Looking at more free agent starting pitchers

While we wait to find out how the Orioles intend to improve on a starting rotation that produced a 5.70 ERA last season, today we take a look at three more free agent starters.

CC Sabathia: It would sure look strange to see the big guy land in an O’s uniform and he will be 38 on opening day. Is it even worth such a risk for a player that should be showing his age?

The thing is, his ERA is on a three-season decrease, from 5.28 in 2014 to 4.73 in 2015 to 3.91 in 2016. Over 27 starts and 148 2/3 innings last season, he went 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA and a WHIP of 1.271. His ERA and WHIP were his lowest since 2012.

Camden Yards daytime.jpgAnd in his 17th major league season, Sabathia posted some eye-catching numbers. For instance, he allowed an average of .259 the first time through the order, .242 the second time through and .214 the third time. He went 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA in 10 starts after a Yankees loss. He pitched four scoreless starts and went 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA versus Boston.

Since he debuted in 2001, Sabathia leads the majors in wins (237), innings (3,317) and strikeouts (2,846). He has finished in the top five in the Cy Young Award vote five times, winning in 2007 with Cleveland.

Is there any way Sabathia can keep this up, and beyond that, is there any way he winds up in Baltimore? Neither seems likely to me.

Jaime García: García, who will be 31 opening day, was traded twice within a week last July. First, he went from the Braves to the Twins and then to the Yankees. For the year, he went 5-10 with an ERA of 4.41 over 157 innings with a 1.408 WHIP. OK, he doesn’t look great on the stat sheet. And, in his eight starts for the Yankees at the end of the year, he was 0-3 with a 4.82 ERA and 1.634 WHIP.

But García is breathing and left-handed, which alone may garner him some interest. He was actually once an O’s draft pick, taken in the 30th round in 2004 by Baltimore, but he did not sign. The next year St. Louis drafted him in the 22nd round and signed him.

He does at least have secondary pitches, which showed some quality this year. While he throws a fastball 60 percent of the time, he threw a changeup 18 percent and opponents hit .228 off that pitch. He threw a slider 14 percent and batters hit .216 off that pitch.

Jhoulys Chacin: The Venezuelan-born right-hander will be 30 on opening day 2018 and is coming off a solid year for San Diego. Signed for one season at a rather modest $1.75 million last December, he went 13-10 with a 3.89 ERA over 32 starts and 180 1/3 innings. He allowed 7.8 hits per nine innings with a walk rate of 3.6 and strikeout rate of 7.6. He hit 14 batters to lead the majors and had a WHIP of 1.270.

He did have a much better home record pitching in Petco Park. He went 9-3 with a 1.79 ERA and .175 average against in 16 home starts. He went 4-7 with a 6.53 ERA and .302 average in 16 road starts. Yep, this is a huge swing. He had 16 quality starts and the Padres went 18-14 in his games.

Chacin allowed a batting average of .360 off a 92 mph four-seamer and .269 off his two-seamer. Opponents hit just .157 off his slider, which he used 32 percent of the time.

MLBTradeRumors.com rated Sabathia No. 21 on its list of the top 50 free agents, predicting he would stay with New York for a two-year deal worth $24 million. García was ranked No. 31 with the prediction of a two-year deal for $16 million with Kansas City. Chacin was No. 33 with the prediction for a two-year deal worth $14 million with Cincinnati.

The advantage of signing a pitcher to a lesser dollar deal is the smaller commitment in future salary. Should they exceed expectations, they will be helping a team more than expected and/or could be a flipped in a deal for prospects.

Earlier in this space, we looked at Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn and Jason Vargas in this entry. We looked at Andrew Cashner, Tyler Chatwood and Miguel González in this entry.

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