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Free Agent Starting Pitchers: Who's Left Now?

A look at what now remains of the free agent market in regards to starting pitchers

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The flood gates have opened slightly. Many people were expecting once Jon Lester signed then all the other remaining starting pitchers will sign quickly after. This was close to being true as it seems like the Lester signing was part of the beginning of the market, but the trade of Jeff Samardzija to the White Sox also formed a crack in the dam. The market isn't barren if your a team with a large sum of money to spend. The Royals are not such a team. They will have to spend a budgeted amount of money on a targeted pitcher or two perhaps.

Here's what's left on the FA starting pitcher market, descending by projected Steamer600 fWAR.

Max Scherzer (4 fWAR)

Only being listed for a full view of the market. He isn't going to sign with the Royals. He won't. I'm sorry, but let's continue.

Scherzer was tendered a qualifying offer.

James Shields (3.0 fWAR)

Another candidate that isn't likely to sign with KC given his sticker price and the Royals limited budget. For curiosity, what realistic contract would you be comfortable with having Shields on, given that it needs to be for more than 3 years?

Shields was tendered a qualifying offer.

Hiroki Kuroda (2.9 fWAR)

Kuroda is weighing between returning to the Yankees (who did not tender him a qualifying offer), returning to Japan (to pitch, not vacation), and retire (which he would likely return to Japan, but not pitch).

Brett Anderson (2.2 fWAR)

Anderson might be looking at joining a fourth organization by the age of 27. Everyone knows the story on Anderson, he's likely to be a good pitcher, when healthy, and the criteria of "when healthy" isn't something he's met in his career.

Date On Date Off Transaction Days Games Side Body Part Injury Severity Surgery Date Reaggravation
2014-08-06 2014-09-29 60-DL 54 49 - Low Back Surgery L4-L5 Bulging Disk 2014-08-15
2014-04-13 2014-07-13 60-DL 91 83 Left Fingers Surgery Fracture - Index Finger HBP 2014-04-17 -
2013-09-14 2013-09-18 DTD 4 4 - Low Back Tightness - -
2013-04-30 2013-04-30 On-Alr 0 0 Right Ankle Sprain - -
2013-04-30 2013-08-28 60-DL 120 104 Right Foot Stress Fracture Navicular -
2013-04-28 2013-04-29 DTD 1 1 Right Ankle Sprain - -
2013-04-20 2013-04-20 DTD 0 0 Right Ankle Sprain - -
2013-04-08 2013-04-13 DTD 5 4 Left Thumb Sprain - -
2013-03-11 2013-03-16 Camp 5 0 - Upper Back Spasms - -
2012-09-20 2012-10-10 DTD 20 14 Right Abdomen Strain Oblique - -
2012-03-13 2012-08-20 60-DL 160 120 Left Elbow Recovery From Surgery Tommy John Surgery 2011-07-14 -
2011-06-06 2011-09-29 60-DL 115 102 Left Elbow Surgery Tommy John Surgery 2011-07-14
2010-08-27 2010-08-27 DTD 0 0 Right Knee Hyperextension -
2010-06-04 2010-07-30 15-DL 56 46 Left Elbow Inflammation -
2010-04-25 2010-05-29 15-DL 34 30 Left Elbow Strain Flexor Tendon -
2010-03-18 2010-03-28 Camp 10 0 Neck Stiffness -
2009-07-12 2009-07-12 DTD 0 0 Low Back Stiffness -
2009-05-05 2009-05-15 DTD 10 8 Left Fingers Blister Middle Finger -
2009-04-28 2009-04-28 DTD 0 0 Left Fingers Blister Index Finger -
2009-03-20 2009-03-20 Camp 0 0 Left Forearm Tightness -
2008-05-19 2008-05-31 Minors 12 0 Thumb Soreness -
2007-07-28 2007-08-26 Minors 29 0 Head Concussion Car Accident

That is Anderson's career injury history and you find a little bit of everything there. Head, thumb, forearm, finger, ankle. Name a bone or muscle and Anderson has probably injured/strain/tore/fractured it.

Anderson hasn't pitched more than 50 major league innings since 2011, and hasn't reached 100 innings pitched since 2010.

Steamer does like Brett Anderson if he can stay healthy, and if he were able to throw 200 innings in a season, it projects him to put up 2.2 wins. What's of likely equal importance, Anderson shouldn't be too expensive given his track record mentioned above in consideration of his potential talent.

Fangraphs crowdsource has Anderson at 1/$7M, while Dave Cameron speculates 1/$7M to the Cubs.

Josh Johnson (2.2 fWAR)

Like Anderson above, Johnson has a history of injuries. Unlike Anderson though, Johnson is older, but does bring a longer track record of successful seasons when not injured.

It's rumored that Johnson is most interested in returning to the Padres for a one-year deal.

Just three years ago, Johnson was real good, posting a 3.5 win season. He followed 2012 up with a poor and injured 2013 season, and didn't throw a pitch, at least professionally, in 2014 due to Tommy John surgery.

Fangraphs crowdsource has Johnson at 1/$5M, while Dave Cameron speculates $1/3M to the Padres.

Kris Medlen (1.9 fWAR)

The injured history train keeps rolling with Medlen. In 2014 Medlen went through Tommy John, for the second time, and was then non-tendered by the Braves (free surgery!) a week or so back. Medlen underwent Tommy John in mid-March last year so even a strict one-year return time, which is optimistic, would put him pitching full time in the latter part of spring training. What's likely though is that Medlen would return mid-season rather.

The 1.9 win projection is unlikely given the shortened amount of time he's expected to pitch.

Fangraphs crowdsource does not have a contract for Medlen, while Dave Cameron does not speculate one either.

Gavin Floyd (1.9 fWAR)

It's almost like pitchers coming off of injuries can be risky to tender a contract to, because like basically everyone else on this list, Floyd was injured in the 2014 season. A fractured olecranon (I didn't make that word up) limited Floyd to 54 innings. The previous year Floyd underwent Tommy John.

When he was healthy Floyd provides a roughly league average strikeout rate, walk rate, and FIP. That's a boring profile I suppose, but one that any starting rotation would love to have. Floyd isn't particularly old but he will play 2015 at age 32, and given his recent injury history, a deal of greater than maybe even 2-years might be too risky.

Fangraphs crowdsource has Floyd at 1/$5M deal, while Dave Cameron speculates 1/$6M to the Padres.

Brandon Morrow (1.5 fWAR)

___ has been oft injured the past few years, but when ___ isn't injured he provides the potential to be a very good starting pitcher. That sums up most guys on this list, but in this case the blanks are both Brandon Morrow.

Morrow went on the 60-day DL in 2012 for a left abdomen strain, again in 2013 for a radial nerve entrapment, and once more in 2014 for an index finger tendon sheath (coolest sounding injury I've heard of there).

Morrow has excellent stuff, but command wobbles at time. When he's fully on (and again...healthy) he can bring an above league average K-rate (>9 K/9), but walk-rate will generally hover around 4 per 9 (well above the league average rate).

The outlook on Morrow is divergent. A team could try to again in the rotation to rekindle the flame of a former 3.5 win pitcher, something that I'd imagine Brandon would be more obliged to do. Otherwise he could feature as a late-inning reliever since his stuff should play even higher in a short run. Finally, a team could employ him as a middle reliever who pitches 2 innings per outing or the long man on the roster. You'd have to imagine if the Royals signed him it would be with an eye towards the starting rotation.

Fangraphs crowdsource has Morrow at 1/$6M, while Dave Cameron speculates 2/$12M to the Astros.

Chad Billingsley (1.3 fWAR)

Billingsley comes off 2013 and 2014. He had flexor tendon surgery in March of this year and Tommy John in April of 2013 and injured his UCL in 2012. Billingsley did not make a single start in 2014.

Chad for the first time in his MLB career had his walk rates under control before his series of injuries.

Fangraphs crowdsource has Billingsley at 1/$5M, while Dave Cameron speculates 1/$6M to the Dodgers.

Jake Peavy (1.3 fWAR)

Fresh off of winning a world series (despite being abused by the Royals) Peavy hits free agency. The Giants are likely strong contenders to bring him back. Peavy is the rare example of an oft injured pitcher who's bounced back, and done so in the later stages of his career (now age 34). Peavy has slightly outproduced his FIP/xFIP over his career and brings an average or so strikeout and walk rate as well as a roughly average home run rate. Peavy could pitch for another 5 years in theory, but one might presume that he is looking for his next contract to be his last (Peavy has made over $100M for his career, pre-taxes of course).

Fangraphs crowdsource has Peavy at 2/$24M, while Dave Cameron speculates 2/$20M to the Giants.


Wandy Rodriguez (1.2 fWAR) FGCS: N/A, DC: N/A

Edison Volquez (1.0 fWAR) FGCS: 2/$16M, DC: 3/$27M Padres

Brandon Beachy (0.8 fWAR) FGCS: N/A, DC: N/A

I'm sure you see the common theme there. Most of those guys are pitchers who are hurt now, hurt in the past and/or hurt often. We knew the Royals wouldn't be major players in the free agent market so it seems like if they want to go this route then they are going to have to bet on one of the above guys to stay healthy. Fortunately for the Royals, health has been very good for them the past few years.