Ranking the 2016 Free Agent Starting Pitchers


Major League Baseball free agency kicks off this weekend, as free agents can begin negotiating with teams at 12:01 am on Saturday. This winter, the Pirates are in the market for at least one starting pitcher: Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano will return to the rotation for sure; Charlie Morton (one more guaranteed season on his contract) and Jeff Locke (arbitration eligible) will presumably be given another shot … Tyler Glasnow will likely be held down in AAA until the middle of the summer … meanwhile, A.J. Burnett is retiring and J.A. Happ is a free agent. The Bucs have dipped into the free agent starter pool often in the past, and there should be options there this winter if they choose to go that route.

Our preliminary rankings for this year’s starting pitching class are below. I’ve broken them down into tiers, using the past three years of performance as a guide. As well as age, I specifically looked at innings pitched, K/9, BB/9, ERA,  and WAR (FanGraphs), weighting the more recent seasons more heavily (5/4/3 – a la the Marcel projections). I then calculated each pitcher’s percentile within each category and totaled them, finding some decent results.

This system has its pros and its cons. It was difficult for pitchers who, in particular seasons, pitched very little. It was more difficult for those who didn’t pitch at all. For that reason, I excluded Cliff Lee, Bronson Arroyo (still has a club option out-standing at the time of writing this), Brandon Beachy (also club option), Shaun Marcum, and Chad Billingsley. Lee (whose $27.5 million club option was declined by Philadelphia on Tuesday) hasn’t thrown a pitch since July of 2014, and at age 37, I have no idea where to put him (he’s probably retiring anyway). On the other hand, Marcum, Beachy, and Billingsley didn’t pitch at all in 2014 and sparingly in 2015, and I don’t think they’re worth worrying about right now. I also scratched Brandon Morrow, Sean O’Sullivan, and Rich Hill, who threw 120.2, 108.2, and 73 innings, respectively, in the last three years combined.

Precision was not my utmost intent (hence the tier-based method), and I made adjustments where I saw fit. Below the rankings, there’s an embedded Excel app where you can choose specific players and see their percentile ranks.

Final notes:
Clay Buchholz, R.A. Dickey, and Jaime Garcia have had their club options exercised.
Zack Greinke has officially opted out of his current contract with the Dodgers and is a free agent.
– The Royals did not exercise their end of Jeremy Guthrie‘s mutual option, so he is a free agent. 
– All the numbers I used can be found via FanGraphs, h/t MLB Trade Rumors.

Without further ado…

Tier 1

David Price (age 30)
Zack Greinke (32)
Jordan Zimmermann (30)
Johnny Cueto (30)

These four are undoubtedly the best pitchers available. They also won’t be coming to Pittsburgh.

Continue reading “Ranking the 2016 Free Agent Starting Pitchers”

Pirates stand pat at trade deadline

What a long, interesting July 31st this was. After a bunch of rumors and Twitter suspense, the 4:00 pm trade deadline came and went without the Pirates making a single deal. Here’s a recap and some thoughts of what went down today…

Out on Lester early: The Bucs and Cardinals were supposedly “pushing hardest” for Jon Lester late last night. Then, early this morning, Boston sent their lefty starter to Oakland (along with Jonny Gomes) for Yoenis Cespedes and a comp. round pick in next year’s draft. Billy Beane going all-in this year.

Price tease: Once Lester was dealt, the next biggest name to fall was Rays’ ace David Price. It was reported early in the afternoon that he was definitely on the move; the question was to where? These followed…

…sending Pirates Twitter into a frenzy.

This is how I felt about it then, and still how I feel about it now:

They were believed to be a frontrunner… but Detroit sealed the deal a bit later, in what turned out to be a three-teamer with Seattle — final haul:

If this is true… just wow:

Cardinals bolster their rotation: St. Louis could’ve gone for Price or Lester, but instead went with a bit cheaper options — Justin Masterson (yesterday) and John Lackey (today). Neither are as impactful as a Price or Lester type, but are still decent arms. The real surprise was what the Cardinals gave up for Lackey: Joe Kelly and Allen Craig, two pieces of their MLB squad.

– The Returns: With that Lackey deal, as well as the Price and Lester trades, we get a sense of what these teams wanted in return: Major League talent. Cespedes, Kelly, Craig, Smyly, etc… The Pirates have been criticized for hoarding their prospects, but perhaps that wasn’t even the problem. I highly doubt they would’ve given up multiple pieces of their current roster (you know, the ones who actually have value) for a guy like Lackey or a rental like Lester. Sure, they could have offered a big leaguer and then sweetened the pot with prospects, but perhaps these teams wouldn’t have even gone for that, considering the deals that they took.

A Mystery Deal? Ken Rosenthal reported this around the time that the Price rumors were running rampant:

Whatever deal it was, if it even existed, never happened. Possibly just blowing smoke.

No relievers? The Pirates were thought to be heavily invested in the relief pitching market, but nothing happened on that front. The Red Sox sent southpaw Andrew Miller to the Orioles for pitching prospect Eduardo Perez, which doesn’t seem like a huge cost. Not a ton of reliever news today, but I’m surprised the Bucs didn’t make a trade for one.

WTF Zobrist? If you were watching ESPN around 4:00 pm, you might have seen this:


Yeah, Ben Zobrist is not a Pirate. ESPN fell for one of the fake trade tweets, just like MLB Network did earlier in the day. Embarrassing.

Padres hold onto Kennedy & Benoit: Two players the Pirates had interest in from San Diego, starter Ian Kennedy and reliever Joaquin Benoit, are staying put. Both would’ve been decent adds at the right price — the Padres were supposedly asking for a lot.

Phillies stay silent: Looking to dump any number of the Phils’ overpaid veterans, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. did … nothing. The two players that pertain to the Pirates are former Bucs A.J. Burnett and Marlon Byrd; they apparently had interest in both, though neither made a ton of sense. Philly had talks with the Royals about Burnett and with the Yankees about Byrd, but nothing happened on the other side of Pennsylvania either.

Any moves ahead in August? The Bucs cashed in last August by acquiring Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau once they passed through waivers. But it may not be as easy this time.

Plus, any move there is probably going to be a marginal one. Any real significant players probably won’t clear waivers (unless they’re owed a ton of money like Cliff Lee). But we’ll see what happens.

The Classic NH Quotes:

In sum: it’s pretty surprising that the Pirates did nothing. A reliever would’ve been nice, as well as possibly a bench bat. Adding Lester or Price would’ve been incredible, but I’m not that surprised that it didn’t happen. The Bucs just … don’t make that kind of splash, at least not in my lifetime. I think they could’ve added one of them; all the rumors about it made them feel too real. Bottom line is that these teams were expecting current MLB-ready talent in return, and I don’t think the Pirates were going to match that. If they really were interested in Price/Lester, I think this was the year NH could’ve parted with some of his prospects. But that isn’t what Boston or Tampa wanted, two teams that are hoping to win in 2015 with the talent they acquired today.

Pirates start a four-game series tonight in Arizona. Please, for the sanity of all Pirate fans, keep winning.

Go Bucs

MLB 2K13 Review

Last Tuesday, MLB 2K13 hit the shelves for the XBOX 360 gaming console. 2K Sports was originally not going to release a new edition for 2013, but they decided in January to release one anyway.

In reality, 2K13 is nearly a carbon-copy of 2K12. All of the same game modes and features are available. The “Franchise” and “My Player” modes are nothing to get excited about, but still around if you choose to try them. A big omission from 2K13 is the online leagues. League play was popular last year, so its absence is definitely disappointing.

Playing as the Pirates, there were a few notable errors. Russell Martin’s jersey reads “J. Martin,” a tribute he dedicated to his mother in 2009 “:

Russell Martin J. Martin Jersey

Problem is, he only used that jersey style for 2009, and doesn’t appear to be going back to it for 2013:

Russell Martin Canada

Another issue that was quite obvious was the pronunciation of new reliever Mark Melancon’s name. It’s certainly tricky for some, and it isn’t a word you should sound out. While it should be pronounced “muh-lan-sen” (listen here), 2K play-by-play announcer Gary Thorne delivers it as “melon-con” (the way one would sound it out).

The other blantant issue we noticed was the poor player graphics. You may have seen the 2K13 photo we posted on Twitter the other night of Bucco closer Jason Grilli. One of our followers @JPontzer93 offered us a comparable image of Grilli from MLB 13 The Show for PlayStation 3. On the left is 2k13, on the right is The Show:

Jason Grilli Video Game Comparison

Grilli’s portrayal on the left looks nothing like him, whereas the image on the right is nearly perfect. The presentation differences between the two games is almost laughable. We’ll have a review for The Show coming soon.

There are obviously some problems with 2K13, and it’s nearly the same game as last year. It may not be worth your money, but it’s still a way to get your baseball fix if you own an Xbox. Operation Sports rated 2K13 as a 4 out of 10 (below-average).

Do you play MLB 2K13? Have any compliments, concerns, or other insights about the game? Let us know.

Awards Week: Cy Young

The Baseball Writer’s Association of America announced the winners of the 2012 American League and National League Cy Young Awards on Wednesday night.

The American League winner is David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays.

David Price (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)

The 27-year old southpaw went 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA this season; he beat out Detroit’s Justin Verlander and Los Angeles’ Jered Weaver for the award.

The National League winner is R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets.

R.A. Dickey (slgckgc/Creative Commons)

Dickey, 38, enjoyed the best season of his ten-year career, as he went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA. Other NL finalists include Washington’s Gio Gonzalez and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw.