A lot of us have said–and I have, too–that one of the pluses about the Yankees not signing Cliff Lee is that they will have the ability to add a lot more payroll in the middle of the season. While we have absolutely no idea what the trade market will look like in season, we can speculate that guys with expiring deals are the ones who will likely be on the trading block.
This thought drove me to Cot’s to check out the potential free agent starters for the 2011-12 Hot Stove Season. There’s a decently sized list, but there are only a few names worth looking at.
The first one to pop out is Mark Buehrle. I’m not the biggest fan of Buehrle, but if he becomes available (unlikely), he’s worth at least thinking about. In every year from 2001 through 2010, Buehrle pitched at least 201 innings. If anything, he could eat innings for a Yankee rotation that may be hurting for them. That’s about the most attractive thing from the left hander from the White Sox.
Next comes Chris Carpenter, but his case is a little different. He has a $15M option ($1M buyout) for the 2012 season, and the Cardinals might want to exercise it instead of trading him mid-season. Carpenter doesn’t strike many guys out (under 7.0 K/9 in the last two years), but he’s got good control and generally keeps the ball in the park. Since coming back from injury, he’s also pitched a good amount of innings, 192.2 in ’09 and 235 in ’10. He also has a GB% over 50% for his career and the last two years. I would definitely want him over Buehrle if they were both available.
The next player worth looking at is another lefty, Houston’s Wandy Rodriguez. Of the guys on this list, he’s the most likely to be available. Mike Axisa laid the case out nicely here.
Lastly, there’s C.J. Wilson (go ahead and swoon, ladies…I still don’t get why you think this guy is so attractive). Wilson broke out with the Rangers last year, pitching to a 3.35 ERA while racking up 4.4 fWAR in exactly 204 innings. He did a great job keeping the ball in the park (0.44 HR/9), had a good amount of strikeouts (7.50 per nine), but struggled a bit with command (4.10 BB/9). As Moshe alluded to yesterday, the Rangers are projected to be in fairly good shape, but you never quite know with the A.L. West, especially so early in the off season. I wouldn’t bet on Wilson being available and the big innings jump from 2009 (73 IP as releiver) to 2010, I’m not sure I’d want him.
This is all incredible speculation. I have no idea where the White Sox, Astros, Cardinals, or Rangers will be in the middle of 2010. I feel comfortable saying the Astros probably won’t be competing, but the other three teams will all likely be buyers instead of sellers at the trade deadline.
It’s also worth noting that I limited this target list a lot in choosing only guys who are set to be free agents after this coming season. Players become available at the drop of a hat for any reason and we could definitely see that happen during the 2011 season.