It's that time of year again. The baseball season is over and free agency is just beginning. It's time for teams to start bidding on the top free agents available on the market. Starting pitchers always command a high premium, here's the top 10 hurlers out there. Bid away, baseball!
Free agency preview: LHP David Price
After pitching the first 6½ seasons of his career with the Tampa Bay Rays, the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner was involved in two non-waiver deadline trades. The Rays sent him to the Tigers in 2014, then Detroit passed him off to the Blue Jays this past summer. Throughout it all, Price has continued to pitch like an ace. He posted the lowest full-season ERA of his career in 2015 (2.45) and went 18-5 (9-4 with Detroit and 9-1 with Toronto). The 30-year-old earned $19.75 million in 2015 and will likely nab at least that much and possibly more in free agency.
Getty ImagesJamie Squire
Free agency preview: RHP Zack Greinke
Another Cy Young Award winner, who like Price, led his league in ERA at 1.66. And at 32 years old, no less. Greinke, who went 19-3, had the option to stay with the Dodgers but instead opted out of the final three years of his contract and a guaranteed $71 million. Not a lot of guys would have the stomach to throw all that away, but when you're coming off a year like Greinke had, you can almost do whatever you want. He'll fetch more than he left behind in free agency.
Getty ImagesSean M. Haffey
Free agency preview: RHP Johnny Cueto
Fortunately for Cueto, he's coming off pitching the game of his life — a complete-game, two-hitter — for the World Series champion Kansas City Royals, because before that, there was speculation (and some evidence) that he was losing his stuff. In 13 regular-season starts for the Royals, the 29-year-old posted a 4.76 ERA and a 4-7 record — a far cry from his career 3.30 ERA. But good Johnny returned in Game 2 of the World Series pitching nine innings of one-run ball to get the Royals one game closer to the championship. He should earn more than the $10 million per year he made the last two.
Getty ImagesSean M. Haffey
Free agency preview: RHP Jordan Zimmermann
Zimmermann is coming off a slightly down year in 2015. The 29-year-old posted a 3.66 ERA over 201 2/3 innings, finishing the year 13-10. A nice campaign, no doubt, but not compared to the year he had prior (2.66, 14-5). His strikeout rate dropped, his walk rate rose, and he gave up more hits (204) and homers (24) than ever before. However, Zimmermann is a terrific pitcher who earned $16.5 million in 2015. He'll be a top target for teams looking for a front-end rotation arm.
Getty ImagesG Fiume
Free agency preview: LHP Scott Kazmir
Kazmir is coming off the best ERA campaign of his career. After several down years, the 31-year-old revitalized himself in Oakland (20-14, 3.12 in 50 starts) and was traded this past midseason to the contending Astros. Though he didn't fare nearly as well in Houston (2-6, 4.17 in 13 starts), he appears to be closer to the promising pitcher he was from 2005-08. With momentum on his side, Kazmir could score a nice deal from a team seeking a solid lefty in its rotation.
Getty ImagesEd Zurga
Free agency preview: RHP Jeff Samardzija
Samardzija, who was 11-13, is coming off his first season with double-digit wins in his eight-year career. That's the good news. The bad news is that he also posted the worst ERA (4.96) of his four years as a full-time starter. While he pitched 200-plus innings for the third straight year, he allowed the most hits (228), earned runs (118) and homers (29) in the league. His 6.9 strikeout rate was also way below his 8.2 average. These are not good trends heading into free agency, but Samardzija seems to always be thought of as a front-end starter so he'll probably still get paid like one.
TNS via Getty ImagesChicago Tribune
Free agency preview: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
In 2013, Iwakuma finished third in the Cy Young voting behind winner Max Scherzer and runner-up Yu Darvish. In 2015, he had the worst season (9-5, 3.54 ERA in 20 starts) of his four-year, MLB career. The good news is that it still wasn't too bad, and his strikeout (7.7), walk (1.5) and homer (1.2) rates are still perfectly in line with his career numbers. So his down performance was probably just bad luck. Iwakuma, who pitched 129 2/3 inning this past season, should still fetch a pretty penny in free agency. Though at 34 years old, he's likely on the wrong side of his career arc.
Getty ImagesOtto Greule Jr
Free agency preview: RHP Doug Fister
Another Washington National makes the list. Fister's 2015 campaign (5-7, 4.19) was shortened by injury as he was only able to manage 15 starts and 10 additional appearance out of the bullpen in a crowded situation for pitchers in our nation's capital. Fister is only 103 innings removed from a 2014 season that featured a 16-6 record and a 2.41 ERA. There's still plenty left in his tank and he'll likely find a new home with more opportunity to flourish than there is in D.C.
Getty ImagesJason O. Watson
Free agency preview: RHP Yovani Gallardo
Despite posting the lowest strikeout rate (5.9) of his career, Gallardo managed to also post his lowest ERA (3.42). He's a durable innings eater who's started more than 30 games and pitched 180-plus innings every year since 2009. All except for one season came with an ERA under 3.84. At 29 years old — he turns 30 in February — there's still plenty left in the tank for this middle-rotation starter.
Toronto Star via Getty ImagesRick Madonik
Free agency preview: RHP John Lackey
Yes, at 37 years old, Lackey is no spring chicken, but he's still a good starting pitcher who just completed one of the best seasons of his career. The right-hander, who was 13-10, ventured into unchartered territory (for him) by posting a 2.77 ERA, his first under 3.00 ever, all while throwing the second-most innings of his 13-year career (218). The last time he came close to that feat was 2007 when he posted a 3.01 ERA and finished third in the Cy Young voting when he was with the Angels. He won't get a long-term deal, but a lot of teams could use a fiery guy like Lackey on the mound 30 times per season.