Ranking the top 10 MLB free-agent starting pitchers originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Fortunately for them, there are a number of intriguing options in this year’s free-agent class. The talented bunch is headlined by future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer and likely 2021 American League Cy Young award winner Robbie Ray, but there are plenty of other names worth considering in-between.
Here are the top 10 starting pitchers available for Boston if it looks to bolster its rotation via free agency.
10. Steven Matz
2021 stats: 14-7, 3.82 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 43 BB, 144 SO
Matz bounced back from a disastrous final season with the New York Mets to be a solid piece for the Toronto Blue Jays. If he can double down on that success in 2022, he’ll be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter for whichever team picks him up.
9. Jon Gray, RHP
2021 stats: 8-12, 4.59 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 58 BB, 157 SO
Gray’s numbers, like those of most Rockies hurlers, are inflated from playing at Coors Field. He was solid in 2021 for a Colorado team that didn’t have a whole lot to play for. His consistent strikeout rate of 9.0 K/9 and above throughout his career should attract plenty of suitors.
8. Justin Verlander
2021 stats: Missed season after Tommy John surgery
It’s impossible to predict how any player will fare after returning from Tommy John surgery, never mind a 39-year-old with multiple Cy Young awards on his resume. Verlander’s track record speaks for itself and that’ll be enough for a team to look past the obvious concerns at this point in his Hall-of-Fame career.
7. Noah Syndergaard
2021 stats: 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 0 BB, 2 SO (2.0 IP due to injury)
Syndergaard has more question marks than any other pitcher on the market, but he might also have the highest upside of the bunch. “Thor” was shut down for all of 2020 and pretty much all of the 2021 season due to Tommy John surgery and multiple setbacks in recovery. He’s one of the game’s best starters when healthy, but signing him comes with a fair share of risk.
6. Carlos Rodon, LHP
2021 stats: 13-5, 2.37 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 36 BB, 185 SO
Rodon’s no-hitter was the highlight of his 2021 season, but it was an incredible comeback year from beginning to end for the 29-year-old righty. There are obvious questions about whether he can duplicate that success, as well as his health, but Rodon will be one of the most coveted arms available.
5. Clayton Kershaw, LHP
2021 stats: 10-8, 3.55 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 21 BB, 144 SO
Kershaw isn’t the virtually unhittable pitcher he once was, but he’s still among the game’s best. At least, when he’s healthy. The future Hall of Famer missed the postseason due to forearm/elbow injuries and has battled back injuries over the years. While he’s sure to get plenty of offers in free agency, it’d be surprising to see him move on from L.A.
4. Kevin Gausman, RHP
2021 stats: 14-6, 2.81 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 50 BB, 227 SO
Gausman is a huge reason why the Giants exceeded expectations and earned an NL West title in 2021. The veteran right-hander posted career bests in every meaningful statistic and earned his first All-Star nod. That said, teams may be skeptical of paying Gausman big money as his stellar campaign was an outlier.
3. Marcus Stroman, RHP
2021 stats: 10-13, 3.02 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 44 BB, 158 SO
After opting out of the 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Stroman returned in 2021 to have possibly the best season of his MLB career. The 5-foot-7 right-hander started a league-high 33 games and posted a career-best WHIP. He’ll be a hot commodity after impressing in Queens.
2. Max Scherzer, RHP
2021 stats: 15-4, 2.46 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 36 BB, 236 SO
The only factor preventing Scherzer from topping this list is his age. Otherwise, there’s really nothing you can knock the three-time Cy Young award winner for. He was incredible after joining the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline, posting a 7-0 record with a 1.98 ERA in 11 starts. It wouldn’t be surprising to see L.A. bring the veteran righty back to be their ace in 2022.
1. Robbie Ray, LHP
2021 stats: 13-7, 2.84 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 52 BB, 248 SO
This year’s likely AL Cy Young award winner is set up for a huge payday this winter. Ray signed a one-year “prove it” deal with the Blue Jays last offseason and it paid off as he enjoyed a sensational 2021 campaign. The question, of course, is whether he’ll regress to the mean next season.