This is a baseball blog. But the exercise of journalism is protected in our Bill of Rights in order to inform the electorate. I urge you all to vote today.
OK, with that PSA out of the way, Bill took some time to preview the free agent market for pitchers and analyze the Pirates' current rotation issues. Enjoy!
Free agency preview: Starting pitchers
The incumbents: A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez are under contract for next season and will headline the starting rotation.James McDonald will probably return to the rotation, but his spot is not as certain after his disastrous second half of the season, during which he was eventually removed from the rotation.
The Pirates have said they will let Kyle McPherson and Jeff Locke battle for a rotation spot in spring training. Gerrit Cole lurks, but he is not an immediate option.
Charlie Morton will miss the first portion of the 2013 season while he recovers from Tommy John surgery. The future of Jeff Karstens is uncertain; the Pirates may not tender him a contract after he made $3.1 million this season and missed time due to two different injuries.
Ages are opening day 2013; I’ve selected players that fit the Pirates’ payroll and seem like good matches given their career trajectory, performance, etc.
RHP Jeremy Guthrie, 33
2012 salary: $8.2 million, avoided arbitration
Stats: 8-12, 4.76 ERA in 1812/3 innings, 101/50 K/BB ratio
Etc.: Guthrie was abysmal in Colorado, but improved after a trade to Kansas City. He had a 3.16 ERA and a 2.95 K/BB ratio for the Royals after posting a 6.35 ERA and a 1.45 K/BB ratio for the Rockies. He may be a pitcher the Pirates can get for a lower salary as he looks for a bounce-back year.
LHP Joe Saunders, 31
2012 salary: $6 million, one-year deal
Stats: 9-13, 4.07 ERA in 1742/3 innings, 112/39 K/BB ratio
Etc.: Like Guthrie, Saunders doesn’t strike anybody out, and he doesn’t throw hard. He doesn’t walk anybody, though, which enhances his value. He could serve as an affordable left-hander on a two-year contract that could eat some innings.
LHP Francisco Liriano, 29
2012 salary: $5.5 million, avoided arbitration
Stats: 6-12, 5.34 ERA in 1562/3 innings, 167/87 K/BB ratio
Etc.: Liriano vacillates between gifted performance and maddening inconsistency. He has a high strikeout rate, in large part due to his slider, but walks a ton of batters as well. He has never equaled his performance prior to Tommy John surgery in 2006. Some team will have to stomach the walks and unsteady outings if they want his strikeout potential.
RHP Brandon McCarthy, 29
2012 salary: $4.275 million, avoided arbitration
Stats: 8-6, 3.24 ERA in 111 innings, 73/24 K/BB ratio
Etc.: McCarthy started only 18 games this season because of a shoulder injury as well as a fractured skull that required emergency surgery after he took a line drive off the dome. When he was active, he pitched well. He’s another low-strikeout, low-walk guy who keeps the ball in the park – though pitching in Oakland helps – and could be had for a reasonable contract.
RHP Shaun Marcum, 31
2012 salary: $7.725 million, avoided arbitration
Stats: 7-4, 3.70 ERA in 124 innings, 109/41 K/BB ratio
Etc.: Marcum missed two months of the season because of an elbow injury, which will depress his price and could make teams leery of signing him. Getting him out of Miller Park could help.
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