Where have all the great pitchers gone?
They've all been locked up in long-term contracts by their current teams, that's where. The year 2010 is barely a month old, and already we've seen Josh Johnson (Marlins), Felix Hernandez (Mariners) and now Justin Verlander (Tigers) -- three of the best 20-something pitchers in the majors -- locked up to deals of four-plus years. And those are on top of other recent contracts for Zack Greinke (Royals) and Jon Lester (Red Sox), plus the trade-and-sign deal for Roy Halladay (Phillies).
Johnson, Hernandez and Verlander were all second-year arbitration-eligible players, which is another way of saying they would have been free agents after the 2011 season. And now they won't be. Before his Phillies deal, Halladay was set to reach free agency after this season. And now he won't.
This is a fascinating, important trend in baseball's talent market, because it has kept all but a handful of elite pitchers from reaching free agency -- which is how you arrive at an offseason in which Randy Wolf, no offense to him, is the second-best starting pitcher on the market. As for next winter, the elite pitching market is down to Cliff Lee and Josh Beckett, and there is a pretty good chance one (with Beckett more likely than Lee) or both will re-sign with their current teams before November.
It also underscores why it is more important than ever for even the richest teams to develop their own starting pitchers -- as we've seen the Red Sox do, and even the Yankees attempt to do. Every once in awhile, a CC Sabathia or a John Lackey will come along via free agency. But you can't count on it anymore.
Posted by: cassander | February 4, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse
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