Tim beat me to the punch with his own Wandy article this morning, obviously, but I had a different way of framing my thoughts. Does it make sense for Wandy to go to free agency next year? Let's look at a simple comparison between Player A and Player B:
Player A: 26-22, 444 inn., 3.20 ERA, 7.4 K/9, 1.2 BB/9, 9.3 bbWAR, 13.7 fWAR
Player B: 25-24, 400 2/3 inn., 3.30 ERA, 8.3 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 7.3 bbWAR, 7.6 fWAR
Player A clearly has the edge in walks per nine innings, which translates to a lower FIP, which is why his fWAR is so much higher. Player B has less innings pitched, but a higher strikeout rate and about the same bbWAR. The walk numbers may have given it away, but Player A is Cliff Lee and Player B is Wandy Rodriguez.
Cliff Lee emerged as the free agent starter on the market last year at the same age Wandy will be heading into 2011. Their performance is similar enough that if Wandy has a big season, he could have the same kind of momentum and headline next year's free agent crop.
It may not happen like that. Wandy hasn't won a Cy Young and doesn't have the same profile that Lee did. But, if he has a slight uptick in his numbers this season, he's right there. That would put him in line for at least an 80-100 million dollar payday.
Look at the list of potential free agents after the season over at Cot's Baseball Contracts. The best of the bunch are Mark Buerhle, Roy Oswalt and Chris Carpenter. Oswalt and Carp both have options that will almost surely be picked up, while Buerhle will probably work out an extension this season to stay in Chicago. That leaves...Edwin Jackson? C.J. Wilson? If those three top guys eschew the market, Wandy will clearly be the best starter there. At the very least, he'll get a four or five year deal from someone worth 15 million or so.
But, can you concretely rule out the Nationals or Tigers making him a silly offer? What about the Twins, so flushed with cash? I'm not sure I'd give him 20 million a year if I were a GM, but there is a possibility of him getting paid handsomely. From Wandy's perspective, doesn't he have to at least feel that out before he commits to a long-term deal with Houston?