Looking At The Remaining Free Agent Starters Beyond Rodon/Kershaw

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The free agent starting pitching market moved incredibly quickly in the run-up to the lockout. Carlos Rodón and Clayton Kershaw are easily the top two unsigned options. Each has some health uncertainty but was excellent in 2021 when able to take the hill. Injury question marks could have held up their respective markets early in the offseason, and Kershaw also seems to have geographical preferences that’ll limit where he might end up. Yet that duo is in a tier of their own in terms of upside, and they’ll be the highest-profile free agent starters coming out of the transactions freeze.

For this exercise, we’ll set Rodón and Kershaw aside and look at the remainder of the rotation market. 26 other current free agents worked at least 50 innings as a starter in 2021. Using a few key pitching categories, we’ll see how they fared to take a look at some potential lower-cost signings for teams in search of back-of-the-rotation depth.

As with Rodón and Kershaw, a few of these pitchers represent unique cases. Yusei Kikuchi reportedly had three-year offers in hand before the lockout, so his market may be beyond “buy-low” status. Matthew Boyd and Danny Duffy each had surgery late in the 2021 season and aren’t expected to be ready for the start of next year. Boyd’s recovery timetable is still unclear; Duffy is targeting a June return.

Most of the pitchers remaining are currently healthy, back-end types at this point of their careers, though. Using FanGraphs’ splits leaderboards, let’s take a look at the top performers in various metrics last year. (All figures cited, including league averages, are looking solely at pitchers’ outings as starters).

ERA (league average — 4.34)

  1. Danny Duffy, 2.55
  2. Wily Peralta, 3.12
  3. Kwang-hyun Kim, 3.63
  4. Michael Pineda, 3.72
  5. Matthew Boyd, 3.89
  6. Johnny Cueto, 4.09
  7. Zack Greinke, 4.11
  8. Brett Anderson, 4.22
  9. Yusei Kikuchi, 4.41
  10. Chad Kuhl, 4.43

Strikeout Rate (league average — 22.6%)

  1. Danny Duffy, 25.7%
  2. Yusei Kikuchi, 24.5%
  3. Vince Velasquez, 22.8%
  4. Drew Smyly, 21.8%
  5. Chad Kuhl, 20.1%
  6. Matthew Boyd, 19.9%
  7. Johnny Cueto, 19.8%
  8. Matt Moore, 19.2%
  9. Martín Pérez, 19.1%
  10. Tyler Anderson, 19.1%

Strikeout/Walk Rate Differential (league average — 14.7 percentage points)

  1. Danny Duffy, 16.9 points
  2. Yusei Kikuchi, 15.2 points
  3. Michael Pineda, 14.6 points
  4. Drew Smyly, 14.2 points
  5. Johnny Cueto, 13.8 points
  6. Tyler Anderson, 13.7 points
  7. Matthew Boyd, 13.1 points
  8. Vince Velasquez, 12.3 points
  9. Zack Greinke, 11.8 points
  10. Martín Pérez, 11.7 points

Ground-Ball Rate (league average — 42.7%)

  1. Brett Anderson, 57.5%
  2. José Ureña, 52.7%
  3. Wily Peralta, 50.8%
  4. Carlos Martínez, 50.2%
  5. Yusei Kikuchi, 48.4%
  6. Garrett Richards, 46.6%
  7. Chad Kuhl, 46.5%
  8. Kwang-hyun Kim, 45.6%
  9. Matt Shoemaker, 45.1%
  10. Zack Greinke, 44.1%

FIP (league average — 4.30)

  1. Danny Duffy, 3.44
  2. Johnny Cueto, 4.10
  3. Matthew Boyd, 4.10
  4. Kwang-hyun Kim, 4.27
  5. Michael Pineda, 4.27
  6. Tyler Anderson, 4.37
  7. Brett Anderson, 4.39
  8. Matt Harvey, 4.60
  9. Yusei Kikuchi, 4.61
  10. Zack Greinke, 4.69

Innings Pitched

  1. Zack Greinke, 168 2/3
  2. Tyler Anderson, 167
  3. Yusei Kikuchi, 157
  4. J.A. Happ, 152 1/3
  5. Zach Davies, 148
  6. Jon Lester, 141 1/3
  7. Mike Foltynewicz, 130
  8. Matt Harvey, 127 2/3
  9. Drew Smyly, 115 2/3
  10. Johnny Cueto, 112 1/3

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