With the surplus of aces in the free agent market this offseason (i.e David Price, Johnny Cueto, and Zack Greinke), there are plenty of starting pitchers who aren't getting as much recognition. So I've drawn up what I see to be the top 3 starting pitchers who aren't getting looked at enough and where they might be going.
1. John Lackey (13-10 with a 2.77 ERA with STL in 2015)
John Lackey is quietly one of the top pitchers on the market this offseason. Coming off his age 36 season, John Lackey posted one of his best seasons of his career and has really made a case that he can still provide a great impact in the middle-back end of the rotation. He will be testing the Free Agent waters for the first time since the Red Sox signed him back in the 09-10 offseason and, if he were 3 years younger, would be making north of 100 million dollars for 5+ years. However, he'll be 37 next year and will likely be on 1-yr contracts until he hangs it up.
Now the question is: Where is he going?
I really can see the Pittsburgh Pirates making a push at Big John this offseason. Every team in baseball needs some form of veteran leadership in their rotation if they want to contend. Last year, Pittsburgh had A.J. Burnett, who just retired after 19 MLB seasons. That leaves Pittsburgh without that grandpa in their rotation. So Lackey could really fit in with the Pirates.
I could also see Lackey going back to where it all began; that is, the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels just made a move to strengthen their lineup and defense by acquiring Andrelton Simmons from Atlanta, but that doesn't really solve any problems for LA. They need that veteran guy who can give them 10-15 wins and a 3 or under ERA, and Lackey is that guy. Plus, John is nearing the end of the line and it's always fun to watch a guy play his final season where it all began. We just saw Torii Hunter do that with the Twins in 2015. So Lackey would fit well in LA.
Prediction: 1-yr, $14.5 million with the Pirates
2. J.A. Happ (11-8 with a 3.61 ERA in 2015 with SEA and PIT)
Does anyone even remember this guy? This guy was a stud back in 2009 with the Phillies when he went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA. Happ has bounced around since then and suffered a terrifying injury with the Blue Jays when he took a line drive off his head in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. But Happ showed signs of that stud-like ability in the second half with Pittsburgh. He went 4-6 with a 4.64 ERA with Seattle before being dealt to the Pirates in July. From there, he took off and had one of the better halves of the season for any pitcher. Happ went 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA with the Pirates.
Now where is he going?
I think he's going back to the Phillies. The Phillies look like a team that can be very good in a few years and they need an ace-like pitcher to take that young staff to the next level. And Happ could really help that, plus, Philadelphia has had a hard time dealing with some of the long-term deals they've made in recent years (Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley). Happ is a guy that they can take on for one or two years and help this rotation out until a guy like Alec Asher can mature into THAT guy the Phils want.
Second, I can see him going to the Milwaukee Brewers for the same reason as he would go to the Phillies. The Brewers have a young rotation and need a guy that can be an anchor in that staff until a guy like Wily Peralta can become an ace-like pitcher.
Prediction: 2-yr, $20.5 million with the Phillies
3. Hisashi Iwakuma (9-5 with 3.54 ERA with SEA
Iwakuma has had injury troubles in the past, but this guy certainly can pitch if he's healthy for 30-32 starts. We've seen what he can do; he threw a no-hitter last year against Baltimore. He went 9-5 with a 3.54 ERA last year, but the Mariners' season was all over the place. Their offense was never 100% healthy or productive when healthy. He should've had at least 12 wins with that ERA.
Where is he going?
There is really only one place that I see as Iwakuma realistically going to and that is the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles aren't a contender for any top pitchers on the market and need an ace on their staff to matchup Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez against opponents' number 2s and 3s. Hisashi Iwakuma is just the guy the O's need to be taken seriously in the AL East and as a playoff threat.
However, if he doesn't go to Baltimore, I don't see him going back in Seattle. I can see him going to the Miami Marlins as well. They have some great young players and a rotation that appears to be on the rise. With full seasons out of Giancarlo Stanton and José Fernandez in 2016, there's no telling what the Marlins could do. Iwakuma could slide into the number 2 role in Miami and provide a good source of production out of that slot. Not saying he'll win 20 games, but somewhere around 15-17 in a young Miami rotation seems plausible. They could be a playoff contender with him as their number 2.
Prediction: 3-yr, $39.5 million with the Orioles
By Jordan Leandre