December 4, 2012

Free agent pitching options: Non-tendered starters

Last month I examined the Twins' free agent pitching options by separating the potential targets into three categories: Top-of-the-rotation starters, middle-of-the-rotation starters, and back-of-the-rotation starters. Friday was the deadline for teams to tender 2013 contracts to arbitration-eligible players and the free agent class grew slightly as nearly 50 players were non-tendered, including the following starting pitchers.

Jair Jurrjens - RHP - 48 innings - 6.89 ERA - 5.71 xFIP - 19/18 K/BB

Jurrjens had a ton of early success despite mediocre secondary stats, starting 115 games with a 3.40 ERA through age 25, but then he fell apart physically. Knee problems cost him the final two months of 2011 and his 2012 was a mess, as he got knocked around for a 6.89 ERA in 48 innings for the Braves and wasn't much better at Triple-A. Jurrjens is still just 27 and 18 months removed from being an All-Star, but his velocity and strikeout rate have plummeted.

Tom Gorzelanny - LHP - 72 innings - 2.88 ERA - 4.21 xFIP - 62/30 K/BB

Gorzelanny spent this year in the Nationals' bullpen and had enough success as a reliever that he may want to stick there, but the 29-year-old left-hander was a starter previously and has a 4.61 ERA in 111 career starts. His control is spotty and his fastball tops out in the low-90s, but Gorzelanny has 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 46 starts dating back to 2009 and isn't totally helpless against right-handed hitters.

John Lannan - LHP - 33 innings - 4.13 ERA - 4.70 xFIP - 17/14 K/BB

Lannan was a full-time member of the Nationals' rotation from 2008-2011, starting 122 games with a 4.00 ERA, and was awarded a $5 million salary for 2012 via arbitration. And then they sent him to Triple-A, where he spent the bulk of the season at age 27. Lannan's strikeout rate is among MLB's worst and his control is also sub par, but the soft-tossing left-hander induces tons of ground balls and that alone is enough to make him a viable back-of-the-rotation starter.

Jeff Karstens - RHP - 91 innings - 3.97 ERA - 3.84 xFIP - 66/15 K/BB

Karstens bounced between the rotation and bullpen during five seasons with the Pirates, posting a 4.14 ERA in 82 starts. He was limited to 91 innings this year with shoulder and hip injuries, but had a 66-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio that included the best strikeout and walk rates of his career at age 29. Karstens is a pitch-to-contact, fly-ball righty with a high-80s fastball, but his control is very good and when healthy he's been an effective back-of-the-rotation starter.

Mike Pelfrey - RHP - 20 innings - 2.29 ERA - 3.35 xFIP - 13/4 K/BB

After four straight seasons with 180-plus innings Pelfrey was shut down in April and underwent Tommy John elbow surgery in May, making the 29-year-old right-hander a big question mark for 2013. Pelfrey was the ninth overall pick in the 2005 draft and never quite developed as well as the Mets hoped, balancing poor strikeout and walk rates with lots of ground balls for a 4.36 ERA that's less impressive than it looks thanks to pitcher-friendly environments.

  • http://jszym2write@yahoo.com jfs

    aaron, thanks for the timely piece. i like lannan, gorzelanny, and jurrjens. and i also like liriano. pick 3 of them, and you’re not draining the pohlads’ bank account. yet you’re still getting 3 fairly good pitchers. try to sign them to short, one-year deals, which may motivate ahead of increased revenue streams for mlb in 2014. of the 4, three are lefties, which isn’t bad. there is some concern about jurrjens’s surgically-repaired knee. success isn’t guaranteed with any of these guys, but all of them present a fairly decent and inexpensive way to upgrade the twins’ rotation.

    that leaves one spot open on the 40-man roster. if he’s still available in the rule 5 draft, take rafael ynoa, a middle infielder who had a very impressive afl season. platoon him with carroll at 2nd base, put florimon at short, and have escobar push plouffe at 3rd.

    there. a very solid winter meetings for mr. ryan.

  • Zack

    Out of this list, Jurrgens, Pelfrey, and Lannan are the most interesting. I wouldn’t give any of them more than a couple million, though. I’d prefer minor league deals.

  • AM.

    $ aside, how would you rank them, Aaron?

  • phalvorson

    I’m wondering why Terry Ryan didn’t ask to have Lannan included in the Span deal. MLBTR.com was reporting way before the trade that Lannan was a non-tender candidate, so his release shouldn’t have come as a surprise. And now various sites are reporting that the Twins “have him on their radar,” so obviously there is some interest. Did TR not have the foresight to ask? Or were the Nationals trying to pry someone else from the Twins to include Lannan in the deal? I guess we’ll never know, but it would have been nice to avoid the bidding frenzy that will undoubtedly ensue now that he’s on the open market. I’ve got to think his signing price will still be around the $5M/yr he was going to get in arbitration if Terry had gotten him the trade and gone that route.

  • sw

    If I could pick only one I would prefer Karstens.

  • chris

    why are all those guys smiling? Cause all of them will be making 10 million of more next season. That is a terrible group of average pitchers.

  • Josh

    Jerjenns, Gorzelanny, and Karstens are the most “interesting” to me, but none of them should get more than a 2 year deal from the Twins and preferably 1 year deals. They’re just not that good. The advantage they have are experience, but that’s not enough to get them long-term deals.

    One of these guys added to the back of the rotation is ok. 2 of them is not a good sign.

  • sandbun

    Am I the only one that is concerned they’re all NL guys?

  • BR

    I’m guessing TR is mildly interested in Lannan for $2M but not for, say, $6M.

  • chris

    good point sandbun. Add almost a run to their ERA when they come to the American league.

  • http://jasonwinter.blogspot.com Jason W

    Not even close. 2012 NL ERA: 4.08 — 2012 AL ERA: 3.94

  • ML

    That NL era was earned facing pitchers, not designated hitters. Factor that.