Having officially announced that Billy Eppler is their new general manager, the Mets have a lot of work to do this offseason, especially when it comes to building out their starting rotation. While Noah Syndergaard would have been something of a question mark heading into the 2022 season, his departure left the Mets with a top five that consists of Jacob deGrom, Taijuan Walker, Carlos Carrasco, Tylor Megill, and David Peterson.
Even if we assume that all of deGrom’s injury woes from 2021 are behind him and that he continues to pitch like the best pitcher on the planet next year, the other four pitchers struggled in various ways this year. Walker’s 4.47 ERA was the best of the non-deGrom group, and while he and Carrasco figure to be handed spots in the rotation barring injury, Megill and Peterson both have options remaining. The Mets would be in a much better spot if they can push both of those two down to at least the sixth and seventh spots in their rotation depth chart.
With that, let’s begin the process of running down the list of free agent starting pitchers in descending order by fWAR in 2021. It’s not the ultimate metric in measuring pitcher performance, but it’s a simple way to organize things.
Max Scherzer (5.4 fWAR): Of all the free agent pitchers on the market, Scherzer is undoubtedly the best. Having split his season between time with the Nationals and the Dodgers, he could not have been given a qualifying offer at the beginning of the offseason, which means there’s no draft penalty for any new team that signs him. The 37-year-old had a 2.46 ERA and 2.97 FIP in 179.1 innings this year. Scherzer reportedly didn’t want to be traded to New York when he had a say in the matter ahead of the trade deadline. Maybe that remains true, but it would be surprising to see any free agent turn down the highest bid in free agency.
Carlos Rodón (4.9 fWAR): One of the best pitching prospects in baseball several years ago, Rodón was generally mediocre in terms of ERA over the course of his career until the 2021 season. This year, he threw 132.2 innings, his highest total since 2016, with a career-best 2.37 ERA and 2.65 FIP. The White Six did not extend a qualifying offer to him following that season, which is a win for any other interested team. Still just 28 years old, Rodón wouldn’t be the first lefty to break out at a slightly advanced age, but the track record of success isn’t all that long.
Kevin Gausman (4.8 fWAR): Like Rodón, Gausman was a highly-touted pitching prospect several years ago but had his best season in 2021. In his previous seasons, Gausman had been a bit more up and down, with single season ERAs ranging from 3.57 to 5.72. But this year, he racked up career bests with 192.0 innings, a 2.81 ERA, and a 3.00 FIP. He was ineligible for a qualifying offer, which makes the 30-year-old righty that much more appealing to any new team that might see his breakout season as representation of the pitcher that he will be moving forward.
Robbie Ray (3.9 fWAR): Unlike the three pitchers above, Ray received a qualifying offer by the Blue Jays, which he declined. With that, he would cost a new team compensation in the draft. The fact the Toronto gave him the offer isn’t too surprising, as he had a 2.84 ERA in 193.1 innings for them this year. And while that isn’t the first time he’s had a very good season, he had compiled a 4.53 ERA from 2018 through 2020. Ray declined the qualifying offer, making the 30-year-old lefty the third pitcher in a row on this list looking to capitalize on a great 2021 season.