MLB Rumors: Predicting Where the Top 5 Free Agent Pitchers Will Sign

Matt O'Leary takes a look at the top five starting pitchers heading into Free Agency and predicts where they will sign.
Matt O'Leary |
Tue, November 9, 3:32 PM EST | 5 min read
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MLB Rumors: Predicting Where the Top 5 Free Agent Pitchers Will Sign

With the 2021 season coming to a close, the focus can now shift to 2022. Before Spring Training and the next season can get underway, we need a hot stove free agency where guys sign with new teams and hopes are high for all teams around the league. Today, we’ll be taking a look at five starting pitchers and predicting where they will sign and for how much.

Max Scherzer

Yes, even at 37-years-old Max Scherzer projects to be the best starting pitcher on the market this winter. After a down 2020 season, Scherzer bounced back nicely with a 15-4 record and a 2.46 ERA to go along with it. His 0.864 WHIP and 6.0 H9 led the way for the Majors. Scherzer has three Cy Young Awards under his belt and while he might not be the workhorse he was in his early 30’s, he’s still an extremely reliable starter. With Trevor Bauer’s situation still up in the air, expect the Dodgers to look to retain Scherzer. He was excellent for them pitching to a 1.98 ERA in 11 starts after being traded to them. A contract extension to remain out west seems like the most likely outcome.

Prediction: Dodgers - three-years $114 million

Kevin Gausman

After bouncing around the league spending time in Baltimore, Atlanta, Cincinnati, and then finally the GIants, Kevin Gausman at the age of 30 finally figured it out. Sure, he hasn’t lived up to the hype of being selected fourth overall back in 2012 but he is a more than serviceable starter. Gausman went 14-6 with a 2.81 ERA and was an All-Star for the first time in his career in 2021. This is coming off a season where he bet on himself, accepting an $18.9 million qualifying offer before the 2021 season. He’ll be looking to cash in on the open market and will likely find a laundry list of suitors. There’s a chance he remains out in San Francisco but I think the bidding ultimately gets too high and he ends up signing with the Los Angeles Angels who could use some arms in the rotation.

Prediction: Angels - five-years $120 million

Marcus Stroman

Marcus Stroman opted out of the COVID shortened 2020 season and bet on himself accepting the one-year $18.9 million qualifying offer to remain with the Mets in 2021. He was excellent for New York, ranking eighth in the National League with a 3.02 ERA as he started 33 games. Availability has been one of Stroman’s biggest strengths throughout his career as he’s remained mostly injury-free. With the uncertainty of Noah Syndergaard’s future with the team, expect the Mets to be in the mix for a starting pitcher in free agency. Why not just keep the Long Island kid, who they know can handle the pressure of New York? Stroman remains a Met.

Prediction: Mets - Five-years $112.5 million

Robbie Ray

In Arizona, and now Toronto as well Robbie Ray has proven himself in both the American and National league. This past year, Ray pitched to a 2.84 ERA which ended up being best in the American League. He led the entire league with 248 strikeouts and he had 10 starts this year where he reached double-digit punchouts. In today’s game, Ray, who is also a lefty, is going to be valued highly. Considering the Blue Jays won 91 games and still managed to finish fourth in the division, they will likely do everything in their power to retain him. Ray remains up north.

Prediction: Blue Jays - five-years $122.5 million

Justin Verlander

In February, Justin Verlander will turn 39 years old. He didn’t pitch in 2021 and appeared in just one game in 2020. What’s the value of an almost 40-year-old coming off Tommy John? Well, it’s hard to say but the last time he pitched a full year in the league in 2019 he was at a Cy Young level. He went 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA and a 0.803 WHIP which led the league. He was a workhorse in his last 30’s which is extremely rare at this level, he deserves another shot. My guess is he will go to a contender as depth on a one or two-year deal. How about the defending champion Atlanta Braves?

Prediction: Braves - one-year $18 million

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