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Where will the top remaining pitchers sign now that Yoshinobu Yamamoto is off the market?

With Yamamoto officially a Dodger — and plenty of spurned suitors now having to turn elsewhere — the pitching market should heat up in the coming days.

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery celebrates defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks to win the World Series in game five of the 2023 World Series at Chase Field.  Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

After weeks of waiting, we finally have an answer: Yoshinobu Yamamoto is off to L.A., joining the Dodgers’ budding superteam on a record 12-year, $325 million deal. For Los Angeles, it’s a coup, arguably one of the best pitchers in the world just entering his prime. For the righty’s many spurned suitors, however, it’s the starting gun — you better pivot to Plan B, and you better do it fast, because with Yamamoto off the market pitchers will start flying off the board fast and furious as the biggest markets in baseball look to find a place to put their money.

So, before that spending spree gets started, let’s take stock of where things stand. With Yamamoto accounted for, who are the best pitchers remaining on the market? And with the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Giants and many others left looking for pitching help, who will wind up signing where?

Top starting pitchers available after Yoshinobu Yamamoto signing

Blake Snell, LHP

Snell now takes over the honor of top available pitcher on our free-agent rankings, and for good reason: He just won his second Cy Young Award after leading the Majors with a 2.25 ERA in 2023. Of course, just looking at his most recent top-line numbers is far from the end of the story, a story that explains why the lefty’s market has been a bit slow getting off the ground so far this winter.

Yes, Snell was sensational in 2023, but he was also playing with fire: He led the league with 99 walks across 180 innings of work, benefitting from an incredibly high strand rate and regularly working out of jams with men on base. Granted, Snell forces lots of weak contact, which goes a long way; but we also know that strand rate is a pretty random stat from year to year, and it’s not hard to envision Snell getting a bit less lucky in 2024 and watching his ERA balloon — as it did in 2021 (4.20) and 2019 (4.29). There’s also the matter of his age: Snell is already on the wrong side of 30 and will likely be asking for a seven- or eight-year deal, meaning whoever signs him will have to be comfortable with his profile will into his 30s. His ceiling is obvious, but his command and durability concerns — 2023 was only the second time in his eight-year career that he’d cracked the 130-inning threshold — could engender some buyer’s remorse.

Prediction: Los Angeles Angels

Jordan Montgomery, LHP

While Snell is ranked above Montgomery on our big board you could argue that the World Series hero is a more appealing buy given his steadiness and production over the last few years. Montgomery has pitched to a 3.48 ERA (121 ERA+) since 2021, making 30 or more starts in each of those seasons, and he just got done shoving on the biggest stage for the Rangers this past October. He’s not going to light up radar guns or put up eye-popping strikeout totals, but he’s built for a full season’s work and has a complete arsenal capable of handling righties and lefties multiple times through an order. In an era where just about everyone is looking for a dependable source of meaningful innings, Montgomery should find himself with plenty of suitors — with his three former teams (Rangers, Cardinals, Yankees) leading the pack, as well as the Red Sox and Giants.

Prediction: Boston Red Sox

Lucas Giolito, RHP

Giolito has been going through a bit of a rough patch of late, with a 4.89 ERA over his past two seasons. Prior to that, though, he was a rock-solid No. 2, posting ERAs of 3.41, 3.48 and 3.53 from 2019-2021 while earning Cy Young votes in each of those years. The main culprit in 2023 was the home run ball, as Giolito’s homer rate spiked all the way to two per nine innings — among the highest in the league. Still, his stuff remains solid, and he’s still just 29 years old. Some team is going to buy in on him as a bounce-back candidate, especially one with a spacious home ballpark for him to pitch in.

Prediction: San Francisco Giants

Marcus Stroman, RHP

Before injuries waylaid him, Stroman was in the midst of a career season in 2023, posting a 2.96 ERA prior to the All-Star break. Things went downhill upon his return from the IL, and he’ll be turning 33 in May, but this is still a very solid pitcher — especially for teams in hitter-friendly ballparks, where his sinker and sky-high ground ball rate would come in handy. He hasn’t posted an ERA below league average since way back in 2018, and he likely won’t be expecting a commitment of more than three or four years.

Prediction: Chicago Cubs

Clayton Kershaw, LHP

It’s surprising that a future first-ballot Hall of Famer is flying under the radar, but Kershaw remains a free agent — and is reportedly deciding between a return to the Dodgers or jumping to his hometown Rangers. Granted, offseason shoulder surgery means that Kershaw likely won’t be able to help whoever he signs with until the second half, but he was still a very good pitcher in 2023 despite his 35 years of age and his health issues (NLDS blowup notwithstanding, of course).

Prediction: Texas Rangers

Shota Imanaga, LHP

Imanaga’s several years older than Yamamoto (he just turned 30 in September), and he doesn’t have nearly the same frontline stuff, but he’s dominant for NPB’s Yokohama BayStars over the past few years and is enticing plenty of interest thanks to his lights-out fastball/slider combination. His lack of a third option means that there’s real reliever/swingman risk here, but he knows how to pitch and his track record — he has a 2.96 ERA for his career — is hard to argue with.

Prediction: New York Yankees