Top 20 Free Agent Pitchers Not Named Lackey

An article by posted on November 25, 2009

Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports gives us something to think about on a slow news day on this lazy Sunday. He lists the top 20 free agent pitchers after John Lackey.

It’s kind of an unspectacular list of choices the Mets may soon face if they fail to land Lackey. I’m not so sure that I would have Pettitte number one, but I guess it just shows how slim the pickings really are after Lackey.

1. Andy Pettitte: We’re not sure yet whether Pettitte is going to pitch in 2010, which tells you a little about the nature of this list. He’s 37, but that didn’t seem to matter while he was winning the clincher in three postseason series this year. If he has another season left, he will pitch for the Yankees.

2. Rich Harden: In the words of one scout, Harden is “fragile but nasty.” Pretty accurate, I’d say. Harden has never been durable enough to throw 200 innings in a season. But he has shown he can dominate lineups in both leagues when healthy, which is more than most people on this list can say. He didn’t pitch after Sept. 16 this year. That won’t help his sales pitch.

3. Ben Sheets: He didn’t pitch anywhere this year. He hasn’t had a 200-inning season since 2004. But his agent, Casey Close, said Friday that Sheets is “progressing well from his flexor-tendon surgery in February and should be 100 percent by spring training.” Close added: “There is no doubting his talent when healthy.” That’s accurate. Sheets had a 3.09 ERA with the Brewers in 2008.

4. Randy Wolf: He probably belongs in the National League, where he has spent his entire career until this point. His credentials on the senior circuit are well-established, with a 23-19 record, 3.74 ERA, and more than 400 innings over the past two seasons. He was a veteran leader for the Dodgers’ rotation for much of the year, which enhances his value.

5. Jason Marquis: Marquis won 15 games this year, which is good. Only three of them came in August or September, which isn’t. Still, he has averaged more than 13 wins per year since 2004. That counts for something. One scout observed Friday that Marquis’ stuff was better in 2009 than during the season before. As with Wolf, Marquis has been in the National League for his entire career, and it would be wise to stay.

6. Jarrod Washburn: Washburn said earlier this week that his surgically-repaired left knee “feels great now, almost like I didn’t even have a surgery.” If that remains the case in 2010, Washburn could be the reliable No. 2 or No. 3 starter he was for the Mariners before a midseason trade to Detroit. As of mid-August, he still had a 2.95 ERA.

7. Joel Pineiro: Is he the guy who went 7-7 with a 5.15 ERA in 2008? Or 15-12 with a 3.49 ERA in 2009? Can he duplicate his career year if he signs with a team that doesn’t employ Dave Duncan? One scout said it well: “I just can’t get his late Seattle days and Boston days out of my mind.” For now, at least, fellow National Leaguers Wolf and Marquis are more proven.

8. Jon Garland: In retrospect, it’s surprising the Dodgers didn’t use Garland in the National League playoffs. He pitched well for them after arriving in a trade with Arizona, compiling a 2.72 ERA in six starts. Garland has averaged 205 1/3 innings over the past eight seasons; in an uncertain market, that counts for something. He has also had success in the American League.

9. Brad Penny: Oh, Penny would have loved to pitch the Giants past the Dodgers, a team from which he departed acrimoniously, in the National League West. But he’ll have to settle for a richer contract than he was due to receive after a disappointing final start for the Red Sox on Aug. 21. Penny wasn’t a good fit for the American League East but has value elsewhere.

10. Carl Pavano: Some teams will have little or no interest in Pavano, based on the negative reputation he developed with the Yankees. But he made a nice statement with his performance and accountability as a Twin in August and September. And there is precedent for capable starters to find success after turbulent stays in New York; see: Kenny Rogers and Randy Johnson.

The Next 10: 11. Kelvim Escobar, 12. Doug Davis, 13. Erik Bedard, 14. Brett Myers, 15. Pedro Martinez, 16. Mark Mulder, 17. Vicente Padilla, 18. Randy Johnson, 19. Hisanori Takahashi, 20. Braden Looper.

There is some speculation, that John Lackey may wait until the end of December to decide who he will sign with in an attempt to increase his leverage and value. It could mean that many of the pitchers on this list will sign their deals before Lackey. If the Mets play the waiting game, they could be shut out on some of their secondary options.

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I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.

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