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Saturday, December 14, 2019

10 best available free agent pitchers

Craig Kimbrel

Even as we head into the new year, there are a good number of quality arms left on the free agent market. That’s particularly true of relievers, but there are a couple starters out there too that could contribute to many teams.

Here are ten available free agent pitchers who could help a pitching staff.

10. Bud Norris, RP

Norris successfully reinvented himself as a closer for the Cardinals in 2018, posting a 3.59 ERA and 28 saves. The earned run average is a bit high, but he struck out over a batter an inning and probably profiles as a setup man in a different bullpen. That late-career reinvention will almost certainly earn him a relief job in 2019, though any team interested will have to consider his old-school mentality around young players and whether it’s beneficial or not.

9. Brad Brach, RP

Brach’s surface numbers look a lot better than the peripherals indicate they should, but it’s still easy to be charmed by the 1.52 ERA he posted after being picked up by Atlanta for the latter part of last season. Brach still walks over three batters per nine innings and saw his strikeout numbers fade in 2018, but he has a solid record of relief work with Baltimore. One team will find use for him as a middle reliever or perhaps a setup man.

8. Cody Allen, RP

Allen is one of many once-elite relievers trying to re-establish their value still on the market. He served as Cleveland’s closer since 2014, and up until 2018, he was one of the better closers in the sport. He regressed last season, though, posting a career-worst 4.70 ERA, never quite losing his role but coming dangerously close. Teams must figure out whether the 30-year-old has it in him to rebound. If they believe the answer is yes, he could be an excellent addition to someone’s bullpen.

7. Gio Gonzalez, SP

The best starting pitchers have been plucked off the free agent market already, but there’s still some value to be found. Gonzalez showed he can still pitch when it matters, going 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA down the stretch for the Milwaukee Brewers. That won’t be replicated over a longer period of time, and realistically Gonzalez profiles as a mid-rotation pitcher who can contribute around 180 innings with an ERA in the high-3 or 4 range. There’s plenty of value in that, especially for a contender looking to fill out the back end of the rotation.

6. Kelvin Herrera, RP

What should have been a big walk year for Herrera was wrecked by injuries. First there was a shoulder problem and then a foot injury that ended his season prematurely, limiting him to 21 underwhelming appearances after being dealt to the Washington Nationals in mid-June. Herrera’s career resume is great. His career ERA is 2.82, and he has three dominant full seasons to his name as a reliever. The problem is the most recent of those came in 2016. Still only 29 on Opening Day, there’s a lot to like about Herrera, but he has to be healthy and close to what he once was.

5. Adam Ottavino, RP

Ottavino picked an outstanding time to have a career season, as it came just before he hit free agency. In 2018, the right-hander posted a 2.43 ERA with 112 strikeouts in 77.2 innings. Why isn’t he atop the list? First, he had Tommy John surgery in 2015, and second, he posted a 5.06 ERA in 2017, one calendar year ago. Any team betting on Ottavino has to be hoping that they get the 2018 version instead of the mediocre 2017 edition. If they do, he’ll be a value signing. A couple of AL teams are said to have interest.

4. David Robertson, RP

Though he turns 34 in April, Robertson has aged exceptionally well. Last season with the Yankees, he still struck out 91 batters in 69.2 innings to go with a 3.23 ERA. Even in his best years with the Yankees, he was somewhat baserunner-prone for an elite reliever, and that’s still the case. The results don’t lie, though, and Robertson remains a very effective reliever who could shore up the back end of any team’s bullpen on a two- or three-year deal. Even the Yankees’ rival is interested.

3. Zach Britton, RP

Health is the major question for Britton, with various problems flaring up pretty much since the end of his outstanding 2016 season. Since then, he’s posted an ERA of 3.00 in 78 innings over two seasons, with fewer strikeouts and more walks. It hasn’t really impacted his ground ball rate, though. That news alone should get Britton a pretty sturdy landing spot. Still just 31, teams will be willing to take a chance on what was once one of the sport’s golden arms — one who has still shown flashes of effectiveness in the last two years.

2. Dallas Keuchel, SP

Keuchel’s star definitely fell a bit in a 2018 season that saw him lead the American League in hits allowed. His ERA jumped to 3.74, and his WHIP was the highest it’s been since 2013. Still, Keuchel is a gifted lefty with a Cy Young to his name, so even if his stock has fallen, he’ll still find a comfortable landing spot. He did pick up over 200 innings last season and wasn’t a bad pitcher; he’s just not an ace anymore after he was previously viewed as one. Regardless, his asking price is believed to be high.

1. Craig Kimbrel, RP

Still the class of free agent relievers, Kimbrel steadied the ship after a shaky stretch in the postseason. Though his walks were up on the season, he posted a 2.74 ERA with 42 saves and by and large got the job done for the World Series winners. Kimbrel is still only 30, meaning that he has a chance at a few more successful seasons. The primary reason he remains unsigned may well be that he’s asking for a pretty lengthy contract and teams are hesitant to follow through on those demands.



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