Power Ranking the Mid-Tier Free-Agent Starting Pitchers

Source: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images North America

Source: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images North America

7. Hisashi Iwakuma – RHP

Qualifying Offer Attached: Yes

Iwakuma has been a quietly consistent, productive arm for the Mariners since 2012, posting a 3.17 ERA (3.62 FIP) over 653.2 innings in his career. He’ll be entering his age-35 season in 2016, but he has shown no signs of breaking down just yet.

He has produced a 50.1-percent groundball rate, with rates of 7.59 K/9, 1.75 BB/9, and 1.1 HR/9 in his career. These all play very favorably in Safeco Field, a definite pitcher’s park.

It remains unclear how much longer Iwakuma can put up the solid production, but I think the Mariners — especially after salary-dumping Mark Trumbo — will put up the cash to keep him in Seattle.

Contract Prediction: Three-year, $42 million deal with the Seattle Mariners.

6. John Lackey – RHP

Qualifying Offer Attached: Yes

Lackey is 37 years young and pitching his tail off. He’s been a solid mid-rotation starter throughout his career, posting a 3.92 ERA (3.86 FIP) in 2,481.1 career innings pitched over 13 seasons in the big leagues.

In 2015 with the Cardinals, Lackey definitely pitched above the salary he was making. Due to a clause in his contract, he pitched in 2015 with a salary of $500K, but he pitched to a 2.77 ERA (3.57 FIP) over 218 innings pitched. The qualifying offer shouldn’t affect his market much.

According to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports, the Chicago Cubs are “pretty hot on Lackey” right now, and are talking two- and three-year possibilities. Lackey would fit well behind Jake Arrieta and former Red Sox teammate Jon Lester as a mid-rotation starter.

Contract Prediction: Three-year, $45 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.

5. Yovani Gallardo – RHP

Qualifying Offer Attached: Yes

Gallardo spent his first eight major-league seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers until getting sent to the Texas Rangers in 2015. He handled the change from the National League to the American League pretty well, posting a 3.42 ERA (4.00 FIP) with a 49.3-percent groundball rate and 0.73 HR/9 over 184.1 innings in 2015.

In his career, he has a 3.66 ERA (3.74 FIP) with a 46.7-percent groundball rate and 0.92 HR/9 rate in nine seasons in the majors.

Red flags: decreasing strikeout rate, poor walk rate, and decreasing fastball velocity. All three are things to be aware of when pursuing the 29-year-old right-hander.

The qualifying offer may hurt him a little bit, but not as much as his poor walk rate. However, Gallardo has thrown over 180 innings and had a 2.0+ fWAR in each of the past seven seasons, which makes him an attractive mid-rotation starter. With Gallardo set to turn 30-years-old before opening day — with a consistent track record — he should be able to land a four-year contract as opposed to the three-year deal I suggested for Kennedy.

Contract Prediction: Four-year, $52 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.

4. Scott Kazmir – LHP

Qualifying Offer Attached: No

Kazmir has put together a nice comeback story. The 31-year-old southpaw broke into the Majors with the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays in 2004, becoming one of the most solid left-handed starters in the league through 2008. He was decent in a season split between the Rays and Angels in 2009. He got shelled in 2010. He pitched one game in 2011 with the Angels. They put him on the disabled list — though it’s unclear whether he was hurt or not — and even though he was owed a big chunk of money, the Angels released him. He worked out for multiple teams the following winter and spring, but he never inked a major-league deal anywhere. The following offseason, he signed a minor-league deal with the Cleveland Indians, who gave him an invitation to spring training. He impressed, and made the club as the fifth starter for the 2013 season.

Since then, he has posted a 3.54 ERA (3.61 FIP), averaging almost six innings pitched per start, while throwing two complete games.

Since he was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the Houston Astros mid-season, Kazmir was not eligible to receive a qualifying offer. Therefore, that helps him land around a four-year contract. What doesn’t help him is that he had a poor second half with the Astros, which could put some teams in question of what they’ll be getting. But, back to the old point, a solid soon-to-be 32-year-old southpaw with no qualifying offer attached should garner some healthy interest. Although he may not be worth a fourth year due to his age, I expect a team to give it to him.

Contract Prediction: Four-year, $54 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles.

2 Responses

  1. J French Rennier

    This article is a little dated, Greinke signed for $34 mill with the Diamondbacks which rules out their signing Leake. The Giants signed the Shark & have more money left to burn.
    The $64 question is whether the Giants will sign Leake or a Leftfielder as they are unable to sign both.
    The Giants have Heston available as a 5th Starter behind the Mad Bum, the Shark, Peavy & Cain so a Leake signing is not a necessity.
    The also can use a platoon in LeftField with Blanco when not playing Center, Parker & Williamson both called up at the end of last year & Tomlinson who is learning the outfield becoming a Super Utilityman so a proven big bat left fielder is also not a necessity especially since they are basically set in the batting order 1 thru 7.
    As a longtime Giant Fan, my prediction is they will heavily pursue Leake who fits their ballpark & is a good age for a 5 year contract averaging $15 to $18 mill ea.


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