In their latest move to build pitching depth, the Mets have signed veteran right hander Jerad Eickhoff to a minor league deal. The 30-year-old will earn $1.25 million with up to $750,000 in incentives if he makes the major league roster.
Eickhoff was originally drafted by the Texas Rangers before being traded to the Phillies as part of the Cole Hamels deal in 2015. He debuted later that season and looked excellent, running a 2.65 ERA over 51 innings backed by a 3.25 FIP and an 85 DRA-. He followed that up with another great season in 2016, making 33 starts as part of the Phillies rotation and logging a 3.65 ERA over nearly 200 innings. His strikeout rate dipped a bit, but his peripherals remained strong otherwise and DRA- still rated him as a legitimate mid-rotation starter.
Unfortunately, things have only gone down hill from there. Eickhoff regressed across the board in 2017 as his velocity dipped, and he missed the tail-end of the season with numbness in his fingers. Those issues persisted in 2018, as he threw only 5.1 innings and saw multiple nerve specialists without any concrete diagnosis. Eickhoff managed to get back on the mound in 2019, but his performance was disastrous and he again missed the end of the season, this time with bicep tendinitis. Both the Padres and Rangers signed Eickhoff to minor league deals in 2020, but he didn’t make an appearance for either team.
At this point, Eickhoff is little more than a medium-upside lottery ticket. He’s several years and a litany of injuries removed from his last successful major league stint. At the same time, there’s no risk to this signing and a potentially useful pitcher here if Eickhoff has finally regained a modicum of health. This is the sort of signing good teams make to build upper minors pitching depth, something the Mets sorely need.