Top 10 MLB 2019-20 Free Agent Pitchers: Cole headed for record contract?


Houston Astros starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) reacts after striking out Cleveland Indians' Jose Ramirez. (David J. Phillip/AP)

If the MLB post-season showed us anything, it’s that pitching really is the key to success.

Many of the top hurlers from the last month are also free agents this winter, creating an opportunity for teams in need of arms.

Here are the top 10 free agent pitchers on the market:

1. Gerrit Cole

Position: Right-handed starter
Age: 29
2019 stats: 20-5 | ERA: 2.50 | IP: 212.1 | WHIP: 0.89 | SO: 326 | BB: 48
Former team: Houston Astros
Potential fits: Angels, Yankees, Dodgers

Cole is coming off a post-season performance for the ages in which he absolutely dominated the opposition for five starts. He was a strikeout machine during the 2019 regular season, leading MLB with 326. With his age and performance, there’s little doubt that super-agent Scott Boras will position Cole for a massive payday. At this stage, he appears to have a good chance of passing David Price’s $217 million contract and setting a new record for pitchers.

2. Stephen Strasburg (opted out of four years and $100 million)

Position: Right-handed starter
Age: 31
2019 stats: 18-6 | ERA: 3.32 | IP: 209.0 | WHIP: 1.04 | SO: 251 | BB: 56
Former team: Washington Nationals
Potential fits: Nationals, Dodgers, Padres, Yankees

Speaking of Boras… he also represents Strasburg, who is coming off the best statistical regular season of his career. Like Cole, he also had an outstanding playoffs and would make a tremendous ace for any team seeking pitching on the open market.

3. Madison Bumgarner

Position: Left-handed starter
Age: 30
2019 stats: 9-9 | ERA: 3.90 | IP: 207.2 | WHIP: 1.13 | SO: 203 | BB: 43
Former team: San Francisco Giants
Potential fits: Braves, Phillies, Padres

Bumgarner isn’t the same pitcher who dominated MLB from 2013 to ’16 when he had four straight all-star appearances, but he would still make a great starting option for many teams. As an above-average offensive pitcher, he’s ideally suited for a National League team.

4. Hyun-jin Ryu

Position: Left-handed starter
Age: 32
2019 stats: 14-5 | ERA: 2.32 | IP: 182.2 | WHIP: 1.01 | SO: 163 | BB: 24
Former team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Potential fits: Dodgers, Angels, Padres

Ryu was dynamite for the Dodgers this season, leading MLB with a 2.32 ERA while striking out a career-high 163 batters. Is he getting better with age? Those 2019 numbers certainly suggest as much.

5. Dallas Keuchel

Position: Left-handed starter
Age: 31
2019 stats: 8-8 | ERA: 3.75 | IP: 112.2 | WHIP: 1.37 | SO: 91 | BB: 39
Former team: Atlanta Braves
Potential fits: Phillies, Braves, Angels

This time last year, Keuchel was the top free agent pitcher available, but that isn’t the case in 2019. He didn’t sign with the Braves until June which caused him to play catch up before putting together another strong year. He can still be a great innings eater for any team and will no longer be tied to the qualifying offer that limited his leverage a year ago.

6. Zack Wheeler

Position: Right-handed starter
Age: 29
2019 stats: 11-8 | ERA: 3.96 | IP: 195.1 | WHIP: 1.26 | SO: 195 | BB: 50
Former team: New York Mets
Potential fits: Twins, Blue Jays, Braves, Mets

Wheeler saw the most work of his five-year MLB career this past season and his 4.1 WAR was quite impressive. His K/9 wasn’t in the top 10 among starters, but he would be a big loss for the Mets rotation if they’re unable to re-sign him.

7. Jake Odorizzi

Position: Right-handed starter
Age: 29
2019 stats: 15-7 | ERA: 3.51 | IP: 159.0 | WHIP: 1.21 | SO: 178 | BB: 53
Former team: Minnesota Twins
Potential fits: Blue Jays, Braves, Twins

Odorizzi contributed to the Twins’ surprise success this season with a 3.51 ERA and the first all-star nod of his career. He isn’t as flashy as some of the other names on this list, but could be a productive pickup for a team seeking a starter.

8. Cole Hamels

Position: Left-handed starter
Age: 35
2019 stats: 7-7 | ERA: 3.81 | IP: 141.2 | WHIP: 1.39 | SO: 143 | BB: 56
Former team: Chicago Cubs
Potential fits: Padres, Brewers, Phillies

Hamels may be on the back end of his career, but he’s proven to still be a reliable arm when healthy. Despite his limited innings, he still had a 9.08 K/9 in 2019 — one of the best strikeout rates of his career.

9. Dellin Betances

Position: Right-handed reliever
Age: 31
2019 stats: 0-0 | ERA: 0.00 | IP: 0.2 | WHIP: 0.00 | SO: 2 | BB: 0
Former team: New York Yankees
Potential fits: Astros, Cubs, Yankees

A partial tear in his left Achilles tendon limited Betances to just one game in 2019, but he has previously appeared in four all-star games while picking up saves in all of his full-time MLB seasons.

10. Kyle Gibson

Position: Right-handed starter
Age: 32
2019 stats: 13-7 | ERA: 4.84 | IP: 160 | WHIP: 1.44 | SO: 160 | BB: 56
Former team: Chicago Cubs
Potential fits: Twins, White Sox, Padres

Even if Gibson profiles as more of a mid-rotation starter, he set a career high in strikeout rate this past season and has been durable enough to start 25-plus games in each of the last six years.

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