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Analyzing Next Year’s Free Agent Market: Part III

January 2, 2012

All free agents for next year’s offseason can be found on MLBTradeRumors. If you haven’t read them already,

  • Part I focused on the infield market.
  • Part II took a look at the outfield crop.

This is the final installment of the ANYFAM series and will analyze the pitching depth in the market.

Starters:

To give you a sense of how rich the pitching market is in 2012, feel free to stop reading in the following sentence when you can’t find a quality starter. Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Zack Greinke, Francisco Liriano, Shaun Marcum, Ryan Dempster, Derek Lowe, Colby Lewis, Jonathan Sanchez, Anibal Sanchez, Brandon McCarthy, and Kyle Lohse are all set to be free agents next year. No options, no strings attached. One can already imagine the anticipation Brian Cashman is nurturing to pick up Cain, Greinke, and Hamels before the next Winter Meetings, and leave everyone else biting the dust before flying off to purchase the Caymans and whatever one does with an AmEx Black Card. Pending of course, that they don’t re-sign with their current clubs first. It would come as a surprise if the Phillies even allow Hamels to graze the market, and the Giants will also do everything they can to lock up Cain while the Brewers will try to retain at least one of Greinke or Marcum to minimize their bleeding.

For the Giants, the key terms will be Matt Cain and extension. With a lot of dead weight coming off the books in 2012 and 2013, the Giants can afford to splurge a little in bringing him back, but with Lincecum’s clock running out in two years, they’re going to have to be mindful with how much they spend on Cain. Vogelsong will also be eligible for free agency in 2012, and will likely elect to test the waters if he has another impressive year, though he does hold a 3rd-year option. In the case that both choose to leave, the rotation will consist of Lincecum, Bumgarner, and Zito, leaving us with 2 aces and 3 potential scrubs to fill out the rotation. Surkamp will likely be ready to be called up by then, but he’s currently looking more like 4th starter than Kirk Reuter reincarnate, though I’m hopeful for the latter. If Cain returns, we could be looking at a Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Surkamp, Zito five-man group that would not be too shabby, but pairing a rookie pitcher who can barely hit 89 with Barry Zito is almost as worrisome as having two Barry Zito’s itself. So instead of replacing Vogelsong with a rookie soft-tosser, the Giants could take a look at a more experienced one, namely Shaun Marcum.

After coming off Tommy John in 2009, Marcum attained a 3.64 ERA in 2010 and a 3.54 ERA in 2011. His FIP the past two years has been 3.74 and 3.73 respectively, and his WHIP 1.15 and 1.16. As mentioned previously, Marcum is a soft-tosser, utilizing his control and breaking pitches rather than heat to get batters out. He strikes out batters at a moderate rate of a 7.23 K/9 career-wise, and often goes deep into games, having thrown over 195 innings the past two seasons. His splits last year showed a stark difference between his home and away numbers, with him accumulating a 4.81 ERA at Miller’s Park (a known hitter’s park) and a 2.21 ERA on the road, making it a possibility that he can maintain or even better those numbers at AT&T and against the NL West.

Of course his history of having Tommy John surgery is a concern, but having acknowledged that, he could potentially be had quite reasonably if teams shy away from him as an injury risk. He’s more than adequate as a 3rd starter and would be a phenomenal option as a 4th. At 31, he should be able to provide at least 2-3 years of solid performance in a park that compliments his pitching.

Relievers:

Next year, there will be no option to pick up on Affeldt, and Mota will be too old for even Sabean to ignore. Those two will likely not be back, but Heath Hembree may be ready to see some major league action. Hembree posted a 1.86 ERA, 4.2 BB/9, and 13.2 K/9 line last year closing out Single A and AA, and should be escorted to AAA sometime in 2012 with a September call-up in the realm of possibility. He throws a hard 96 that he can crank up to 98-99 with a potential plus slider and developing change up. He’ll have to work on his walk rate, but at 22 closing on 23, there’s little need for him to rush his development. By the time Brian Wilson’s tenure expires in 2014, Hembree should be ready to take on closing duties or the set up role.

Affeldt’s replacement will hinge on Dan Runzler being able to cut down on walks at the major league level. Runzler was once the 2009 MiLBY Reliever of the Year when he posted a 0.76 ERA, 3.7 BB/9, and 12.7 K/9 over four levels in the minors, however his career 5.4 BB/9 in the majors is likely why Affeldt was brought back. If Runzler can prove to be a reliable lefty out of the pen, the Giants could bring in a righty like Ramon Ramirez (again) or Robinson Tejeda for a 7th inning role as most of the lefty free agents really suck. Unless someone turns on the SpaceJam talent vacuum, the bullpen should prove to be solid with Wilson, Romo, Lopez, Casilla, and Hembree holding the fort.

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