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Finding starting pitching for the Mets, Part 3

Even with Marcus Stroman in the rotation, the Mets need more starters.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Oakland Athletics Kiel Maddox-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our series on starting pitchers who could help the Mets today with six more of them who are free agents. Even with Jacob deGrom, Marcus Storman, and David Peterson penciled in to the team’s Opening Day rotation and with Noah Syndergaard hopefully on track to return from Tommy John surgery sooner rather than later, the Mets need more starting pitchers.

The way we’re running down the list here is straightforward, with pitchers who are on the market sorted by their fWAR since the beginning of the 2019 season. It’s not a perfect ranking, but it serves its purpose for us. Part 1 included Charlie Morton, Trevor Bauer, Mike Minor, Jake Odorizzi, Masahiro Tanaka, and Stroman. Part 2 covered James Paxton, Jose Quintana, Rick Porcello, Adam Wainwright, and Jon Lester. And that brings us to the next six pitchers on the list.

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

The 36-year-old Anibal Sanchez looked like his best years were behind him in the 2015 through 2017 seasons, compiling a 5.67 ERA during that span with his 4.99 ERA in 2015 being his best single-season mark. But he surprisingly rebounded from those years with a 2.83 ERA in 136.2 innings with the Braves in 2018 and a 3.85 ERA in 166.0 innings with the Nationals in 2019.

This year, though, Sanchez struggled mightily again, as evidenced by his 6.62 ERA in 53.0 innings with the Nationals in Major Leauge Baseball’s 60-game season. Brooks Baseball had his average four-seam fastball at 89.84 miles per hour this year and his two-seam fastball at 90.03. Both were a slight drop from what he averaged in 2019 and a continuation of the trend that has seen his velocity decline gradually over the past several seasons. While the results from this year are nowhere near that sample size of his work from the previous two seasons, there would clearly be some risk in slotting him in to a spot in the team’s rotation to start the 2021 season.

Atlanta Braves Summer Workouts Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The star of Ted Berg’s excellent Embarrassing Photos of Cole Hamels, Cole Hamels is more than five years removed from his last appearance with the Phillies. Since then, he put together solid if unspectacular seasons for the Rangers and Cubs from 2016 through 2019—putting up a 3.74 ERA in total—before making just one appearance of three-and-one-third innings for the Braves this year because of injuries.

Set to turn 37 in late December, Hamels was placed on the 45-day injured list before the shortened season began this year, and when he was played on the 10-day injured list after his lone appearance, the Braves described it as fatigue in his throwing shoulder. Because of the injury situation, it would be too risky to slot him into the Mets’ starting rotation, but if Hamels is either facing a market that only offers an invitation to spring training or an incentive-based contract, he could make sense to bring in as potential depth.

Milwaukee Brewers v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Brett Anderson has not been an example of durability in his major league career, having thrown more than 150 innings in a season just three times: in his rookie season in 2009, in 2015, and in 2019. The 32-year-old lefty was pretty solid in that 2019 season, as he had a 3.89 ERA in 31 starts for the A’s, and he had a decent 4.21 ERA in ten starts for the Brewers in the 2020 season.

Given the lack of durability, the Mets couldn’t reasonably rely on him to make 30+ starts in 2021, but he could be a good addition to the back half of the team’s rotation, especially if there’s any concern about managing starting pitching workloads in 2021 as everyone is coming off a short season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wild Card Round - Chicago White Sox v Oakland Athletics - Game Three Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

At first glance, Mike Fiers seems like someone who could be a solid addition for the Mets, especially if you focus on his 3.73 ERA over the course of the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He averaged 178.1 innings per season in those two years, which he spent with the Tigers and A’s. And while his 4.58 ERA for the A’s this year wasn’t a dramatic increase from that level of performance, his velocity was down—with his fastball averaging about 88.5 miles per hour.

Whether or not that dip can be attributed to the unnatural way the 2020 season played out, with the original verison of spring training halted by the pandemic and a relatively short ramp-up before the regular season began, is something the Mets would have to try to figure out. At 35 years old, Fiers presumably isn’t looking at a long-term contract in any event, and he’s not that far removed from being a valuable member of a major league rotation. But like the other pitchers in this group, there would be some risk in the Mets seeing him as one of their top five starting pitchers come Opening Day.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony DeSclafani did not fare well in the shortened season, posting a 7.22 ERA for the Reds in 33.2 innings. His 2019 season was much better, as he had a 3.89 ERA in 166.2 innings over the course of 31 starts. Having missed the entire 2017 season because of a UCL sprain that did not require surgery, DeSclafani’s 3.28 ERA in 123.1 innings in 2016 was his best single-season mark, while his 4.93 ERA in 2018 was his worst in his four full seasons in the big leagues. In those four years, he averaged just above 147 innings pitched per year, and for what it’s worth, his velocity in 2020 was the highest of his career according to Brooks Baseball.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Martin Perez was most intriguing as a starting pitcher when the Twins moved him into their rotation in the middle of April last year. In the first eight starts he made for them, he had a 2.17 ERA, and in his first fourteen, he had a 3.79 ERA. And yes, these are all arbitrary endpoints, but from his fifteenth start through the end of the season, he put up a 6.25 ERA. In total, including his relief appearances, he finished that season with a 5.12 ERA.

Signed by the Red Sox last winter, the 29-year-old lefty had a 4.50 ERA in 62.0 innings in twelve starts with Boston in the short season this year. There have been glimpses of a good major league starting pitcher there over the past couple of seasons, but there would be a lot of uncertainty in planning for him to be one of the Mets’ top five starting pitchers.

The Mets should undoubtedly be aiming higher than this group when it comes to their Plan A for their rotation this winter. And between the other existing free agents and, presumably, upcoming non-tenders of good players by teams looking to cut costs, there should be plenty of options out there.

No pitcher in this group should really be given a promise of a rotation spot if he signs with the Mets, but each of the six has at least some potential to be useful in 2021. The Mets lack pitching depth in the upper minors, and it’s possible that Noah Syndergaard will need a bit more time to return or that David Peterson won’t quite live up to his promising rookie season. They could use additional depth.