We ran through some of the remaining sources of offensive power yesterday. Today, we’ll do the same for rotation pieces. There are not all that many established starters left on the market, but there are still a handful who stand out as plausible candidates to gobble up some frames without costing much for an acquiring team. (Jeremy Hellickson would’ve been included here had he not agreed to terms with the Nats this morning.) As before, we’ll be ignoring those players who MLBTR predicted to secure multi-year deals entering the winter (e.g. Dallas Keuchel, Gio Gonzalez).
Presented in order of 2018 innings pitched…
James Shields: He topped 200 frames for the tenth time in 2018, so teams looking for volume will have to place Shields on the top of their value list. True, the results (4.53 ERA) and peripherals (6.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 1.5 HR/9, 35.2% GB rate) weren’t exciting, but Shields is also a respected staff member who’d be valued for his positive influence on teammates. For the right organization, he’s a viable innings eater.
Bartolo Colon: Yep, he’s back — or at least he hopes to be. Home runs were a big problem last year for Big Sexy, but he still racked up 146 1/3 frames on the year for the Rangers. As with Shields, there won’t likely be much interest from contenders, but other teams that are thin on upper-level pitching depth could look to Colon as a cheap source of innings.
Clay Buchholz: It’s quite a different story for the 34-year-old Buchholz, who had a nice turnaround campaign before it was cut short by yet another injury. Organizations that are interested in building waves of talented arms, whether or not they come with health concerns, will certainly be intrigued by Buchholz, even if his peripherals (7.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.82 HR/9, 42.6% GB rate) didn’t quite support the sparkling 2.01 ERA he carried through 98 1/3 innings last year in Arizona.
Yovani Gallardo: Though he made it through 94 1/3 innings, the outcomes weren’t pretty for Gallardo. Memories of his days as a sturdy mid-rotation starter are long faded, though perhaps there’s reason to believe in at least some amount of positive regression. Gallardo’s 6.39 ERA in 2018 was caused in some part by a low 64.5% strand rate. Of course, ERA estimators still valued his contributions in the low-5.00 realm, so there’s not a ton of room for optimism.
Edwin Jackson: Jackson ran up a productive ERA in about a half-season of work as a key member of Oakland’s patchwork rotation. But the spread in this case between his ERA (3.33) and ERA estimators (4.65 FIP, 4.88 xFIP, 4.98 SIERA) is significant. Jackson is still averaging better than 93 mph on his heater, but he likely won’t benefit again from a .240 batting average on balls in play from opposing hitters.
Brett Anderson: Some will be surprised to learn that Anderson only celebrated his 31st birthday earlier this month. The lefty debuted as a 21-year-old and has had a tumultuous career, but he put forth a solid effort in 80 1/3 frames with the A’s in ’18. Anderson registered a 55.6 percent grounder rate and notched a career-best 1.46 BB/9. He doesn’t miss many bats and has a long injury history, but the southpaw’s knack for keeping the ball on the ground and his typically low walk rates could be appealing for a team seeking depth rather than a candidate to make 30 starts.
Doug Fister: A knee injury wrecked Fister’s 2018 season, but the righty displayed his typical penchant for keeping the ball on the ground (50.4 percent) and avoiding free passes (2.5 BB/9). Fister managed a 4.50 ERA in 66 innings — nearly half of which came at the launching pad that is Globe Life Park in Arlington. It’s an extraordinarily small sample, to be sure, but the righty did notch a 2.82 ERA and 4.14 FIP in 35 2/3 innings on the road. As far as depth options go, clubs could do far worse than the 35-year-old veteran.
Ervin Santana: Only 10 pitchers threw more innings than Santana between the 2016-17 seasons, but an injured tendon in his pitching hand that required surgery last offseason more or less wiped out his entire 2018 campaign. It’s perhaps heartening that the injury wasn’t specific to the his elbow or shoulder. Santana’s results in 24 2/3 innings were awful (22 runs on 31 hits and nine walks), though it’s unlikely that he was healthy when on the hill. He may be 36 now, but Santana posted a combined 3.52 ERA in 907 2/3 frames from 2013-17. If his hand is healed up, he could be the best bet for a productive season on this list.