According to Ken Rosenthal, the much-maligned free agent pitching crop is about to get a lot stronger, with Tim Hudson set to join the ranks of those available for bidding this winter. The Braves and Hudson hold a mutual $12 million option on his 2010 contract, but with a strong finish to the season and not much competition on the open market, Hudson sees an opportunity to get a better deal now rather than waiting a year.
Is it the right call?
In his late season return, he showed absolutely no effects from the injury or layoff. His fastball averaged 90.4 MPH, the same velocity he’s shown since 2005. He still had tremendous sink on the pitch as well, generating a 62.2% GB%. His command was as good as always, and his strikeout rate was higher than any season since 2001. It may have only been seven starts, but Hudson showed that he’s still every bit as good as he was before the injury, and he was one of the better pitchers in baseball at his peak.
Besides John Lackey, there aren’t any pitchers on the market who can offer a better package of stuff, command, and ability to pitch. Lackey’s going to get a big contract, but Hudson’s a pretty similar pitcher when healthy. For a team who wants to add that level of starter without paying full price, Hudson is a terrific alternative.
For Hudson, opting out is likely the right move. He probably won’t get a $12 million in annual salary again, given his age and the fact that he’s only thrown 180 innings over the last two years, but teams will still be lining up to bid for a pitcher of his quality, and rightfully so. A three or four year deal at around $10 million per season will be a steal if Hudson is able to stay healthy, and that kind of contract is certainly more valuable to him than one more season at $12 million.
If the Braves can’t convince him to stay in Atlanta, this is bad news. For the other 29 teams, however, the free agent pitching market might be about to get a big upgrade.