Now that I have revealed my offensive players it is time to continue the 2020 MLB free agents team. Read below to see my 13-man pitching staff.
My starting rotation is anchored by one of the greatest pitchers in the game followed by a pitcher who is one of the best playoff pitchers in all of baseball. The next three starters are pitchers who will take the ball every fifth day and can eat innings while pitching effectively. With so much money locked up in my top two starters I had to find cost-effective but solid starters to fill out my rotation which I was able to do. I was also able to have balance in my rotation with three righties and two lefties.
As every team will this season my staff will have 13 pitchers. My eight-man bullpen consists of three left-handed pitchers and two spot starters. My closer is a lefty and was the top guy available. I then signed a pitcher who was once a promising starter but now has established himself as a top set up man who can also close games. Relief pitchers are hit and miss these days but I was able to find enough quality arms who can be trusted to face three batters which are going to be a key factor this season.
Ace of the Staff
As far as free agent pitchers go I wanted to grab the best one on the market. Gerrit Cole was clearly the top pitcher available this offseason and the most costly. Cole’s salary is a whopping 36 million dollars. So he better be worth it. You could have easily taken the 36 million dollars and signed two high-quality pitchers and had a deeper rotation. But Cole was as close to a sure thing in 2019 as your ever going to find. He was great in the regular season and even better in the postseason. In 2019 Cole won 20 games while striking out 326 batters with a 2.50 ERA and a .895 WHIP.
Cole pitched great in the playoffs going 4-1 with 47 strikeouts in 36 innings and allowing seven runs. In fact, for his career, Cole is 6-4 with a 2.60 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 65 innings. Additionally, that WHIP stayed nearly invisible at .868. Simply put Cole is in the very small discussion of who is the top pitcher in the game.
To form a great one-two punch with Cole I selected Madison Bumgarner. With a salary of 17 million dollars, when compared to what other pitchers got is a steal. There was not one pitcher including Cole who has the postseason resume that Bumgarner has. As the San Francisco Giants have struggled so has Madison Bumgarner. In 2017-18 he suffered through injuries that limited him to 38 starts.
Bumgarner did pitch a full season in 2019 but it was not good by his standards. Bumgarner had a 9-9 record with a 3.90 ERA. There was talk of Bumgarner being in decline at age 30. But on my team, he is not the ace and does not have to carry the burden of the rotation on his shoulders. Also since my team plays in the National League Bumgarner still gets to hit. Bumgarner has 19 career HR.
If you think Cole has great postseason numbers just check out what Bumgarner has complied. In 16 appearances with 14 as a starter, Bumgarner has a record of 8-3 with a 2.11 ERA and a WHIP of .899. His performance in the 2014 playoffs is truly legendary. Bumgarner won the MVP for both the NLCS and the World Series. He also threw a four-hit shutout in the Wild Card game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Overall in the 2014 postseason Bumgarner went 4-1 giving up seven runs in 52 innings. He also earned the save in Game 7 pitching five scoreless innings against the Kansas City Royals. Cole and Bumgarner form a potent one-two righthanded-lefthanded punch not just for the regular season but in the playoffs. Both pitchers can also work on short rest.
The Rest of the Rotation
Filling out the last three spots of the rotation won’t be flashy names. In fact, all are on the wrong side of 30 but they still are able to pitch quality innings. I picked right-handed pitchers Ivan Nova at 1.5 million and Adam Wainwright at five million and left-hander Rich Hill at three million dollars to form the back end of the rotation.
Hill at 39 years old would be slotted in as my number three starter. He is injury prone but he also does not cost me a lot of money. Plus I do have two spot starters in the bullpen for just this reason. The last few years specifically as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers when Hill has pitched he has been very good. His Dodger career record is 30-16 with a 3.16 ERA and a 1.079 WHIP. Hill also has 427 punchouts in 361 innings. Staying healthy has been a big problem. But with a deep bullpen his innings can be limited.
Adam Wainwright like Hill is just about at the end of the line in baseball. But he has had a very good 14-year career. I am betting on one more quality season from the right-hander. Last year he went 14-10 with a 4.19 ERA and a 1.427 WHIP. It is possible Wainwright at this point in his career can’t pitch any better than he did last year. I am going to hope I can at least get his ERA to dip below 4 and get a little better WHIP. With the offense this team has Wainwright can still win double-digit games by just giving the team innings.
Ivan Nova might seem like a bad choice to you and while he is not great he has been solid the last three seasons. Nova has made 94 starts with 535 innings pitched during that time. His record of 31-35 might not seem good but he has also played on bad teams. Nova is my fifth starter and much like Wainwright, all I need from him is innings. In fact, the design of this team is to have a deep dependable bullpen and a lineup that can score enough runs where the back end of the rotation will not feel any pressure.
The best closer on the market was Will Smith. He is costing me 13.333 million dollars. Not only did Smith close out 34 games his record was 6-0. The lefty had an ERA of 2.76 and a WHIP of 1.093. Smith also struck out 96 batters in 65 innings pitched. As Smith is the best strikeout pitcher in the pen it is definitely possible to see him pitch in the eight inning if a strikeout is needed. The depth of this bullpen will allow me to use my best reliever in the biggest spots of the game.
I have three setup men who can also be trusted to close out games if Smith is not available. Firstly we got Daniel Hudson at an extremely reasonable salary of 5.5 million dollars. After getting traded to the Washington Nationals Hudson firmly established himself as a premier set up man. With a 9-3 record and eight saves, Hudson showed he belonged in the biggest moments of the game. The struggling Nationals pen became a strength when Hudson got on the team. His salary of 5.5 million makes him way too good to pass up.
Will Harris is another setup man. Harris went 4-1 with a 1.50 ERA and a .933 WHIP. Statistically speaking Harris is the best pitcher in the bullpen. Paying him eight million dollars is definitely worth it. With 62 strikeouts in 60 innings and a WHIP of .933 Harris can be used in many different ways. He can get a strikeout when needed and he also does not allow a lot of base runners which is key with the new pitching rules this season.
The third setup man is also a former closer who did not pitch in 2019 due to injury. Brandon Morrow is making one million dollars and he had 22 saves in 2018. Morrow had a 1.47 ERA and a 1.076 WHIP in 30 innings. Morrow was well on his way to having a big 2018 season before he got injured. He is not expected to be ready to pitch until mid-May. A healthy Morrow brings a lot of flexibility to the top part of this bullpen. His health remains the only issue.
These next two pitchers are my spot starters. Finding them work could be hard but we all know starting pitchers often miss starts. My lefthanded spot starter is Francisco Liriano. What’s amazing about Liriano is in 2018 he started 26 games with the Detroit Tigers. But last year with the Pirates he did not start one game. In 2018 he was mediocre at best as a starter. But I am not asking him to start 20 games unless we have injuries. Liriano can do the job and at 1.5 million dollars he is very affordable.
The next spot starter is Collin McHugh. From 2014-2017 McHugh was a very effective starting pitcher with the Houston Astros. In 2018 McHugh was used exclusively as a reliever and he was lights out. McHugh went 6-2 with a 1.99 ERA and a .912 WHIP with 94 strikeouts in 72 innings. Last year McHugh was on the injured list twice with elbow issues and missed the postseason. But he made eight spot starts and appeared in 35 games overall. McHugh’s elbow injury could lead to an opening day injured list stint. But a healthy McHugh makes this bullpen even stronger. The best part of McHugh is his low salary of 600K which makes it easy to absorb if he shows he can’t be a good pitcher this season.
Rest of the Bullpen
Filling out the remainder of the bullpen is right-handers Ryan Tepera at 900K, and Josh Tomlin at 583K, and left-hander Josh Osich at 859K. There is nothing too special about these pitchers except for their price tag. With how relief pitchers will be handled this season all three of these guys are not considered one batter pitchers like Jerry Blevins is.
We all know relief pitchers are tricky to predict from year to year and specifically the guys who are not considered to be your top bullpen pitchers. With two pitchers coming off injuries I have 1.6 million dollars leftover just in case another relief pitcher needs to be added.
Now that my 26 man roster is filled out it’s time to see how they compare against the 2019 major league teams.
In all of the key offensive statistics this team is in the top half of the league. My team OBP of .345 ranks second only to the top team with a .352 OBP. With 830 runs scored that is good for 10th most with the leader at 943. At 225 HR that is good for 15th with the leader at 307. With 641 walks they are just barely behind the league leader of 645. All of this is without using signing a DH.
If you are looking for negatives the two biggest ones are strikeouts and stolen bases. At 79 steals with 30 coming from one player the total is good for 13th in the league. The league leader has 131 steals. My strikeout total is very high at 1,387. But the league leader has 1,595. Strikeouts are high right now in baseball and this team ranks 20th which is not so bad. But still the name of the game is to score runs and you need to make contact to do that.
One of the reasons I wanted Cole was his big strikeout total. With 1,463 punch outs that is good for 12th place with the league leader having 1,671. In two of the more important stats the team ranks in the top five. With an ERA of 3.59 it is good for second behind the leader with 3.37. The WHIP of 1.179 is good for fourth behind the leader of 1.100. The strikeout total of 1,462 is good for 12th most in the league with the leader having 1,671.
If you are looking for the bad numbers it would be the innings pitched and earned runs total. At 1,427 inning pitched that ranks as the third-lowest in the league with the lowest total being 1,474. Naturally, the 570 earned runs follow suit as the second-lowest total. The innings pitched total could be the reason why the ERA and WHIP are so low. Additionally, the 206 HR allowed which is the 10th fewest will most definitely increase with more innings pitched.
So that completes the 2020 MLB free agents team. What team would you pick?
Embed from Getty Images