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Your team should pay for a pitcher now because next year's free agents stink

Spend money now, or trade prospects later.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Brett Anderson took the Dodgers' money. His choice was to take $15.8 million to pitch for one year, or possibly triple it on the open market. It was some serious Who Wants to Be a Millionaire stuff, but he took the money. The decision makes sense for several reasons. There's a lot of pitching available this offseason. Teams have traditionally been wary about giving up their draft picks to sign second-tier free agents. And he can hit the free agent market next year.

Focus on that last one. Because, good gravy, next year's free agent pitchers are disappointing.

Disappointing is probably a little mild. Pretend you're Caleb J. Rickenton, inventor of miniature kangaroos the size of watermelons. You're a newly minted billionaire. You just bought your favorite team but, ugh, they can't pitch. Let's put those billions to good work and buy some pitchers. Who's available? A power ranking:

1. Stephen Strasburg
Oh, he's an ace, alright. Probably. He comes with risks (Tommy John history, a lousy 2015 season, Scott Boras), but if you're going to pay for talent, it helps if the pitcher has talent. Strasburg has talent. He practically leaks talent. Uh, anyone want to get some rags and help us out with this talent? It's sort of getting everywhere.

But, yes, Strasburg has the potential to lead a rotation. Most definitely. Don't forget just how awe-inspiring he can be at his best.

2. C.J. Wilson
He used to be okay! He'll be 36, but I could see a team giving him a two- or three-year deal.

Wilson might be the second-best pitcher on the 2016-2017 free agent market.

3. Jered Weaver
Wait, he throws 83 miles per hour.

4. R.A. Dickey
Wait, he's 83 years old.

5. Andrew Cashner
So much untapped talent that doesn't have to show up just because you want it to. The Gil Meche of a new generation.

6. Jesse Chavez
Perfectly acceptable, for the most part, kind of.

7. Brett Anderson
Solid pitcher, but he just accepted the qualifying offer because he correctly figured that teams wouldn't want to give up a draft pick for him.

8. Ivan Nova
Power sinker when right, but he's been hurt or bad for two years now

9. Jake Peavy
The last time he threw more than six innings in a start was 2007. Hold on, I should look that up, but I'm pretty sure ...

10. Jorge De La Rosa
He's like the Jorge De La Rosa of pitchers.

Thus endeth the list of the top 10 pitchers available in next year's free agent market. There are wrinkles. James Shields could opt out of his deal with a half-decent year and clean up, even though he would be leaving a contract that was onerous enough to make sure he wasn't claimed on waivers in August. There are also pitchers with team options -- Clay Buchholz, Gio Gonzalez, Jason Hammel, Matt Moore, Kris Medlen, Edinson Volquez -- but if they're on the market, that means they're dented cans coming off extremely disappointing seasons.

Other than that, it's Scott Boras riding Stephen Strasburg into the sky like Falkor from Neverending Story. How excited are you, newly minted billionaire, to spend $70 million on Jesse Chavez? If he has a strong season next year, that's one of the only options you'll have.

Here's what we know about next year's offseason, and how it will be affected by the relatively poor free agent class:

You don't know which teams will need pitchers in 2016

The Nationals are in the market for starting pitchers right now. But they had all the starting pitchers! The Cardinals are in the market for starting pitchers right now. They also had all the starting pitchers! The Tigers were loaded with pitchers until they weren't.

So even though we can guess at the teams that might be in the market, we could look up next year and realize the Yankees, Dodgers, and Red Sox are all a starter or two short, which would probably ruin it for everyone else. If that happens, Strasburg will get a billion dollars, and Cashner might get a half-billion. Be warned.

Assume that everyone will need a pitcher

Maybe not the Mets, you say, and I agree in theory. But read the last header again. Maybe they will? Everyone probably will. Pitchers are jerks, and the only solution is to get more pitchers.

And if everyone needs a pitcher, there will be a feeding frenzy for those pitchers up there. A sad, regret-filled feeding frenzy. Except for the teams that have a loaded farm system, because ...

Trades will be the best way to get starting pitching next winter

Alternate header: Exchanging prospects for established players right now might have a consequence next offseason. The Red Sox were loaded before and after the Craig Kimbrel trade, but they still exchanged some of their vaunted depth for a closer. That might make it more difficult -- or more painful -- to trade for a starting pitcher if they need to.

Usually fans like to hug their team's prospects close because of the beautiful dream of them emerging from chrysalides and becoming All-Stars and Hall of Famers and statues outside of the ballpark. This offseason, though, there's another practical reason. Just about every team is going to want a starting pitcher a year from now, and if they don't have appealing trade chips, they're going to be considering that third year for R.A. Dickey.

Or, if you'd prefer to hug those prospects a little tighter ...

Might as well pay those suckers now, draft picks be damned

Yovani Gallardo doesn't seem like the kind of pitcher you want your team to spend a draft pick on. He's just so ... competent and generally reliable. Boring, even. There are about eight or nine superior options to him on the market right now, a few of whom wouldn't cost their new teams a draft pick. If a team is going to spend scores of millions on a pitcher, they usually don't want to ask, "I wonder if he'll be good enough to crack the postseason rotation" in year one.

And yet if Gallardo were a free agent next offseason, he might be the second-best starter on the market. Read that again and again and again. It's stunning.

So teams might as well do their holiday shopping in March, get it over with. Look for the players who shouldn't be too old to help in 2017, and pay them now as a way to hedge against the nuclear winter of 2016-2017. Stock up on canned pitcher, and hopefully the forecasts are overblown. But I wouldn't worry about draft picks too much. Next year seems like a great chance to hang onto them.

All of the above makes it completely stunning that Ian Kennedy rejected the Padres' qualifying offer. He had a chance to make All-Star money for a year and showcase himself in one of the best pitcher's parks in baseball. He could have jockeyed with the names up there instead of Zack Greinke, David Price, and Johnny Cueto this year. But Boras is apt to Boras, as the kids say.

You want pitching? Get it now. You think your team isn't going to need it next year? Eh, they probably will. It's a deep market, with a lot of possible permutations. That's a good thing, because next offseason is a pitching wasteland.