As they report: The top 20 offseason pitching pickups

You need only check out the pitching staff of every contender to identify the No. 1 trend of the offseason. From Philadelphia to Seattle, from Boston to L.A., the rich got richer in the pitching department.

On the first official day of spring training workouts for pitchers and catchers, here are the top 20 offseason pitching acquisitions:

Roy Halladay joins the NL's best team.
Roy Halladay joins the NL’s best team.

1. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies. One of the game’s best starters ended up in an ideal spot: on the National League’s best team, which just so happens to train near his offseason home.

2. Cliff Lee, SP, Mariners. Admittedly shaken when traded by Philadelphia, Lee could have landed in far worse situations than behind one of the game’s best starters, Felix Hernandez, on the fastest-rising team in the game.

3. John Lackey, SP, Red Sox. His Angels managed to beat the Red Sox only once in the playoffs, so why not join them? Lackey’s arrival gives Boston the American League’s best rotation.

4. Billy Wagner, SP, Braves. With 26 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings after his return from Tommy John surgery last season, Wagner convinced Atlanta he has plenty left at age 38.

5. Javier Vazquez, SP, Yankees. Talk about sweet landings: Vazquez went from fourth in NL Cy Young voting to No. 4 in the World Series champions’ rotation.

6. Randy Wolf, SP, Brewers. The Brewers won 80 games with the majors’ worst rotation last season. They gave Wolf a three-year, $29.75 million deal to lead the turnaround.

7. Jose Valverde, RP, Tigers. His mistake in turning down the Astros’ arbitration offer might have cost him millions, but the Tigers were happy to take advantage. Valverde should be an upgrade over last year’s closer, Fernando Rodney.

8. Joel Pineiro, SP, Angels. Don’t think adding a No. 3 starter is a big deal? Consider: If Pineiro had ended up someplace else — such as Seattle — would the Angels still be favorites in the AL West?

9. Rafael Soriano, RP, Rays. For the first time since early 2008, manager Joe Maddon won’t have to rely on a closer-by-committee, or closer-by-matchups as the manager says. That is, if Soriano can be more consistent than he was with the Braves last season.

Can Rich Harden stay healthy in Texas?
Can Rich Harden stay healthy in Texas?

10. Rich Harden, SP, Rangers. His stuff is undeniably better than previous No. 1 Kevin Millwood’s. But with Harden, the question is always about health. Maybe Nolan Ryan’s get-tough plan with his starters will work for Harden. If it does, the Rangers will have their best rotation in a long time.

11. Brad Penny, SP, Cardinals. The Oklahoman says he always has wanted to pitch for the Cardinals. Manager Tony La Russa says he always has wanted Penny on his side. Now they have each other. Time for pitching coach Dave Duncan to work his magic. "I’m excited to be part of this," Penny says. "I’ve heard how hard these guys work. I’m definitely going to learn from them. And we’ve got a great catcher (Yadier Molina) and he will also make it a lot of fun for me."

12. Edwin Jackson, SP, Diamondbacks. If Jackson pitches like he did in the first half of ’09 (2.52 ERA), Arizona will have the division’s top rotation from 1-3. Of course, the D-backs also need a healthy Brandon Webb to make that happen.

13. Ben Sheets, SP, Athletics. Giving $10 million to a guy who missed all of last season seems a bit excessive for such a fiscally responsible club. But if Sheets is right, the A’s could be one of the season’s surprise teams.

14. Max Scherzer, SP, Tigers. A win-win for Detroit: Many scouts like Scherzer more than the hard-throwing righthander for whom he was traded (Jackson). The bonus: Scherzer’s salary is much smaller.

15. Aroldis Chapman, SP, Reds. The lefthanded phenom won’t turn the Reds into contenders overnight, but Chapman might be ready sooner than many think. "Based on the pressure he’s already faced and the power arm he has, he should be more equipped to break into the big leagues even if he’s not completely culturalized," teammate Bronson Arroyo says. "You have more pressure pitching for the national team in Cuba than probably any team in the world. (On) no other team does the dictator of the country bring you in when you’re an 18-year-old kid and say, ‘Don’t let our country down.’ You know if you mess up too bad, you might not eat or your family might not eat."

The Nats signed Jason Marquis to be an innings eater.
The Nats signed Jason Marquis to be an innings eater.

16. Kevin Millwood, SP, Orioles. His new club believes his experience from pitching in hitter-friendly Texas makes him the right guy to put atop its up-and-coming rotation. The Red Sox and Yankees could have something to say about that.

17. Brandon Lyon, RP, Astros. No reliever signed for more ($15 million) than the righthander. No wonder the Astros are saying the cyst drained from Lyon’s shoulder last month was no big deal.

18. Darren Oliver, RP, Rangers. The Angels’ loss is the Rangers’ gain. Texas, in fact, arguably has a deeper bullpen than L.A. now.

19. Jason Marquis, SP, Nationals. The 2009 All-Star will eat innings and make the wait for Stephen Strasburg a little less painful for Nationals fans.

20. John Smoltz, SP/RP, TBD. Whoever signs the 42-year-old righthander will be getting a big-game pitcher who can start or close. Another future Hall of Famer, Pedro Martinez, also remains available.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

You need only check out the pitching staff of every contender to identify the No. 1 trend of the offseason. From Philadelphia to Seattle, from Boston to L.A., the rich got richer in the pitching department.

On the first official day of spring training workouts for pitchers and catchers, here are the top 20 offseason pitching acquisitions:

Roy Halladay joins the NL's best team.
Roy Halladay joins the NL’s best team.

1. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies. One of the game’s best starters ended up in an ideal spot: on the National League’s best team, which just so happens to train near his offseason home.

2. Cliff Lee, SP, Mariners. Admittedly shaken when traded by Philadelphia, Lee could have landed in far worse situations than behind one of the game’s best starters, Felix Hernandez, on the fastest-rising team in the game.

3. John Lackey, SP, Red Sox. His Angels managed to beat the Red Sox only once in the playoffs, so why not join them? Lackey’s arrival gives Boston the American League’s best rotation.

4. Billy Wagner, SP, Braves. With 26 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings after his return from Tommy John surgery last season, Wagner convinced Atlanta he has plenty left at age 38.

5. Javier Vazquez, SP, Yankees. Talk about sweet landings: Vazquez went from fourth in NL Cy Young voting to No. 4 in the World Series champions’ rotation.

6. Randy Wolf, SP, Brewers. The Brewers won 80 games with the majors’ worst rotation last season. They gave Wolf a three-year, $29.75 million deal to lead the turnaround.

7. Jose Valverde, RP, Tigers. His mistake in turning down the Astros’ arbitration offer might have cost him millions, but the Tigers were happy to take advantage. Valverde should be an upgrade over last year’s closer, Fernando Rodney.

8. Joel Pineiro, SP, Angels. Don’t think adding a No. 3 starter is a big deal? Consider: If Pineiro had ended up someplace else — such as Seattle — would the Angels still be favorites in the AL West?

9. Rafael Soriano, RP, Rays. For the first time since early 2008, manager Joe Maddon won’t have to rely on a closer-by-committee, or closer-by-matchups as the manager says. That is, if Soriano can be more consistent than he was with the Braves last season.

Can Rich Harden stay healthy in Texas?
Can Rich Harden stay healthy in Texas?

10. Rich Harden, SP, Rangers. His stuff is undeniably better than previous No. 1 Kevin Millwood’s. But with Harden, the question is always about health. Maybe Nolan Ryan’s get-tough plan with his starters will work for Harden. If it does, the Rangers will have their best rotation in a long time.

11. Brad Penny, SP, Cardinals. The Oklahoman says he always has wanted to pitch for the Cardinals. Manager Tony La Russa says he always has wanted Penny on his side. Now they have each other. Time for pitching coach Dave Duncan to work his magic. "I’m excited to be part of this," Penny says. "I’ve heard how hard these guys work. I’m definitely going to learn from them. And we’ve got a great catcher (Yadier Molina) and he will also make it a lot of fun for me."

12. Edwin Jackson, SP, Diamondbacks. If Jackson pitches like he did in the first half of ’09 (2.52 ERA), Arizona will have the division’s top rotation from 1-3. Of course, the D-backs also need a healthy Brandon Webb to make that happen.

13. Ben Sheets, SP, Athletics. Giving $10 million to a guy who missed all of last season seems a bit excessive for such a fiscally responsible club. But if Sheets is right, the A’s could be one of the season’s surprise teams.

14. Max Scherzer, SP, Tigers. A win-win for Detroit: Many scouts like Scherzer more than the hard-throwing righthander for whom he was traded (Jackson). The bonus: Scherzer’s salary is much smaller.

15. Aroldis Chapman, SP, Reds. The lefthanded phenom won’t turn the Reds into contenders overnight, but Chapman might be ready sooner than many think. "Based on the pressure he’s already faced and the power arm he has, he should be more equipped to break into the big leagues even if he’s not completely culturalized," teammate Bronson Arroyo says. "You have more pressure pitching for the national team in Cuba than probably any team in the world. (On) no other team does the dictator of the country bring you in when you’re an 18-year-old kid and say, ‘Don’t let our country down.’ You know if you mess up too bad, you might not eat or your family might not eat."

The Nats signed Jason Marquis to be an innings eater.
The Nats signed Jason Marquis to be an innings eater.

16. Kevin Millwood, SP, Orioles. His new club believes his experience from pitching in hitter-friendly Texas makes him the right guy to put atop its up-and-coming rotation. The Red Sox and Yankees could have something to say about that.

17. Brandon Lyon, RP, Astros. No reliever signed for more ($15 million) than the righthander. No wonder the Astros are saying the cyst drained from Lyon’s shoulder last month was no big deal.

18. Darren Oliver, RP, Rangers. The Angels’ loss is the Rangers’ gain. Texas, in fact, arguably has a deeper bullpen than L.A. now.

19. Jason Marquis, SP, Nationals. The 2009 All-Star will eat innings and make the wait for Stephen Strasburg a little less painful for Nationals fans.

20. John Smoltz, SP/RP, TBD. Whoever signs the 42-year-old righthander will be getting a big-game pitcher who can start or close. Another future Hall of Famer, Pedro Martinez, also remains available.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

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