Charging The Mound: Examining Top Free-Agent Starting Pitchers

With the long-awaited signing of Jon Lester (Chicago Cubs, 6-years: $155 million) in the rearview mirror — let the frantic action commence!

The remaining free-agent hurlers are sure to begin dropping like hotcakes, although attempting to decipher the who, what, where, and when, is an exercise in maddening attrition.

Let’s get down to brass tax. Here are five arms roaming the wire, waiting for the highest bidder to step forward:

1.The star of the show:

Max Scherzer: – RHP – Age: 30 – Height: 6’3″ – Weight: 220

YearERAGSIPHRERHRBBSOERA+FIPWHIPH9HR9BB9SO9
2014 ★3.1533220.1196807718632521272.851.1758.00.72.610.3
7 Yrs3.581981239.1112253849313338913211173.391.2198.11.02.89.6
Year2B3BSBBAOBPSLGOPSBAbipTBGDP
201449213.238.294.368.663.31730315
7 Yrs2303281.242.304.391.696.307181579

 

Right about now, Scherzer’s Agent, Scott Boras, has his feet up on his desk, while his phone is ringing off the hook — and everybody is on hold; creating the marketplace.

It’s not like he needs the help, however. The Cubs going all-in on Lester accomplished most of the leg work. Mad Max is reportedly asking onwards of $200 million. In this day and age, one has to break the bank to acquire even a sniff of a frontline starter — and Scherzer is the very definition.

Three straight seasons north of 230 strikeouts, back-to-back campaigns of 200-plus innings pitched, and four sub-3.0 years of BB/9. The jackpot of the offseason and the AL version of Clayton Kershaw is worth the price of admission. Even at these colossal levels.

 

2. A No.1 reputation, with No.2 skills:

James Shields – SP – Age: 32 – Height: 6’3″ – Weight: 215

YearERAGSIPHRERHRBBSOERA+FIPWHIPH9HR9BB9SO9
20143.2134227.0224958123441801243.591.1818.90.91.77.1
9 Yrs3.722851910.1187886579022745216261113.771.2208.81.12.17.7

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

Year2B3BHRSBBAOBPSLGOPSBAbipTBGDP
2014467236.256.298.404.702.29635316
9 Yrs3774122769.256.304.412.716.3003018155

 

“Big-Game James” didn’t exactly live up to his moniker during the Kansas City Royals‘ epic postseason run. In fact, over the course of nine playoff series, the former Tampa Bays Rays‘ ace owns a pedestrian 5.46 ERA, combined with an 11 H/9 ratio.

Why does he rank 2nd on this list? .. Well, in the minuscule opportunities available to even participate in October, this durable workhorse can anchor the process. Recording a WHIP below 1.20 is a rare commodity, but to register the number three out of the last four years says: he’s as calm, cool, and collected when toeing the rubber as any pitcher in baseball.

Just think twice about handing him the ball in any Game Seven.

 

3. The Wildcard:

Ervin Santana: SP – Age: 31 – Height: 6’2″ – Weight: 185

YearERAGSIPHRERHRBBSOERA+FIPWHIPH9HR9BB9SO9
20143.9531196.019390861663179923.391.3068.90.72.98.2
10 Yrs4.172961882.218279378722455891507994.261.2838.71.22.87.2

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

Year2B3BHRSBBAOBPSLGOPSBAbipTBGDP
2014424167.266.323.401.724.32629119
10 Yrs37039245155.254.316.419.735.2883010145

 

In any given start, Santana can wow a crowd with the best of them. Problem is, his harness has yet to zero-in on his repertoire. Granted, the 31-year-old Dominican has made tremendous strides on achieving the mission.

After a slick start to 2014, the cool-off effect managed to claim another victim. An ERA settling around 4.00 is what we can expect moving forward — his .266 Batting Average Against mixed with opponents slugging to the tune of .401, needs some mop-up duties assigned.

Worthy of a priority signing — on the other hand, be willing to stomach the inconsistencies.

 

4. The former stud, turned savvy veteran:

Jake Peavy: SP – Age: 33 – Height: 6’1″ – Weight: 195

YearERAIPHRERHRBBSOERA+FIPWHIPH9HR9BB9SO9
20143.73202.2196918423631581004.111.2788.71.02.87.0
13 Yrs3.532147.2190189084322964720271133.601.1868.01.02.78.5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/10/2014.
Year2B3BHRSBBAOBPSLGOPSBAbipTBGDP
2014447238.258.318.424.742.29332321
13 Yrs37855229166.237.297.383.680.2863076151
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/10/2014.

 

The epitome of a baseball player; a bulldog on the mound. Albeit, an old-school one at this point. 13 years and still grinding it out; they won the World Series but don’t try to convince any San Francisco Giants‘ fan that he aided the cause — a 12-hit, 9-ER showing left little to be desired.

However, Peavy is capable of slinging it every fifth day. Thinking you can still overpower hitters (A.J. Burnett syndrome) catches up to the grizzled vet at times, but has welcomed the idea of pitching-to-contact as he embarks on his twilight tour.

A dominant September stretch showed there’s plenty left in the tank.

 

5. The upside flyer:

Brett Anderson: SP – Age: 26 – Height: 6’4″ – Weight: 225

YearERAGSIPHRERHRBBSOERA+FIPWHIPH9HR9BB9SO9
20142.91843.1441814113291472.991.3159.10.22.76.0
6 Yrs3.7381494.0502236205411333861123.511.2859.10.72.47.0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/10/2014.
Year2B3BSBBAOBPSLGOPSBAbipTBGDP
20141211.267.318.370.688.316616
6 Yrs91431.263.316.380.696.31072460
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/10/2014.

 

Once considered the Oakland Athletics’ future staff-leader. But the injury gods swallowed the southpaw whole. With just 19 starts over the last three seasons, Anderson comes with risky propositions attached.

Attaining those question marks can be purchased without the financial burden, though, as the lefty will come cheap. A solid showing (43.1 innings) for the Colorado Rockies last season has put the former star in the making back on the map.

Why not take a chance?

The Hot Stove is about to catch fire, ante up!

Michael Holian, MLB Correspondent for Baseball Essential

Follow him on Twitter: @Michael_Holian

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