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

Year ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9
2014 ★ 3.15 33 220.1 196 80 77 18 63 252 127 2.85 1.175 8.0 0.7 2.6 10.3
7 Yrs 3.58 198 1239.1 1122 538 493 133 389 1321 117 3.39 1.219 8.1 1.0 2.8 9.6
Year 2B 3B SB BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip TB GDP
2014 49 2 13 .238 .294 .368 .663 .317 303 15
7 Yrs 230 32 81 .242 .304 .391 .696 .307 1815 79

 

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

Year ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9
2014 3.21 34 227.0 224 95 81 23 44 180 124 3.59 1.181 8.9 0.9 1.7 7.1
9 Yrs 3.72 285 1910.1 1878 865 790 227 452 1626 111 3.77 1.220 8.8 1.1 2.1 7.7

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

Year 2B 3B HR SB BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip TB GDP
2014 46 7 23 6 .256 .298 .404 .702 .296 353 16
9 Yrs 377 41 227 69 .256 .304 .412 .716 .300 3018 155

 

“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

Year ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9
2014 3.95 31 196.0 193 90 86 16 63 179 92 3.39 1.306 8.9 0.7 2.9 8.2
10 Yrs 4.17 296 1882.2 1827 937 872 245 589 1507 99 4.26 1.283 8.7 1.2 2.8 7.2

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

Year 2B 3B HR SB BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip TB GDP
2014 42 4 16 7 .266 .323 .401 .724 .326 291 19
10 Yrs 370 39 245 155 .254 .316 .419 .735 .288 3010 145

 

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

Year ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9
2014 3.73 202.2 196 91 84 23 63 158 100 4.11 1.278 8.7 1.0 2.8 7.0
13 Yrs 3.53 2147.2 1901 890 843 229 647 2027 113 3.60 1.186 8.0 1.0 2.7 8.5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/10/2014.
Year 2B 3B HR SB BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip TB GDP
2014 44 7 23 8 .258 .318 .424 .742 .293 323 21
13 Yrs 378 55 229 166 .237 .297 .383 .680 .286 3076 151
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

Year ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9
2014 2.91 8 43.1 44 18 14 1 13 29 147 2.99 1.315 9.1 0.2 2.7 6.0
6 Yrs 3.73 81 494.0 502 236 205 41 133 386 112 3.51 1.285 9.1 0.7 2.4 7.0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/10/2014.
Year 2B 3B SB BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip TB GDP
2014 12 1 1 .267 .318 .370 .688 .316 61 6
6 Yrs 91 4 31 .263 .316 .380 .696 .310 724 60
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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