As the 2017-18 offseason gets underway, we’ve heard a lot about teams anticipating the 2018-19 class. Some clubs could even curb current spending to prepare for that group. That’s reasonable enough, given potential franchise-altering free agents like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. In addition to those two abnormally young superstars, the position players include many excellent players who will be 30 or older in 2019: Charlie Blackmon, Josh Donaldson, Brian Dozier, Daniel Murphy, Elvis Andrus, Marwin Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, and A.J. Pollock, for example. While it would be risky for a team to let this group of potential free agents affect their 2017-18 offseason spending, you can at least make a case. However, the list of starting pitchers who project to be eligible for free agency after the 2018 season is less impressive.
Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, and after the 2018 season he has the ability to opt out of the two years and $65MM left on his contract with the Dodgers. Kershaw will turn 31 in March of 2019. One way or another, he’s going to get a new monster contract between now and then. It might just be another record-setting extension, as the Dodgers have almost a year to attempt to lock him up. Given that very real possibility, the only team that should take Kershaw into account this winter is the Dodgers.
After Kershaw, the 2018-19 free agent class for starting pitchers doesn’t look all that special. David Price could opt out of his remaining four years and $127MM, but that looks unlikely at present. The lefty will turn 33 next August and was limited to 11 starts this year due to an elbow injury. Aside from Kershaw, the biggest 2018-19 free agent starting pitcher contracts may go to Dallas Keuchel and Drew Pomeranz. They will 31 and 30 years old, respectively, and posted solid 2017 seasons. Still, these aren’t pitchers you plan for a year in advance.
Further down the list, question marks pile up. Garrett Richards could be interesting, but only if his partially torn UCL holds up in 2018. Similarly, perhaps Matt Harvey and Nathan Eovaldi can re-establish themselves next season. Gio Gonzalez and Charlie Morton are quality pitchers who will be 33 and 35 years old, respectively, in 2019, though Morton has indicated that he may retire once his current contract expires. Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, and Cole Hamels may remain useful pieces a year from now.
While the position players potentially available could make the 2018-19 offseason one for the ages, the starting pitching in this class does not measure up. We actually saw a group far more impressive in the 2015-16 offseason, when Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija, Mike Leake, Ian Kennedy, and Scott Kazmir signed for over a billion dollars combined. It’s unclear whether Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta will incite bidding wars this winter, but if they don’t, it won’t be because of the 2018-19 free agent starting pitchers.