In Houston, a common theme is to keep looking to the future. With the timeline for fielding a competitive team about to reach a tipping point, we can now speculate about big-name free agents that the Houston Astros could potentially land. In this edition, we take a look at the starting pitchers that will hit the market when the 2015 season comes to a close.
There is a slew of talent hitting the market in terms of starting pitching next offseason, but here are my top five, in no particular order:
Jordan Zimmerman– By the time the 2016 season rolls around, Zimmerman will be in his age 30 season, and looking at a huge payday. He’ll likely be getting something close to whatever it is Max Scherzer winds up with, with Zimmerman’s average season since 2011 being 13-8 with a 3.00 ERA, compared to Scherzer’s 18-6 with a 3.52. With the resume the National’s righty is putting together as of late (33-14, 2.96 ERA the over the last two seasons), with another strong campaign in 2015, he could be looking at even more than Max.
Johnny Cueto– If not for Clayton Kershaw being Clayton Kershaw, Cueto would have won the NL Cy Young last season, after a 20-9 season and a 2.25 ERA with the Reds. Cueto only pitched 60 2/3 innings due to injury in 2013, but came back in 2014 with 243 2/3 in 2014. Adding Cueto, like Zimmerman would cost a ton of money, but with less mileage on his arm. Cueto is a strikeout pitcher with decent control, while Zimmerman is a control pitcher that gets a decent amount of strikeouts. The debate between these two will dominate headlines next offseason.
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David Price– Look at that, another Cy Young candidate. He’s on this list, but I have a feeling the Yankees or Red Sox will be heavily in on the prized lefty. In four of the last five seasons, Price has pitched over 200 innings, and is thought to be one of the best pitchers in the game. For the money Price is likely to command, I’d say pass.
Jeff Samardzija– Aside from having to learn how to spell his name (just call him Shark), Samardzija could be a solid fit with the Houston Astros. He’ll be 31 entering the 2016 season, which could mean that a shorter contract could do the trick, while the three pitchers above are likely looking at 6-7 year deals. Shark will likely be in the $20M/year or so range, with the others being closer to $25M/year. This is pure speculation, but with his age, and their statistical advantages over Samardzija it makes sense. He isn’t necessarily an “ace” either, which could also work to the Astros favor, depending on how Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh perform in the 2015 season. If they hold steady, the Astros may just need another solid arm moving forward, and Samardzija is definitely that.
Doug Fister– While there are plenty of other talented pitchers, I’m giving Fister the nod in my top five. The main reason is that he’s pitched in the AL before, which could help with the learning curve that some of the other pitchers on the list would have. Last year with the Nationals, Fister went 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA. In his two full seasons with Detroit, Fister put up a combined 24-19 record with a 3.57 ERA in 370 1/3 innings. Like Samardzija, Fister will be 31 in 2016, and isn’t really a top-of-the-rotation starter, but would slot nicely in the number two or three spot, depending on what other options the Houston Astros are working with.
These are the top five, but the likes of Mat Latos, Mark Buehrle, Scott Kazmir, Tim Lincecum (please no), Brett Anderson, Hisashi Iwakuma and Rick Porcello are other options that will generate some buzz when the hot stove warms up next offseason.
Of those, Buehrle, Kazmir, Iwakuma and Anderson could potentially be on the lookout for short-term deals due to age or injury history. If the Houston Astros can play .500 ball in 2015, we may even be dreaming of one of the players in the top five.