2021 Starter Options

Monday, November 16 2020 @ 03:04 PM EST

Contributed by: John Northey

OK, the big one I kept putting off - who are the starting pitchers in 2021 and who could come here?

Used as a starter at least once in 2020...

Used in the pen 2020 but was a starter...
Minors... (hate not having stats for this for 2020) - of note: guys can climb from A+ to the majors in one season, it has happened a few times.  Pitchers are funny creatures.
Free Agents...
  • Trevor Bauer - the big fish - Entering age 30 season, led in shutouts, ERA+ (276!), lifetime 113 ERA+, 3.4 BB/9 9.7 K/9, 1.1 HR/9 (concerning), Cy contender 2 of the past 3 years.  Outside of those 2 years he never had a 110 ERA+ though.  Hmm... A real horse, wants to pitch every 4 days, lowest pitch count in 2020 was 97.  Lowest innings was 5 1/3, all others 6+ IP.  Would easily move ahead of Ryu as #1 if signed.  Will cost $35+ a year for however long a deal he wants (he talked of demanding 1 year deals as he really believes in himself) but I could imagine a 3 year $100-$120 deal working.  Will be interesting as everyone with money will be chasing him.
  • Masahiro Tanaka - Entering age 32 season, 1.8 BB/9 8.5 K/9 career with a 114 ERA+.  Last year was in line with that, just once was he below 100 for ERA+ and that was a 95 in 2017.  Normally eats lots of innings but this year just 48 in 10 games.  90+ pitches his last 4 regular season starts.  Got his butt kicked in his 2 playoff starts this year (4 IP each time, 6 and 5 runs allowed).  Could be a cheaper guy to acquire (no draft pick attached).  Thought to be likely to get a 2 year $15 per year deal.  I'd jump at that, but some think it will take 4 years which may be a bit much.  The Mets are thought to be very interested while the Yankees might be a bit mild due to an attempt to stay under the luxury tax (they have $30 mil of space roughly).
  • James Paxton - this would be an interesting reunion of sorts (drafted first round in 2009 but DNS) now entering his age 32 season with lifetime 114 ERA+, 2.7 BB/9 9.9 K/9 - his ERA was worse last year (65 ERA+) but his BB were a bit worse, and K numbers were better.  It was the 1.8 HR/9 that killed him and a high 10.2 H/9 (his FIP was 4.37 vs ERA of 6.64).  Probably a 1-2 year deal with incentives due to his injury history.  Has never thrown 162 innings (160 is his peak) so not a workhorse, more a guy the Jays would go after if they felt they had no other options.
  • Taijuan Walker, - did great for the Jays, but should they chase him down again?  Just 15 games in the past 3 years.  Entering his age 28 season, I'd certainly kick the tires.  2.8 BB/9 vs 8.2 K/9 lifetime (in line with 2020)  108 ERA+ lifetime is a bit lower than that crazy 161 we saw this year.  If healthy he would be a very solid #3, maybe #2.  The Tigers are interested, but odds are he won't command a massive deal.  I'd imagine 2-3 years at $10-15 per would easily do it.
  • Charlie Morton - Ex-Ray (they declined his $15 mil option) entering his age 37 season, lifetime 3.2 BB/9 8.0 K/9 (2.4 9.9 respectively in 2020).  Was a workhorse before this bizarre season (194 2/3 IP in 2019)  98 ERA+ lifetime.  Would be a solid #3/4 starter and would jump on a 2 year deal I suspect.  I'd bet after being dumped like he was he'd love to stay in the AL East.
  • Mike Minor - tell me if you've heard this one - was a workhorse before 2020, 2.6 BB/9 8.2 K/9 (3.2 9.8 in 2020) 107 ERA+ lifetime but just a 79 last year between Texas & Oakland.  Should be a cheaper signing ($10 mil on a 1 year is possible, but he'll want a 3 year $30 deal), but was a Cy contender in 2019 (144 ERA+ in 208 IP).  A guy like many above with flaws, but potential.  Entering his age 33 season.
  • Many, many others but seeing the names after Bauer & Tanaka you can guess they all have flaws.
Trade potential
  • We already have the guy who was #2 in bWAR last year (Ryu) and #1 is not available (Bieber).  Most of the top 10 are not available (with wealthy teams, or many years from free agency).  Always tough, but lets dig into cheaper teams who might be dumping
  • Oakland: Chris Bassitt was their ace but is entering his age 32 season, has 2 years of control left so Oakland might be tempted to sell high.  181 ERA+ last year 114 lifetime 2.4 BB/9 7.9 K/9 last year both better than his career (3.2 & 7.8).  He missed 2017 and most of 2016/18 due to Tommy John surgery.  Looks like a good guy to chase but Oakland would be asking a lot I'm certain.
  • Texas: dead last in 2020, should clear out vets to rebuild - Lance Lynn signed only for 2021 for just over $9 mil.  Entering his age 34 season he led the league in IP and GS with a 136 ERA+ which was a drop from 2019's 141.  An excellent pitcher who keeps moving around (4 teams in 9 seasons).  Might be a good target but that low contract will make him more prospect expensive despite only 1 year of control.
  • Detroit: was trying to trade Matthew Boyd  before last season but failed to and regrets it now I figure as his value dropped a lot with a 70 ERA+ due to a HR jump (2.2/9) and being wilder than normal (3.3 BB/9). 2 years of control left, but Detroit probably won't trade him now hoping to regain some value in the first half then trade mid-season.
  • David Price - LA Dodgers don't really want/need him as he was payroll relief for Boston so LA could get Betts.  Skipped 2020, now entering his age 35 season with just 2 years left on his big deal.  $32 mil each year but $16 mil paid by the Red Sox.  Since he pitched here in 2015 he has had a 112 or better ERA+ every season.  This might be a good target to chase as he could be an ace, he liked his time here last time, and with just 2 years on the deal and being surplus in LA (their starting 5 had ERA's of 3.44 and down with each getting 8+ starts) the price shouldn't be too high.
Really, I'm not seeing a ton of players out there who are strong trade targets.  Most teams who aren't contenders don't have near free agent pitchers who are high end, nor are there a ton of ugly contracts attached to good pitchers.

So the best targets I see are 1) Bauer if the Jays are willing to do whatever it takes to get the best, 2) Tanaka still dang good and should be a lot cheaper, #3) David Price who the Dodgers might be wanting to dump at this point as he is pure surplus.  After that comes Walker, Morton, Minor, etc.  My money is on a free agent, not a trade.  But dang does Price look tempting depending what the Dodgers think of him after a year off.  I figure one of those 3 and Walker to go with Ryu, Roark (could be dumped), Ray, Stripling (could see Ray/Stripling as a combined team), and then comes whoever they acquire plus Pearson and others.  Getting 2 more would be ideal, then Pearson can be in AAA to start 2021, Roark can be dumped if needed, Ray/Stripling could be a tandem team (neither has shown enough to be handed a rotation slot, but either could do the job potentially).