It's getting near time for Spring Training. Pitchers and Catchers report in just over two weeks.
Everyone is left speculating over the Starting Pitcher FA market, which has been at a relative stand still much of this off season due to, as I'm sure you know, Tanaka.
Now that Tanaka has signed, we expected the pieces to start falling.
The baseball world barely had time to take a collective breath before Matt Garza was reported to have signed.
I felt that others would start dropping quickly, however there are still many SPs available.
Royals speculation has focused mostly on Santana. Many are hoping that he'll be the odd man out going into Spring Training, and even into the beginning of the year, and be forced to accept a short term, low dollar deal.
While that remains a possibility, there are several other options still available for the Royals to consider.
I will not be discussing Ubaldo Jimenez, as I see signing him as significantly less likely than signing Santana.
There are several FA pitchers remaining, but I'm electing to focus only on starters who have had recent success. Success, in my mind, will be defined as 2 WAR or better in one of the last three seasons, that also pitched 120+ innings last season.
That does narrow the list,
(note, all stats are pulled from fangraphs)
Jason Hammel -Jason Hammel was worth .7 WAR last year in 139.1 (26 games, 23 starts) innings for the Orioles. He sports unimpressive stats from last season, but had a solid 2012 (2.6 WAR) and an amazing 2010 (3.8 WAR with Colorado). His k/9 was down slightly from his career average (6.2 vs 6.52 average), but this is also down dramatically from his 2012 season, where he sported an impressive 8.6 k/9. That said his fastball velocity has barely dropped from his best seasons (93mph to 92.7mph), but it appears he has stopped relying on it quite as much as he used to (47%+ in both 2010 and 2011 to 30.6% last year). He also had an elevated HR/FB ratio of 12.8%.
One down side would be that he has never pitched 200 or more innings in a single season.
Steamer has him a 1.1 WAR and Oliver has him at 1.2 WAR for next season.
Paul Maholm - Paul Haholm was also worth .7 WAR last season. His projections for next season seem to mirror Jason Hammel's, and his career stats are not as impressive. He has a career 5.75 K/9, and an equally unimpressive career BB/9 of 2.92. While he has averaged more innings per season than Hammel, he still has only cracked 200 innings once, in 2008. Last season in 26 starts, he was 10-11 with a 4.41 ERA, but a 3.89 xFIP.
Bruce Chen -We all know what Bruce Chen is. Rather than tell you what he has done, I'll simply say that neither Steamer nor Oliver like him much next year. Steamer has him at .6 WAR in 96 innings, presumably as a swing man, and Oliver has him at .2 WAR in 155 innings, more than he pitched last year. He was worth 1.4 WAR last season in 121 innings, so they are expecting age to really catch up with him this season.
And now we get to the cream of the remaining starters:
Bronson Arroyo -Bronson Arroyo has been around seemingly forever. It was reported just today that he had not yet received an offer this off season. He has pitched 199+ innings every season since 2005, and last season sported the 2nd best GB% of his career (44.4%), but also the second worst HR/FB ratio of 14%. He has never been a hard thrower, and his fastball last season averaged only 87mph (this was actually .7mph of an increase from the previous season). His ERA last season was 3.79, but his BABIP was very low (.267), leaving him xFIP at 3.97.
Steamer has him only pitching 153 innings next season, with 1.2 WAR. Oliver likes him to pitch more innings, 204, but at only .8 WAR.
AJ Burnett - AJ Burnett was a bit of a surprise. Most people expected him to either retire, or return to the Pirates this season. He was worth 4 WAR last season in 191 innings (30 games) with a nice 3.30 ERA, but even nicer xFIP of 2.92. Steamer projects him to be worth 3.4 WAR next season in 189 innings, Oliver has him biting the aging curve hard at 2.3 WAR in 200 innings.
A.J. Burnett is arguably (or not) the best pitcher on the market now. He is likely to only be looking for a short term deal, most likely only 1 year. He is reportedly looking to stay close to home on the east coast, but it's possible the right offer ($$$) could draw him away.
The saying goes there are no bad one year deals.
Bronson Arroyo also appear very interesting. He has been a consistent innings eater, but you feel like signing him would just be adding more mediocrity to an already mediocre middle rotation.
Chen, Hammel and Maholm are all remarkably unimpressive, and I feel like signing any of these would be the Royals admitting that they couldn't afford to swim with the big boys in trying to land another pitcher.
With the Blue Jays reportedly looking to trade for Samardzija, and the addition of AJ Burnett to the FA market, we could see the demand on the remaining pitchers drop even further. This could make it more likely that Santana ends up having to take a short term deal from the Royals at the end of the off season, or perhaps the Royals could look at some of the other remaining starters.
I considered adding a poll, but there are too many questions to ask for one.
Do you think the Royals should pursue any of these pitchers? If who, why? Why not the others?