Top Starting Pitching Free Agents: deGrom Heads the Class

If you are one of those people who get the blues after the Major League Baseball season ends, the season after the season is about to begin. There is no shortage of top-notch free agents looking to get paid after solid 2022 seasons. We will look at the top free agents by position but start things out at the backbone of many clubs, starting pitching.

NYM SP Jacob deGrom

The New York Mets have made no bones about it. They want their long-time starting pitcher back in Queens. Jacob deGrom opted out of the two remaining years of his deal which would have paid him $63 million. 

The two-time Cy Young award winner has been in New York for all nine MLB seasons and will get a substantial raise, whether for a tenth campaign with the Mets or with a new suitor. Despite pitching a career-low 64 innings last season, deGrom should command one of the largest deals of any arms on the market.

Division rivals, the Atlanta Braves, are very interested in landing deGrom, while the Texas Rangers will also put on a full-court press to score the coveted starter. While the Mets are said to be wanting to avoid a longer-term deal, that is what other clubs may have to do to pry him away from New York. Expect the 34-year-old to get something in the $40-$50 million range.   

LAD SP Clayton Kershaw

Like deGrom, Clayton Kershaw is a pitcher who has spent his entire career with the same National League team but looks to be on the move. Kershaw is the only starter on our list that came into this offseason as an unrestricted free agent. After signing a one-year deal last year, he will demand a substantial raise from his $17 million salary with the LA Dodgers.

The 34-year-old is coming off a productive season following uncertainty after his 2021 was cut short because of a throwing arm injury. Kershaw went 12-3 and posted his best ERA (2.28) since 2016. The big Texan showed he could still dominate with 137 strikeouts in 126 innings.

A homecoming to the Lonestar State could be in order for Kershaw as he was tied to possibly landing with the Texas Rangers last season before signing with LA. It will likely come down to the Dodgers and Rangers and who is willing to pay in the $35 million neighborhood. Where deGrom signs will also factor into where all the other arms land.

SF SP Carlos Rodon

Carlos Rodon is coming off a career year, one that earned him the right to become a free agent. Rodon set new career bests with 14 wins, 237 strikeouts, and, most importantly, 178 innings pitched. The former White Sox hurler had a clause in his two-year deal with the San Francisco Giants that he could opt out after year number one if he reached 110 innings. Rodon is walking away from his 22.5M player option for 2023 in hopes of getting a bigger payday in the free market.

As we have seen in recent years, starting pitching is at a premium and has fetched big-time salaries. There are rumored to be as many as 18 teams interested in the services of the 29-year-old and should be ready to pony up $30-$35 million per year for the big lefty.

HOU SP Justin Verlander

The other pitcher expected to rival Jacob deGrom’s future salary could be Justin Verlander. While he hasn’t yet, it’s expected that the likely 2022 Cy Young award winner will opt out of his $25 million player option.

Verlander is at the top of the Cy convo after putting together a spectacular season. The former Detroit Tiger went 18-4, with an MLB-best 1.75 ERA to go along with 185 strikeouts in 195 innings. 

Such a dominant season could give Verlander a $15-$20 million raise for next season. Since a deal for the 39-year-old will likely be in the one to two-year range, teams can load up by offering a larger per-year salary. It also rules out most rebuilding teams, so expect Verlander to land with a contender if he leaves the World Series champs.

The Toronto Blue Jays were down to Verlander’s shortlist last year, according to the man himself and the 2022 wildcard team is just a few pieces away from being a World Series contender. Speaking of World Series contenders, the New York Yankees could again be in the mix after offering the big righty a $25 million deal last offseason. And really, on the subject of World Series contenders, the defending champs will do what they can to bring their ace back to run it back in 2023.