Leake signing could open floodgates

Righty inked by Cardinals, but many free-agent starters are available

Leake signing could open floodgates

The pitching dam has sprung a Leake. The free-agent flood might soon follow.

The Cardinals took care of an area of need Tuesday when they signed veteran right-hander Mike Leake to a five-year, $80 million deal. Leake was the latest in a strong class of free-agent starting pitchers who were locked up for big money.

"When an offseason is unfolding, different opportunities pop up," St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak said. "When this did, we decided it made a lot of sense for us. I do think it makes the St. Louis Cardinals stronger today than we were yesterday, and I'm excited about that."

Hot Stove Tracker

The Leake pact followed the more high-profile signings of David Price (Red Sox, seven years, $217 million), Zack Greinke (D-backs, six years, $206.5 million), Johnny Cueto (Giants, six years, $130 million), Jordan Zimmermann, (Tigers, five years, $110 million) and Jeff Samardzija (Giants, five years, $90 million) in a rare winter for available pitching talent.

But there are still many quality arms out there for the taking. Here are seven more who could sign soon.

Kenta Maeda: The Japanese star has been posted by his Hiroshima Toyo Carp club, which reportedly set the fee at $20 million to submit a bid for the services of the 27-year-old right-hander, who compiled a 2.09 ERA in 206 1/3 innings in Nippon Professional Baseball in 2015. The Dodgers lost Greinke to Arizona and backed off a deal with Hisashi Iwakuma because of results of a physical, so they figure to be interested in Maeda. Other suitors are keeping quiet, as a reported Jan. 8 deadline for Maeda bids looms.

Wei-Yin Chen: Chen is 30 years old and left-handed, has won 27 games for Baltimore over the last two seasons and pitched to a career-low 3.34 ERA in 2015. That should net him at least four years and big dollars, and the latest report has the Nationals very interested after losing Zimmermann to the Tigers. The Royals also could be in on Chen, since Kansas City is looking to strengthen a starting staff that has question marks, even for a World Series champion.

Scott Kazmir: MLB Network insider Jon Heyman wrote that Kazmir has a few three-year offers on the table, and that the Dodgers, Orioles, Royals and A's could be among the teams interested. It's possible that Kazmir is looking for a four-year deal to get the job done, but a 31-year-old left-hander who hits the mid-90s and pitched to a 3.10 ERA in the American League last year could very well get that, possibly for more than $50 million. Stay tuned.

Yovani Gallardo: The velocity isn't what it used to be for the righty, last seen pitching in the postseason for the Rangers, but Gallardo is still effective, with good ground-ball tendencies that contributed to a 3.42 ERA last season. He's also durable, with at least 180 innings logged in each of the last seven seasons. Kansas City has kicked the tires on Gallardo, according to multiple reports, but recent reports, including one by Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com, indicate that the Astros and Orioles are among the most interested.

Ian Kennedy: Kennedy is 31 and has more strikeouts (381) than innings pitched (369 1/3) over the last two seasons, which makes him an intriguing add for several teams looking to beef up rotations. The latest buzz has him being possibly pursued by the Marlins.

Doug Fister: Injury problems cut short his 2015 campaign for the Nationals and might have teams buying low on the 31-year-old righty with a short-term, incentive-heavy deal. But if Fister can return to form as the innings-eating, pitch-to-contact super-competitor that won 40 games from 2012-14, the club that signs him will be happy it did. The Phillies have been mentioned as a possible suitor.

Tim Lincecum: Here's the only two-time Cy Young Award-winning free agent who also happens to own three World Series rings. It's hard to know what teams might get out of Lincecum, who's recovering from September hip surgery and reportedly plans to put on a showcase for teams in January. Lincecum has notably lost quite a bit of zip on his fastball over the years, but a return to health might open some eyes. We'll all have to wait and see what the New Year brings for The Freak.

Other notable free-agent starters: Cliff Lee, Mat Latos, Justin Masterson, Jeremy Guthrie, Kyle Kendrick, Mike Minor, Alfredo Simon

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.