With the month of December underway, the Mets have yet to make a move at the major league level, but the team still need another starting pitcher if it wants to head into the 2020 season with a five-man rotation that can realistically contend for a spot in the postseason. This offseason hasn’t exactly been moving at breackneck speed, but a couple of options mentioned earlier in this series are off the board: Kyle Gibson signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Rangers, and Jake Odorizzi accepted the Twins’ qualifying offer. For the earlier installations of the series, here are parts one, two, and three.
The good news for the Mets is that the best pitchers on the market are still out there, giving them extra time to change their minds about how strictly they’ll operate relative to the competitive balance tax. Picking up where we left off at the end of part three, we have just two free agent starting pitchers left who fit the arbitrary criteria of having thrown 100 innings as a starter in 2019.
Rick Porcello, whose Cy Young award from 2016 would definitely be mentioned in an introductory press release, will turn 31 later this month. Regardless of your stance on whether Porcello or Justin Verlander should have won that award that year, Porcello did have a very good season, throwing 223.0 innings with a 3.15 ERA for the Red Sox. But that year is a significant outlier when compared to the rest of his career. In 569.0 innings since the start of the 2017 season, Porcello has a 4.79 ERA, and his 5.52 ERA in 2019 is the worst single-season mark of his career. His 4.76 FIP this year suggests that perhaps he was a bit better than that ERA, while his 6.06 DRA over at Baseball Prospectus suggests that he might have been even worse than that ERA. Whatever the case, Porcello has seemed like a very obvious fit, a pitcher who could check off the “we signed a fifth starter” box who did a good thing that one year.
And last but not least on the list with the original criteria, Jhoulys Chacin finished the 2019 season with a 6.07 ERA in 102.1 innings as a starter. He spent the vast majority of those innings with the Brewers and the rest with the Red Sox, generating poor results in both places. He’ll turn 32 in January, and this year was a major step down after he put together a cumulative 3.69 ERA across the 2017 and 2018 seasons, each of which saw him make at least 32 starts.
From there, we begin down the list with starting pitchers who are free agents but didn’t throw 100 innings in that role in 2019. Matt Moore put up a 0.00 ERA but only made two starts early in the season before knee surgery ended his year. An enticing pitcher earlier in the decade, Moore has struggled mightily in recent years. In 474.2 innings from the 2016 through 2018 seasons, he racked up a 5.20 ERA despite having spent a significant chunk of that time pitching for the Giants.
When healthy, Rich Hill was excellent for the Dodgers this year, as he had a 2.45 ERA with excellent strikeout and walk rates. But he only pitched 58.2 innings in the regular season, and he underwent primary revision surgery—an alternative to Tommy John surgery that addresses a UCL tear—and won’t be available until sometime in the middle of the 2020 season.
And for now, we’ll wrap up this part of this series with Gio Gonzalez, who went unsigned from the time he opted out of his minor league deal with the Yankees in spring training until late April. Partly because of that delay and more so because of injury, the 34-year-old Gonzalez only threw 81.0 innings as a starter in 2019, but he had a cromulent 3.78 ERA in them. Before this year, durability had been one of his biggest assets, as he averaged 31.4 starts and 187 innings per year from 2010 through 2018.