As unpredictable as the A’s offseason moves can sometimes be, their quest for starting pitching depth is a constant.
In recent years they’ve traded away several established major leaguers and acquired young starters in bulk. But this winter, given the inexperience and health concerns in their rotation, it makes sense that they’ll scan the free agent market in search of a veteran starter.
Fortunately for Oakland, this free agent class is loaded with quality starters. They range from elite names that will command nine-figure contracts – a market the A’s simply don’t venture into – to low-cost options that should provide value. Given the vast supply, one major league scout told CSNCalifornia.com that he expected the market to move quickly and pitchers to begin signing early in the offseason.
The A’s don’t typically splurge on multi-year offers for starters, but every now and then they surprise, like two winters ago when they landed Scott Kazmir with a two-year $22 million deal.
As we launch a series looking at potential free agents the A’s might target, it only makes sense to begin with the rotation:
Sonny Gray: RHP, age 26
2015 stats: 14-7, 2.73 ERA, 208 IP, 169 K’s, 59 BB’s, 1.082 WHIP
Jesse Chavez:RHP, age 32.
Stats: 7-15, 4.18 ERA, 157 IP, 136 K’s, 48 BB’s, 1.350 WHIP
Kendall Graveman: RHP, age 24.
Stats: 6-9, 4.05 ERA, 115 2/3 IP, 77 K’s, 38 BB’s, 1.418 WHIP
Jesse Hahn: RHP, age 26.
Stats: 6-6, 3.35 ERA, 96 2/3 IP, 64 K’s, 25 BB’s, 1.169 WHIP
Chris Bassitt:RHP, age 26.
Stats: 1-8, 3.56 ERA, 86 IP, 64 K’s, 30 BB’s, 1.256 WHIP
Thoughts: Gray became an All-Star and Cy Young candidate, but the question is how things fall in line behind him. If Hahn enters spring training fully recovered from a strained forearm that ended his 2015 season in July, A’s officials will breathe easier. In an ideal world, the A’s sign a veteran starter and have the luxury of using Chavez in the bullpen, where his versatility is an asset.
Zack Greinke: RHP, age 32.
Stats: 19-3, 1.66 ERA, 222 2/3 IP, 200 K’s, 40 BB’s, 0.844 WHIP
David Price: LHP, age 30.
Stats: 18-5, 2.45 ERA, 220 1/3 IP, 225 K’s, 47 BB’s, 1.076 WHIP
Others: Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmerman
Thoughts: There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, but the A’s won’t be shelling out the cash to fit any of these studs in green and gold next season.
BEST OF THE REST
John Lackey: RHP, age 37.
Stats: 13-10, 2.77 ERA, 218 IP, 175 K’s, 53 BB’s, 1.211 WHIP
A good fit?: We narrow this section to players who could be realistic targets for Oakland. Given his age, it’s remarkable that Lackey seems destined to land a lucrative multi-year deal, but his numbers justify it. The A’s front office is quite familiar with him from his days with the Angels, and Lackey owns a 2.83 career ERA at the Coliseum.
Scott Kazmir: LHP, age 31.
Stats: 7-11, 3.10 ERA, 183 IP, 155 K’s, 59 BB’s, 1.208 WHIP
A good fit?: It’s an intriguing thought given that Kazmir pitched so well during his first stint with Oakland. But if the lefty commands four years guaranteed, and some believe he will, it’s tough to see the A’s going there.
Marco Estrada: RHP, age 32.
Stats: 13-8, 3.13 ERA, 181 IP, 131 K’s, 55 BB’s, 1.044 WHIP
A good fit?: For what it’s worth, mlbtraderumors.com predicts the A’s to sign Estrada to a three-year $30 million deal. That’s the same contract length and dollars they gave Billy Butler last winter.
Others: Brett Anderson, Doug Fister, J.A. Happ
Bartolo Colon: RHP, age 42.
Stats: 14-13, 4.16 ERA, 194 2/3 IP, 136 K’s, 24 BB, 1.238 WHIP
A good fit?: He keeps going, and going, and going. … Colon should be available on a reasonable one-year deal. Added bonus: The fun-loving right-hander would automatically double the number of clubhouse practical jokes.
Chris Young: RHP, age 36.
Stats: 11-6: 3.06 ERA, 123 1/3 IP, 83 K’s, 43 BB’s, 1.086 WHIP
A good fit?: The 6-foot-10 righty wants to start, but he provides an effective relief option too, as he showed with Kansas City this past season. The A’s like that kind of ability.
Others: Mike Pelfrey, Rich Hill
Overall: The A’s have the need, and this year’s deep class of free agent starters provides an opportunity to get something done on some level. Do they open up the checkbook and commit multiple years to a pitcher who immediately enters the rotation, or do they look for one or two reclamation projects that have to earn a big league roster spot? They may not feel a need to rush. Before the 2012 season, they waited until mid-January before inking Colon to a one-year deal.