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Signed, Traded for, or Drafted: The Elusive Search for an Ace

Back before the off-season even began Mike Rizzo declared that finding a front of a rotation starter was a priority. What was left out was whether it was a possibility. Now as starting pitchers are signing with a bit of frequency it is seeming more and more likely that the Nationals will end up with nobody. I am sure many of you are tired of the argument that spending money isn't always the answer. Really it isn't your money and if the team wants to get better they have to spend, right? Of course the counter to this is that a bad contract will hurt a team a lot more than it helps it. Still there is the thinking among fans and some front offices that they can take a Carlos Silva, Gil Meche, or Jeff Suppan and throw them and a few rupees into the Waterfall of Wishing and get a number one starter in return. This simply isn't a possibility. I am going to go team by team and see just where the best starting pitchers come from. I am going to try my best to give each team and Ace. Some teams like the Pirates, Orioles, and Astros might just be too undeserving though. I am also going to put free agents with their current team as this only applies to one player.

We will start as far away as the Nationals as possible and work our way east.

AL West

Texas Rangers: Cliff Lee traded from the Seattle Mariners 2010
Los Angeles Angels: Jered Weaver drafted first round 2004
Oakland Athletics: Trevor Cahill drafted second round 2006
Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez signed as an amatuer free agent 2002

NL West

San Francisco Giants: Tim Lincecum drafted first round 2006
San Diego Padres: Mat Latos drafted eleventh round 2006
Colorado Rockies: Ubaldo Jimenez signed as an amatuer free agent 2001
Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw drafted first round 2006
Arizona Diamondbacks: None

AL Central

Minnesota Twins: Francisco Liriano traded from the Giants 2003
Chicago White Sox: Mark Buehrle drafted thirty-eighth round 1998
Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander drafted first round 2004
Cleveland Indians: None
Kansas City Royals: Zack Greinke drafted first round 2002

NL Central

Cincinnati Reds: Johnny Cueto signed as an amatuer free agent 2004
St. Luis Cardinals: Adam Wainwright traded from the Braves 2003
Milwaukee Brewers: Yovani Gallardo drafted second round 2004
Houston Astros: None
Chicago Cubs: None
Pittsburgh Pirates: None

AL East

Tampa Bay Rays: David Price drafted first round 2007
New York Yankees: CC Sabathia signed 2008
Boston red Sox: Jon Lester drafted second round 2002
Toronto Blue Jays: Shaun Marcum drafted third round 2003
Baltimore Orioles: None

NL East

Philadelphia Phillies: Roy Halladay traded from Blue Jays 2009
Atlanta Braves: Tim Hudson traded from Athletics 2004
Florida Marlins: Josh Johnson drafted fourth round 2002
New York Mets: Johan Santana traded from Twins 2008  
Washington Nationals: Strasburg (when he gets healthy) drafted first round 2009

Of all the Ace pitchers in baseball 14 were either drafted or signed as amatuer free agents. Only one ace, Sabathia, was signed as a true free agent, while guys like Halladay, Santana, and Hudson were traded due to contract reasons and signed by their new team. 2006 and 2004 were very good years to draft or sign an amatuer free agent. I don't know what I like better; Lincecum, Cahill, Kershaw, and Latos or Verlander, Weaver, Gallardo, and Cueto. Six teams don't have an ace. Seven if you count the Nationals. The reality is teams for the most part don't let Ace starting pitchers get away, and the best way to get your own is to develop them. Only the New York Yankees signed their best pitcher as a true free agent. Other big market teams either drafted one or traded for one and then signed them. The second option still requires a good farm system.

Until the Nationals either get Strasburg back healthy or sign another Ace level starting pitcher the only thing to do is wait. It sucks, it is painful and frustrating, but otherwise there simply isn't a magic way to get a front of the rotation start. Asking for one to be signed in free agency is like asking for one to pop out of Zeus' head.    

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