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'Great' free-agent pitcher market is illusory

Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are poised to sign huge deals. Are they worth it? USA TODAY Sports

These are just some of the pitchers who could be available through free agency or trade in the next 13 months: Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, James Shields, Francisco Liriano, Cole Hamels, Ervin Santana, Edinson Volquez, Brett Anderson, Jason Hammel, David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija, Zack Greinke, Rick Porcello, Doug Fister, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Ian Kennedy, Hisashi Iwakuma, Justin Masterson, Jake Peavy and John Lackey.

Major League Baseball’s market has never seen so much attractive pitching available all at once, although executives throughout the sport are aware this shift is something of an optical illusion, created by the historic drop in run production in recent seasons.

As an example, Lester has a résumé filled with postseason excellence while pitching in the AL East: He dominated the playoffs in 2013, and followed that with his best statistical regular season in 2014.

But the lack of offense blurs the gap between Lester and the rest of this pack of pitchers.

Lester finished 12th this past season in xFIP, a metric which measures pitching independent of the defense.

But here’s the thing: Unless your name is Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Stephen Strasburg or Corey Kluber, there wasn’t a lot of separation from the pack.