Major league teams spent over $1 billion on pitching in free agency during the offseason. Thus, it is not a surprise that pitchers dominate our list of the five free agent signees who could thrive in 2016 as well as the five who could dive.
The right-hander signed for five years and $90 million, his value driven down by a poor season with the Chicago White Sox in which he went 11-13 with a 4.96 ERA in 32 starts while leading the American League in hits allowed (228) and home runs allowed (29). However, the 31-year-old is a quality starter and innings-eater who will benefit greatly from the move to spacious AT&T Park from hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. Remember, Samardzija had a combined 2.99 ERA in 31 starts in 2014 with the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics. He also has more upside than most pitchers his age as he concentrated on football in college as a wide receiver at Notre Dame.
Wei-Yin Chen, Miami Marlins
The left-hander was vastly underrated during his four seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, going 46-32 with a 3.72 ERA, including a career-best 3.34 ERA last year. The Marlins signed Chen to a five-year, $80 million contract and chose him to start the opener on April 5 against the visiting Detroit Tigers rather than presumptive ace Jose Fernandez. Like Samardzija, Chen, 32, should benefit from a move from the AL to the more difficult run-scoring environment of the National League as well as the shift from cozy Oriole Park at Camden Yards to the bigger Marlins Park. The Marlins' standout double-play combination of shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and second baseman Dee Gordon also should aid the sinkerballer.
The right-hander shapes up as a potentially great value signing on a one-year, $7 million contract after losing his spot in the Washington Nationals' rotation last season. Fister finished 2015 with a 5-7 record and a 4.19 ERA in 25 games, including 15 starts, a year after helping the Nationals win the NL East by going 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA in 25 starts. Some suitors reportedly were worried about the imaging on Fister's elbow, but the Astros were willing to take a low-risk shot on the 32-year-old. Like Chen, Fister relies on a groundball-inducing sinker and will have a top-notch double-play combination of shortstop Carlos Correa and second baseman Jose Altuve playing behind him.
The 30-year-old's defense has deteriorated to the point where he should be playing second base instead of shortstop. However, the Mets signed Cabrera to a two-year, $16 million deal because he offers more offense than predecessor Ruben Tejada, who was released earlier this spring, and a steadier glove than Wilmer Flores. The Mets may have one of the worse defensive infields in the major leagues after also acquiring second baseman Neil Walker from the Pittsburgh Pirates in an offseason trade. However, Cabrera will more than offset his fielding deficiencies if he replicates his offensive performance of last season when he hit .265 with 15 home runs in 143 games for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Kenta Maeda, Los Angeles Dodgers
What stands out the most about the singing of the star right-hander from Japan is how the Dodgers were able to limit their risk after an MRI showed "irregularities" in Maeda's elbow. The contract guarantees the 28-year-old just $25 million over eight years, but he could earn up to $106.2 million if he stays healthy. Maeda impressed scouts this spring and looks ready to be a big part of a rotation that will be without injured left-handers Brett Anderson and Hyun-Jin Ryu and right-handers Mike Bolsinger and Brandon McCarthy to begin the season. Maeda was 15-8 with a 2.09 ERA in 29 starts for the Hiroshima Carp last season.
The Diamondbacks lured Greinke away from the NL West rival Dodgers with a six-year, $206.5 million contract, a stunning move for an organization that spent conservatively for many years. Greinke picked the right time to opt out of his contract after going 19-3 with a major-league-best 1.66 ERA in 32 starts last season. However, it will be almost impossible to duplicate that performance. Greinke is 32 and has pitched 2,094 2/3 innings during his 12-year career, making him at least somewhat of an injury risk. Greinke also eschews the spotlight at all costs, but he won't have an ace to hide behind in Arizona the way he did with Clayton Kershaw while with the Dodgers.
The left-hander signed an even bigger contract than Greinke, getting seven years and $217 million in hopes of giving the Red Sox the ace they need to return to contention. Boston finished last in the AL East each of the past two seasons since winning the World Series in 2013. Price, 30, has the credentials of a No. 1 starter with a 104-56 career record and 3.09 ERA in nine seasons. However, being looked upon as the franchise savior in Boston will be unlike anything he experienced in previous stops with the Rays, Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays. Price doesn't necessarily handle pressure well, either, as evidenced by his 2-7 record and 5.12 ERA in 14 postseason games.
[b:Jordan Zimmermann, Detroit Tigers}
The Tigers became the first team ever to sign two free agents to nine-figure contacts in the same offseason, getting the 29-year-old righty on a five-year, $110 million deal and later inking left fielder Justin Upton to a six-year, $132.75 million contract. Zimmermann spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Nationals, compiling a 70-50 record and 3.32 ERA. However, Zimmermann's 3.66 ERA in 2015 was a career worst and, though he went 13-10, his velocity was down and he gave up more than a hit an inning -- 204 hits in 201 1/3 innings. Zimmermann will pitch his home games at Comerica Park, one of the bigger venues in the AL, but most career-long NL pitchers initially have a tough time when they change leagues.
Yovani Gallardo, Baltimore Orioles
Many observers felt the Orioles got a bargain by waiting out the market and landing the 30-year right-hander with a two-year, $22 million contract after spring training began. Most teams did not want to give up the draft-pick compensation required to sign Gallardo after he turned down a qualifying offer to stay with the Texas Rangers. The Orioles, though, forfeited their first-rounder even though a physical examination raised enough concern that they were able to get Gallardo to renegotiate after he originally agreed to a three-year, $35 million deal. Gallardo made at least 30 starts in each of the past seven seasons, but his fastball velocity and strikeout rates are starting to dip.
Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Dodgers
The veteran second baseman felt he was the victim of the qualifying-offer system, as he drew little interest on the open market after anticipating a contract in the range of four years and $50 million at the start of the offseason. Instead, Kendrick wound up re-signing with the Dodgers for two years and $20 years. However, another reason why Kendrick did get many bites is because many scouts feel the 32-year-old's career could go downhill quickly. Though he hit .295 with nine home runs in 117 games last season, he lost a step on the bases and his range was so diminished that he is now considered one of the worst defensive second basemen in the major leagues.
The Sports Xchange's senior writer John Perrotto has covered Major League Baseball since 1988.