This is the first part in my free agent predictions. I will be bringing them to you over the course of the off-season, as well as starting an MLB free agent tracker! I will rank my top 15 free agent starting pitchers and where I think they may be heading.
1. Yu Darvish: St. Louis Cardinals, 5-years/$110M
2017 Stats: 10-12, 3.86 ERA, 186.2 IP, 209 SO, 1.163 WHIP
Even with his abysmal postseason, Yu Darvish is still the top starting pitcher in this weak free agent class and that surely will help him. He also had a very good regular season. He pitched over 180 innings and had over 200 strikeouts to go along with a 3.86 ERA and All-Star appearance. The Cardinals will likely lose Lance Lynn to free agency and they need a top-tier starter. I think Darvish is wise to stay in the National League as well.
Other Destinations: Dodgers, Rangers, Cubs, Red Sox, Astros, Mariners, Twins, Phillies
2. Jake Arrieta: Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-years/$100M
2017 Stats: 14-10, 3.53 ERA, 168.1 IP, 163 SO, 1.218 WHIP
The Dodgers will almost certainly let Darvish walk after this season, but they are going to need to replace him. They will want someone to slide in as their number two behind Kershaw. Alex Wood and Rich Hill were fantastic for them this past year, but they are not true number two starters. Jake Arrieta has had success at Dodger Stadium and he pitched very well in the second-half of the season. The Dodgers save a year and $10 million by deciding to go after Arrieta instead of Darvish.
Other Destinations: Brewers, Yankees, Angels, Mariners, Braves, Twins, Cubs, Rangers
3. Lance Lynn: Texas Rangers, 5-years/$70M
2017 Stats: 11-8, 3.43 ERA, 186.1 IP, 153 SO, 1.229 WHIP
Lynn’s ERA makes his 2017 season look a lot better than it really was. Lynn had a high-walk rate and career worsts in strikeouts and homers allowed. However, as mentioned this starting pitching class is very weak and a ton of teams need pitching help. On top of that, Lynn was one of 12 pitchers to reach 33 starts. Durability is definitely something that teams are looking for.
Other Destinations: Orioles, Twins, Mariners, Phillies, Cubs, Brewers
4. Alex Cobb: Chicago Cubs, 4-years/$46M
2017 Stats: 12-10, 3.66 ERA, 179.1 IP, 128 SO, 1.221 WHIP
I think Alex Cobb will be the best value signing at the starting pitching position. He will not receive a huge contract, but he is one of the younger players in this group at age 30 and he puts up numbers. They are not the dominating numbers that the Cubs may be hoping for, but they are good enough numbers that will help. He could give the Cubs 180+ innings and a sub-3.80 ERA each year. Pretty good deal here if you ask me.
Other Destinations: Twins, Brewers, Phillies, Braves
5. Andrew Cashner: Milwaukee Brewers, 2-years/$22M
2017 Stats: 11-11, 3.40 ERA, 166.2 IP, 86 SO, 1.320 WHIP
The Brewers will be smart to stay away from the higher priced starters in this free agent class. Instead, they will go after a value signing. Cue Andrew Cashner. If he can stay healthy he can provide some nice depth and experience to the Brewers rotation, which is much needed for this team.
Other Destinations: Athletics, Twins, Rangers, Braves, Padres
6. Tyler Chatwood: Philadelphia Phillies, 2-years/$16M
2017 Stats: 8-15, 4.69 ERA, 147.2 IP, 120 SO, 1.442 WHIP
The Phillies are in the same boat as the Brewers here. They should not throw around big money to anyone just yet. Tyler Chatwood is the youngest pitcher on my list and he had a nice season in Colorado last year. Chatwood touches mid-90’s, but does not strikeout a ton of guys. Philadelphia does not have a pitcher-friendly park, but I can assure you it is friendlier than Colorado. Chatwood adds solid depth to a young staff.
Other Destinations: Rockies, Brewers, Braves, Twins
7. Mike Pineda: Miami Marlins, 2-years/$9M
2017 Stats: 8-4, 4.39 ERA, 96.1 IP, 92 SO, 1.287 WHIP
Let the Derek Jeter era begin! The Marlins are reportedly looking to add depth to their rotation, but they are not going to be spending big money at all. They seem to be going into full rebuild mode if you ask me. Michael Pineda was having a nice season before he went down with an injury and missed the rest of 2017. The Marlins will be able to snag him for a low price and hope for him to bounce back and regain his beginning of 2017 form.
Other Destinations: Yankees, Blue Jays, White Sox, Padres, Reds
8. C.C. Sabathia: New York Yankees, 2-years/$16M
2017 Stats: 14-5, 3.69 ERA, 148.2 IP, 120 SO, 1.271 WHIP
C.C. Sabathia was THE reason the Yankees went as far as they did. He pitched some big games when it was needed for this team. The Yankees biggest weakness next year will be their starting pitching and having Sabathia in the rotation will help. He can be a back-end presence for the young guns in the rotation.
Other Destinations: Mets, Phillies, Twins, Blue Jays
9. Jaime Garcia: New York Mets, 2-years/$14M
2017 Stats: 5-10, 4.41 ERA, 157.0 IP, 129 SO, 1.408 WHIP
Why were the Mets so bad last year? Injuries to their rotation. They need to go out and sign a veteran who eats innings to a cheap contract. Jaime Garcia would be a great signing for the Mets. He is not going to be a big difference maker, but he provides security and a left-handed presence to their rotation. The Mets NEED to sign a guy who can eat up innings this off-season.
Other Destinations: Yankees, Twins, Braves, Blue Jays, Phillies, Orioles, Royals
10. Jhoulys Chacin: San Diego Padres, 2-years/$14M
2017 Stats: 13-10, 3.89 ERA, 180.1 IP, 153 SO, 1.270 WHIP
The Padres need guys who are going to eat up innings and Jhoulys Chacin did a very good job in doing so for them last year. I think they will go out and re-sign him this off-season in hopes that he can do the same once again. Chacin is nothing special, but he is a solid back-end of the rotation guy. If a team can deal with his wildness then he will not be a terrible signing for the right price.
Other Destinations: Reds, Rockies, Blue Jays, Royals, White Sox
11. Jeremy Hellickson: Baltimore Orioles, 1-year/$10M
2017 Stats: 8-11, 5.43 ERA, 164.0 IP, 96 SO, 1.262 WHIP
The Orioles traded for Jeremy Hellickson last year and he was a huge disappointment. Hellickson made the wrong move when he accepted a QO from the Phillies last off-season. He could have cashed in big time, but now he is going to have to settle for a one or two year deal. The Orioles need SP help, but I do not think they spend big in hopes that they will be able to re-sign Manny Machado. They take a chance on Hellickson with a cheap contract.
Other Destinations: Phillies, Reds, Blue Jays, Twins, Brewers
12. Jason Vargas: Chicago White Sox, 1-year/$10M
2017 Stats: 18-11, 4.16 ERA, 179.2 IP, 134 SO, 1.330 WHIP
Jason Vargas started off last season looking like a Cy Young candidate. Boy, that went downhill fast. However, I still believe his first half numbers will grant him a contract. He will be signed by a team, once again, looking for a veteran guy to eat up innings. The White Sox are no where near ready to contend, but they do need a veteran presence on that team. Vargas may be a nice leader for that rotation and could help them out next year.
Other Destinations: Reds, Tigers, Mets, Blue Jays, Twins, Royals
13. John Lackey: Toronto Blue Jays, 1-year/$10M
2017 Stats: 12-12, 4.59 ERA, 170.2 IP, 149 SO, 1.277 WHIP
John Lackey is on the back-end of his career, but he has pitched in at least 170 innings in each of the last three seasons, while providing double-digit wins in each of those seasons as well. However, his ERA skyrocketed, his strikeouts were down, and he allowed the most homers in the MLB. The Blue Jays do not need a stud pitcher as they have a solid rotation, but they can use an innings eater. Lackey can be that guy and he brings some solid upside.
Other Destinations: Mets, Yankees, Twins, Phillies, Cubs, Braves
14. Chris Tillman: Baltimore Orioles, 1-year/$10M
2017 Stats: 1-7, 7.84 ERA, 93.0 IP, 63 SO, 1.892 WHIP
The Orioles are going to have no choice, but to bring back another one of their own. Chris Tillman was not very good for them last season. However, this free agent market is very thin and they need to fill out their staff somehow to stay competitive. I do not think there will be much of a market for Tillman, so I won’t be surprised to see him come back on a 1-year deal.
Other Destinations: Blue Jays, White Sox, Athletics, Tigers
15. Miguel Gonzalez: Detroit Tigers, 1-year/$8M
2017 Stats: 8-13, 4.62 ERA, 156.0 IP, 100 SO, 1.423 WHIP
The Tigers just need to sign a starting pitcher or two just to field a respectable rotation. Miguel Gonzalez will at least eat up some inning for the Tigers as they continue their rebuild. Even if he doesn’t sign with the Tigers, he will only be an innings eater for whichever team he lands with.