Ranking top 5 rotations after big-ticket deals

Ranking top 5 rotations after big-ticket deals

Pitchers have dominated the storylines thus far this offseason, from signing record contracts as free agents to commanding significant return packages on the trade market.

Look no further than the D-backs, who played a role in each of those two scenarios. First, Arizona landed Zack Greinke in a shocking move after swooping in and offering the former Dodgers ace a six-year, $206.5 million deal. Far from done, the D-backs then turned around and acquired fellow front-line starter Shelby Miller from the Braves in exchange for Ender Inciarte, Aaron Blair and Dansby Swanson, the club's 2015 No. 1 overall pick.

Though the D-backs have made the most significant splashes when it comes to pitching, their moves only epitomize the overall state of the market this offseason. With a number of teams actively seeking pitching upgrades, many of the 30 starting rotations across the Major Leagues already have a very different look from a season ago.

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Yet even with record money and top prospects being dished out, have any of those teams solidified one of the league's top rotations?

Keeping in mind that the offseason is far from over, the following is a look at the top five current starting rotations, based on Steamer's 2016 projections on Fangraphs. The rankings were based strictly on the collective projected WAR among the five pitchers currently expected to be in a team's Opening Day rotation. For any teams where multiple pitchers are vying for the final spot(s), the player with the highest projected WAR was used.

As it turns out, the D-backs, despite being the stars of the offseason, still have a ways to go to crack the top five. Between Steamer expecting both Greinke and Miller to take a small step back next year and the question marks surrounding the rest of the rotation, Arizona was left on the outside looking in. Here's a look at the five clubs that ranked atop the list.

5. Dodgers
Projected rotation: Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Alex Wood, Mike Bolsinger
Projected combined WAR: 15.7

Even after losing Greinke to the D-backs and later backing away from a potential deal with Hisashi Iwakuma, the Dodgers still crack the top five. Now, to be fair, this is almost solely a result of the three-time Cy Young Award winner at the top of the rotation. In fact, Kershaw (7.4 projected WAR) alone accounts for nearly half of the current starting staff's projected production. With that in mind, it's no surprise that the Dodgers have been rumored to be seeking starting-pitching help on the trade market after ultimately electing to pass on Iwakuma.

Kershaw earns win in Game 4

4. Indians
Projected rotation: Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin
Projected combined WAR: 15.9

No starting rotation registered as many strikeouts last year as that of the Indians -- and, as of right now, there's no reason to believe that 2016 will be any different. After all, Cleveland accounted for four of the American League's top seven starters when it came to strikeouts per nine innings last season. Carrasco (10.6), Kluber (9.9) and Salazar (9.5) ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively, while Bauer (8.7) checked in at No. 7. It wasn't just strikeouts, either, as the Tribe's top trio also accounted for three of the top 11 ERA+ marks in the AL.

Indians building a contender

3. Nationals
Projected rotation: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark, Joe Ross
Projected combined WAR: 16.2

Despite losing Jordan Zimmermann via free agency, the Nationals still figure to boast one of the more formidable starting rotations in the Majors. Scherzer is coming off an impressive debut season with the Nats in which he racked up a 2.79 ERA over 33 starts, including four complete games and three shutouts -- and, oh yeah, two no-hitters. Strasburg and Gonzalez have both flashed ace potential in the past, and Roark went 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts in 2014 before splitting time between the rotation and bullpen last season. As for Ross, one of the organization's top pitching prospects entering last season, the right-hander is hoping to take the next step in '16 following an up-and-down rookie campaign.

Best Performance: Max Scherzer

2. Mets
Projected rotation: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard, Bartolo Colon
Projected combined WAR: 16.7

With arguably the deepest starting rotation in the Majors, the Mets will seemingly trot out an ace-caliber pitcher at least once every series -- even if it's only a two-game set. deGrom finished with a 2.54 ERA last season, proving his 2014 Rookie of the Year campaign was no fluke, while Harvey's 2.71 ERA helped him earn NL Comeback Player of the Years honors. Toss in Syndergaard's 3.24 ERA and the Mets accounted for three of the NL's top 14 ERAs among pitchers with at least 150 innings. As if that wasn't enough, Matz -- the club's top overall prospect -- went 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA in his six big league starts.

Matz on 2016 expectations

1. Cubs
Projected rotation: Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks
Projected combined WAR: 17.4

Last offseason, the Cubs handed out a six-year, $155 million contract to bring Lester to the Windy City. Though he turned in a respectable 3.34 ERA in his debut season, he ultimately and unexpectedly deferred the ace role on the staff to Arrieta. The 29-year-old righty, acquired in a 2013 trade with the Orioles, turned in the most dominant second half in Major League history en route to finishing with a 1.77 ERA and winning the NL Cy Young Award. As if that weren't enough, the Cubs further solidified the top of their rotation this offseason when they lured Lackey -- and his 2.77 ERA -- away from the rival Cardinals with a two-year, $32 million offer.

Ross on Lackey joining Cubs

Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.