Even with two-way star Shohei Ohtani sidelined from pitching in 2024 due to elbow surgery, the free-agent starting pitcher class boasts some formidable names. Mark Feinsand’s ranking of the 25 best free agents includes five starters in the top seven, led by Yoshinobu Yamamoto (No. 2), Blake Snell (No. 3), and Aaron Nola (No. 5), creating an intriguing trio for teams to consider.
Yamamoto, at 25, stands out as the youngest with impressive credentials from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). Snell, fresh off a Cy Young Award-winning season, brings considerable talent, while Nola boasts a robust MLB track record marked by durability and postseason success, despite recently committing to a seven-year deal with the Phillies.
Several questions surround this pitching market, and three MLB.com writers weigh in on key aspects:
1. Top Choice for 2024 Rotation
David Adler: Opting for Yamamoto, drawing comparisons to Cy Young contender Kodai Senga and expecting his success to transition smoothly to MLB.
Anthony Castrovince: Preferring Nola for his durability and the likelihood of providing 200 quality innings, favoring reliability over volatility.
Manny Randhawa: Selecting Yamamoto due to his overwhelming success in NPB, anticipating a seamless transition to the majors.
2. Most Value Over Next Five Seasons
David Adler: Citing Ohtani as the top choice for his extraordinary two-way contributions, but acknowledging Yamamoto as a strong alternative.
Anthony Castrovince: Believing Yamamoto will offer significant value over the next five years, potentially becoming a reliable mid-rotation arm or an ace.
Manny Randhawa: Echoing the sentiment for Yamamoto, emphasizing his youth and impressive skill set.
3. Highest-Risk Investment
David Adler: Identifying Nola as a risk due to the length and size of his contract, questioning how many years he can maintain an ace-level performance.
Anthony Castrovince: Expressing concern about Snell’s inconsistency throughout his career, particularly given his expected high price tag post-Cy Young.
Manny Randhawa: Agreeing with Castrovince, labeling Snell as the riskiest investment due to both contract size and his historical inconsistency.
4. Preferred Pitcher for a Big Postseason Game
David Adler: Opting for Yamamoto, citing his remarkable performance in a do-or-die game in the Japan Series.
Anthony Castrovince: Favoring Nola based on his proven postseason experience and success.
Manny Randhawa: Choosing Nola due to his postseason consistency and ability to go deep into games.
5. Best Free-Agent Starter Outside the Top Trio
David Adler: Recommending Jordan Montgomery for his consistency, durability, and notable contributions to the Rangers’ World Series win.
Anthony Castrovince: Mentioning Ohtani as the top choice, with an alternative being Jack Flaherty for potential value lower on the list.
Manny Randhawa: Selecting Sonny Gray, acknowledging Montgomery’s recent success but highlighting Gray’s longer track record and adaptability.
As the offseason progresses, the fate of these pitchers remains uncertain, with teams carefully weighing their options in a star-studded free-agent market.