by design with their "Project 5,183" system.

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