An early look at potential Braves’ free agents: Starting pitchers

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The #1 need for the Braves heading into the offseason is starting pitching. They have the building blocks in Mike Soroka, Max Fried, and Mike Foltynewicz, but they desperately need an arm that puts them over the top. It might not have seemed glaringly evident against the Cardinals, but had the Braves advanced, their starting pitching would have eventually been exposed. Alex Anthopoulos and company need to whip out their checkbooks and add a headliner to their rotation.

Headliners

Gerrit Cole

Does it get any better than this guy? Cole is about to win the Cy Young and is well on his way to one of the most memorable postseasons in MLB history. He led the AL in ERA (2.50) and strikeouts (326). In an era of juiced balls, Cole made the competition look helpless, and he is likely in for the most lucrative contract ever for a starting pitcher.

Stephen Strasburg

Strasburg has a $25 million player option for next year that I am sure he will opt out of after the season he’s had. At 31, he should be in for around a $200 million payday, and it’s hard imagining the Nationals letting him walk.

Hyun-Jin Ryu

How rare is it that both Cy Young award winners are going to hit the open market at the same time. Ryu, while a totally different pitcher than Cole, has been equally as dominant over the last two seasons. However, he might not receive half of Cole’s contract.

Dallas Keuchel

Dallas Keuchel was money during the regular season, helping the Braves to their second consecutive NL East title, but he also proved that he wasn’t a shutdown ace in the postseason. Keuchel is an extremely valuable #3 starter. The problem is he wants to be paid like a #1 or #2.

Madison Bumgarner

Bumgarner is going to be a hot commodity based on his history in the postseason, but the question is going to be whether he can still duplicate that magic today. Some team is likely going to overpay to find out, and it will either be their best decision in franchise history or one of the worst.

Cole Hamels

Hamels won’t get the years like most of the other “Headliners,” but he’s still a veteran with tons of playoff experience that loves pitching in big games – an intriguing target for those that miss out on the likes of Cole, Strasburg, Ryu, and Bumgarner.

Zack Wheeler

The only thing that has been able to slow down Zack Wheeler over his career has been health, and he’s put together back-to-back seasons with over 180 innings pitched. Wheeler has the type of stuff that can shut down the most potent of lineups on any given night, and he should be paid like it this offseason.

2nd Tier Starting Pitchers

Rick Porcello

Porcello popped up and won a Cy Young in 2016 and hasn’t been the same since. He went 14-12 last season with a 5.52 ERA in Boston.

Julio Teheran

Teheran quietly had a stellar year for the Braves in 2019, but he still isn’t the type of arm you can throw out there in a playoff series. It will be interesting to see if Atlanta decides to pick up his $12 million option.

Alex Wood

Unfortunately for the Reds, Alex Wood couldn’t stay healthy last year, but he’s been a high-quality starting pitcher since he began his career in Atlanta as a 22-year old back in 2013. Perhaps the Georgia product would have an interest in returning to his home state. However, he won’t come cheap.

Jake Odorizzi

Odorizzi was an All-Star for the Twins last year and finished with a 3.51 ERA. He has a pretty good track record in the American League and could come at a decent bargain this offseason.

Brett Anderson

Anderson is a groundball specialist that is coming off one of the best years of his career, posting a 2.7 WAR with a 3.89 ERA for Oakland.

Michael Pineda

Pineda is one of those guys that never seemed to live up to his potential, but he had a pretty good year for the Twins in 2019, finishing with a 4.01 ERA and 2.1 WAR. Pineda shouldn’t cost too much and comes with some upside.

Michael Wacha

Wacha’s career began so promisingly, as he made the All-Star team as a 23-year-old, but it hasn’t continued in that direction. He did go 8-2 with a 3.20 ERA in 15 starts in 2018, however.

 Wade Miley

Miley has bounced around the majors, but for the most part, he’s been reliable everywhere he goes. He’s coming off a fantastic year with the Astros in which he won 14 games and finished with a 3.98 ERA

Bargain Bin Signings

Tyson Ross

Tanner Roark

Jason Vargas

Gio Gonzalez

Shelby Miller 

Ivan Nova

Drew Smyly

Kyle Gibson

Matt Harvey

Homer Bailey

 

Conclusion

It comes down to this: Why did the Braves do all this rebuilding if they aren’t eventually going to spend the necessary coin to put the team over the top at the end. I’m aware Liberty Media doesn’t care to pour money into the team, but winning a World Series is in their best interest as well. The Braves have put together the ideal building blocks to keep this team in championship contention for years to come. Now, it’s time for them to make the splash in free agency and go for it all. I don’t think Cole is realistic, although he should be. Strasburg probably isn’t leaving Washington, and it will be challenging to poach Ryu out of Los Angeles, but I expect Atlanta to be in on everybody.

 

 

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