Scouring the Free Agent Market for Starting Pitching

On the off-chance that you were ignoring all outlets for baseball media yesterday, the Red Sox made a bit of a splash on the trade market. In years past, the Yankees would have attempted to make a counter-splash - but, luckily, that no longer seems to be the case. That does not change the fact, however, that the team is aware that it needs two starting pitchers and, despite Hal Steinbrenner's optimism, filling those slots with internal options seems abjectly terrifying.

To be fair, the free agent market doesn't lend much hope. Rich Hill, Bartolo Colon, and R.A. Dickey represented the pitcher with the highest upside and the two most durable options, and all three have already signed. What remains is largely categorized a miasma of risk and disappointment ... and that's mostly fair. The Yankees don't need to find their Chris Sale right now, though, with Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda written into the first three spots in the rotation, and only modest dreams of success. Rather, they need innings, innings, and more innings. And I wouldn't thumb my nose at some upside, either.

With that in mind, here are the available pitchers that most interest me at this time (and, in certain cases, I use the term 'interest' loosely):

Brett Anderson

What can I say? I can't quit Anderson. It's impossible to sugarcoat his injury history, as he has made more 13 starts just once in the last six seasons and just missed the majority of 2016 following back surgery. He won't turn 29 until February, though, and put together a solid, full season as recently as 2015 (180.1 IP, 100 ERA+, 66.3 GB%). This is my high-risk, high-reward name of choice, if the team goes that route.

Jorge de la Rosa

With Colon and Dickey gone, de la Rosa may be the safest bet to soak up innings available. The 35-year-old has made at least 24 starts in each of the last four seasons, throwing at least 134 IP each year (the low marks in both did come in 2016, though, as a result of a groin strain). Last year was the worst full season of his career in a decade, and any expectations should be lowered as a result.

Rubby de la Rosa

There is a non-zero chance that de la Rosa will need Tommy John Surgery in the near future, despite having underwent stem cell treatment on his elbow, and that is likely why the Diamondbacks cut him loose. He threw 160-plus IP in 2014 and 2015, though, and had excellent strikeout (9.59 K/9) and groundball (51.4 GB%) rates in his 13 games (10 starts) last season. He also throws hard, which we know the Yankees love, with his fastball averaging 94.6 MPH in 2016.

Doug Fister

Fister was viewed as a bounceback candidate last year, after suffering through an injury-plagued 2015. He did manage to stay healthy, making 32 starts and tossing 180.1 IP - but he wasn't good, producing 1.1 fWAR and/or 0.0 bWAR. He's clearly in decline, yet he remains a relatively safe bet to give the Yankees innings in the back of the rotation.

Jason Hammel

Hammel is the lone remaining 'safe' pitcher on the market, averaging 171 IP of 105 ERA+ ball over the last three seasons. He's something of a flyball pitcher, with a 40% or so groundball rate over the last four seasons, but he can be counted on for average-ish strikeout and walk rates, and has had success in hitter-friendly Wrigley Field and Camden Yards. I suspect he'll end up with a surprisingly large contract, though, due to his compatriots in free agency.

Colby Lewis

Lewis missed time with a strained lat on his throwing side last year, but came back healthy and effective down the stretch. He threw 375 IP between 2014 and 2015, and has been reasonably durable (and intermittently effective) since returning to the Majors in 2010. He's a true flyball pitcher, which is always scary - but he has had success in the bandbox of Texas regardless.

Jeff Locke

If I had to guess that any of these players will end up on the Yankees, it'd be Locke. He's a lefty, he keeps the ball on the ground (50 GB% for his career), and he shouldn't cost that much. Locke also throws a bit harder than I guessed, averaging a bit over 91 MPH with his fastball. He, like so many others on this list, struggled last year, but he was a league-average starter in 2014 and 2015.

Nix this one - Locke signed with the Marlins while I was writing this.

Jon Niese

Niese's career arc over the last few years has been remarkably similar to Locke, and he shares the same profile. And he has experience pitching in New York, if you think that matters.

Ivan Nova

Hello darkness my old friend.

Jake Peavy

The 35-year-old Peavy has missed time with injuries in each of the last two seasons, and is coming off of the worst season of his career. He also seems like the exact sort of 'veteran presents' type that the Yankees take fliers on.

Tyson Ross

Ross has been linked to the Yankees off and on for what feels like a lifetime, and he is now there for the taking. He's recovering from thoracic outlet surgery (his timetable to return is between February and April), and made just one start in 2016. His velocity also slipped fairly drastically in each of the last three seasons. That being said, he was excellent in 2014 and 2015, racking up strikeouts and groundballs, and might just have the most upside on this list.

Jered Weaver

Weaver is the healthier version of Jake Peavy, though the prospect of a pitcher that allowed 37 home runs last year despite making half of his starts at Angel Stadium playing in Yankee Stadium is equal parts funny and scary. And that may be the only reason that I included him on this list.

If I had to choose from this group, I would probably be most interested in gambling on at least one of Anderson, Rubby de la Rosa, and Ross, while grabbing Locke to eat innings. Hammel is the best of both worlds, but I think he'll be priced out of the Yankees range (which is a weird sentence to write).

What say you?