MLB free agency: The best remaining free agent starting pitchers

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 12: Starting pitcher Carlos Rodon #55 of the Chicago White Sox pitches during the 2nd inning of Game 4 of the American League Division Series against the Houston Astros at Guaranteed Rate Field on October 12, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 12: Starting pitcher Carlos Rodon #55 of the Chicago White Sox pitches during the 2nd inning of Game 4 of the American League Division Series against the Houston Astros at Guaranteed Rate Field on October 12, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 01: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers walks off after being substituted during a game against the Milwaukee Brewers in the second inning at Dodger Stadium on October 01, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 01: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers walks off after being substituted during a game against the Milwaukee Brewers in the second inning at Dodger Stadium on October 01, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images) /

The Cream of the Crop: Clayton Kershaw and Carlos Rodón

Former top prospects Clayton Kershaw and Carlos Rodón have had very different careers. Over the last 14 seasons, Kershaw has been arguably the best pitcher in baseball and his career 2.49 ERA, 1.004 WHIP, and 6.8 H/9 are the best of all active pitchers. Rodón, however, had never been able to produce anything better than an average season until 2021, his seventh in the big leagues. He was so bad in 2020 that the White Sox non-tendered him following the season and signed him to a one-year deal.

The past is the past, as they say, and now Rodón is the more coveted starter. Kershaw lost two months of the regular season due to elbow injuries and was unable to participate in postseason play due to a forearm issue. Those issues, along with retirement rumors, have lowered Kershaw’s stock.

While Rodón also suffered a shoulder injury in 2022 and was limited to 132.2 IP, the 29-year-old turned heads with his 2.37 ERA, 12.6 K/9, and 183 ERA+. Rodón is said to be pursuing a multi-year contract.

Rodón bested Kershaw in nearly every statistic in 2021 but Kershaw still produced a quite valuable 3.55 ERA and 3.4 fWAR in 121.2 IP. He appears to have been unlucky (3.00 FIP) and his predictive stats are actually quite similar to Rodón’s. Rodón had the edge in SIERA (2.96 v. 3.10) and Kershaw had the edge in xFIP (2.87 v. 3.17). Kershaw turns 34 next month and, when healthy, is still producing at a high rate.

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Will teams prefer the known track record of Kershaw or will they choose the younger Rodon in hopes that he turned over a new leaf in 2021?