The free agent market for starting pitchers takes a steep decline now that Anibal Sanchez has re-signed with Detroit.
Here’s a list of some of the remaining free agent pitchers and where they rank according to Jeff Passan’s (Yahoo! Sports) FA listing. Edwin Jackson, Shaun Marcum, Carlos Villanueva and Francisco Liriano are thought of as possibilities for the Cubs (and no, Big Z is not an option under any circumstance).
- 12. Edwin Jackson
- 18. Kyle Lohse
- 33. Shaun Marcum
- 39. Carlos Villanueva
- 45. Francisco Liriano
- 60. Joe Saunders
- 76. Carl Pavano
- 81. Carlos Zambrano
- 88. Chris Young
- 99. Kevin Millwood
The pitcher I’d go after is Villanueva. He’s spent the majority of his 7-year career as a swing man with Milwaukee and Toronto. That’s been beneficial in limiting the mileage on his right arm, but leaves some concern over his durability as a starter, which is what Villanueva aspires to be going forward. He’s also one of the more affordable options and could be a ‘flippable asset’ in July.
Jackson is getting a lot of ink as the top pitcher available on the market. He’s durable, in his prime, 29, and coming off a decent season with Washington (10-11, 4.03 ERA, 189.2 IP). However, given the Cubs’ early success this winter in upgrading its rotation (Baker, Feldman) I wouldn’t be fond of adding Jackson at multiple years and the $12-13M price range expected to land his services. The Padres are reportedly the front runner for Jackson offering a 4-5 year deal. That’s too much for my liking.
Marcum, 31, has put together a solid career with Toronto and Milwaukee. In six seasons starting he’s won double digit games three times (12, 13, 13), and has a career (57-36, 3.76 ERA) record. However, Marcum has only twice made 30+ starts (2010-11) and only once pitched more than 200 innings (2011). Most concerning is the fact he battled reoccurring ‘shoulder soreness’ and ‘elbow tightness’ last season. That issue can hardly be overlooked, and one I think the Cubs should steer clear of this winter.
With Liriano it’s all about banking on potential. He’s been terribly inconsistent the past two seasons after finishing 11th in the Cy Young Award in 2010 with Minnesota (14-10, 3.62 ERA). At 29 years old it’s tempting to gamble on Liriano regaining his old form. If he did rebound there’s the chance the Cubs could get quality value in return on a trade. But unless Chicago fails to land one of the three pitchers above, I’d be content with the team investing elsewhere.