The offseason is nearly upon us. And for those of you not fighting it out in the championship, it’s important to be aware of some of the offseason’s important story lines. Obviously, everyone will pay attention to the major signings. By the time FanGraphs+ comes out, you’ll all already be aware of Josh Hamilton’s new home, or whether Zack Greinke will remain in LA. While second-tier signings can sometimes to easy to forget, they can also lead to significant value in fantasy leagues. The free-agent pitching market isn’t necessarily filled with superstars. There are many players that have experienced success throughout their careers, but come with question marks. Still, if these players end up in the right situations, they could have big time value for your fantasy team.
Due to his struggles on the market last season, Edwin Jackson is going to be an interesting player to watch this offseason. Jackson has proven himself to be a useful player, finishing with an ERA under four in three of the last four seasons. He’s been able to maintain a decent strikeout rate, and has even cut down on his walks, which were a big problem earlier in his career. The problem with Jackson is that teams have a hard time forgetting how bad he was early in his career. Jackson may have turned things around in 2009, but his early struggles have kept him from getting a nice contract. With another season of success under his belt, it will be interesting to see if Jackson can finally get the multi-year deal he deserves.
For fantasy purposes, it would be nice if Jackson received significant interest from a few contenders. Last season, Jackson actually had some multi-year offers, but chose to try and re-establish his value with the Nationals. A strong showing in the playoffs could make Jackson a much more desirable asset to teams trying to win next season. While Jackson will have value no matter where he signs, you’re probably going to be less excited if he ends up with the Royals. He’s far from a superstar, but if Jackson ends up on a team where he can win a fair amount of games, he’ll contribute enough in most other categories to be a nice late-round guy.
Brandon McCarthy will be in a somewhat similar situation. While he only tossed 111 innings this season, he managed to prove that 2011 wasn’t a fluke. McCarthy continued to pound the strike zone, leading to a career-best 3.24 ERA. And though he wasn’t as good as he was last season, McCarthy’s 3.77 FIP was still solid.
McCarthy’s health, and where he will sign, are the two major questions he has going into this winter. McCarthy should be fully healed from his head injury by the time next season starts, but he’s had trouble staying healthy throughout most of his career. If he manages to end up with a team that has a strong medical staff, like the White Sox, it could boost his fantasy value significantly. When he’s been healthy, the performance has been good. Now, it’s just a matter of keeping him on the field. Because of the injuries, McCarthy remains a guy you can get in the later rounds of fantasy drafts. He isn’t going to be a big strikeout pitcher, but there’s definitely value in guys who can pound the strike zone and get ground balls.
Keep an eye on these two pitchers. Their value could change quite a bit this winter.
Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.