Friday, March 15, 2013
Future free agent pitchers
By Jason A. Churchill
Earlier this offseason we covered the class of potential 2014 free agent hitters, so, to be fair to the only defensive players in major team sports that dominate the ball, let's talk free agent pitching.
Again, any number of the following arms could sign extensions this season and never hit free agency. Until they do so, however, they fit as potential free agents following the 2013 season.
Right-handers Adam Wainwright, Josh Johnson and Roy Halladay head a strong class that also includes Dan Haren, Matt Garza, Tim Lincecum, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett. Wainwright, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, are talking about an extension. Goold describes the conversations as casual.
Johnson and Halladay have injury concerns to put behind them, as does Garza. Lincecum had a poor 2012 and is in a similar position as the three injured arms. Left-hander Jorge De La Rosa made just three starts in 2012 after having Tommy John surgery in 2011, so he has a lot to prove, too.
Right-handers Dan Haren and Hiroki Kuroda are working on 1-year contracts this season and figure to be free agents again after the season. Lefties Wandy Rodriguez and Johan Santana have steep option years -- Rodriguez at $14 million, though as reader @CeeBeeTell corrects us, that became a player option once Rodriguez was traded. Santana's $25.5 option is certainly to be declined, though he can vest it by pitching 215 innings or more in 2013. The Mets can buy out the former Cy Young winner for $5.5 million if he does not do so.
Kansas City figures to pick up the option on right-hander James Shields and Boston has a decision to make on lefty Jon Lester ($13 million option, $250,000 buyout), but that situation probably works itself out based on Lester's healthy and performance this coming season.
Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel will hit the market, too, barring a multi-year deal.
Fernando Rodney may or may not be taken off next offseason's free agent market, but it appears Joel Hanrahan, Ryan Madson, Carlos Marmol and perhaps Joe Nathan will.
The Rangers hold a $9 million option on Nathan for 2014 but if Joakim Soria is healthy and back to form, Nathan may be expendable, particularly at that price. Red Sox right-hander Andrew Bailey, who has battled injuries the better part of the past two seasons, could hit the market as a non-tendered arbitration-eligible.
Madson, returning from Tommy John surgery, has suffered a bit of a setback this month, reports Alden Gonzalez via Twitter, and may not start the season on the active roster. If he has a healthy season, however, the Angels could look to lock him up beyond 2013.
Former Giants closer Brian Wilson is a free agent this season coming off elbow surgery of his own, and is likely to ink a one-year deal for 2013 and re-enter the market again next offseason.
Cleveland's Chris Perez will earn $7.3 million this season, suggesting it's possible he becomes too pricey for the Indians to keep beyond '13 -- he could get $10 million or more -- possibly prompting the club to non-tender him. It's more likely he's traded in July, but if the club is in contention and Perez is performing, he could hang around all season, creating a potential free-agent result.
Frank Francisco is slated to hit the open market, but Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt is almost certain to have his $4.25 million option exercised. Grant Balfour, who closed for part of 2012, is also scheduled to hit free agency after this season.
Mariano Rivera's contract will expire, too, but he's expected to retire once the Yankees' season ends.