With the Mets having landed Max Scherzer on a three-year deal, the team has made its biggest splash in the free agent pitching market in a very long time. The move is a significant departure from the team’s strategies in offseasons past, which generally revolved around hoping all of the in-house options were healthy and bringing in some unexciting arms as depth.
To be fair, the Mets did more than that last winter, bringing in Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker, Joey Lucchesi, and Jordan Yamamoto, among others. Things did not work out well for the rotation in the season that followed, but there’s no question that the Mets tried to build actual starting pitching depth.
Considering all of that, the Mets seem to have acknowledged that their approach to starting pitching had to change from what it had been before Steve Cohen took over as the team’s owner. And even with Scherzer in the fold, the rotation could use at least on more pitcher. So let’s continue down the list of free agents by their 2021 fWAR. For previous installments, check out parts one, two, and three.
Matt Harvey (1.9 fWAR): Harvey is the first pitcher in the series to highlight where fWAR can go wrong. Objectively, Harvey was bad in the 2021 season, as he finished with a 6.27 ERA with the Orioles. His much lower 4.60 FIP, combined with his 127.2 innings of work, are responsible for that fWAR figure. Early in the season, Harvey was doing a better job of re-establishing his status as a major league starting pitcher. But it would be a stretch to expect that he’ll improve significantly moving forward.
Rich Hill (1.7 fWAR): A familiar face after spending the post-deadline portion of the 2021 season with the Mets, Hill had a very respectable season, finishing with a 3.86 ERA in 158.2 innings of work. That was the 41-year-old lefty’s highest major league innings total since 2007. He could be a good fit for the Mets in 2022, as he could give them better innings than several of the team’s existing internal options. Even if he didn’t come close to matching his workload from this year, he could still be a useful piece in his age-42 season.
Danny Duffy (1.6 fWAR): The 2021 season was Duffy’s eleventh with the Royals, and he put together a great start to the season with a 2.51 ERA in 61.0 innings. Unfortunately, a flexor strain wound up putting a very early end to his season, and he did not pitch for the Dodgers after the Royals traded him there ahead of the deadline. If he’s healthy enough to pitch in spring training and at the start of the season, he could be an intriguing addition, albeit one who carries plenty of risk.
Johnny Cueto (1.5 fWAR): Cueto isn’t the pitcher the he was in his time with the Reds or early in the six-year deal that he signed with the Giants ahead of the 2016 season. But he did finish the 2021 season with a 4.08 ERA in 114.2 innings, an improvement upon his numbers from the previous two seasons.
Michael Pineda (1.4 fWAR): Corey Kluber would have appeared between Cueto and Pineda on this list, but he signed a deal with the Rays the other day. Pineda, though, put together a solid 3.62 ERA in 109.1 innings with the Twins this year. He wasn’t all that durable in three seasons with the Twins, but he pitched decently enough when healthy. Pineda was wildly overrated in his early days with the Yankees, and he has a 60-game suspension for PEDs under his belt. But he could help a major league rotation.
Zack Greinke (1.3 fWAR): The 38-year-old Greinke accumulated a 4.12 ERA between the 2020 and 2021 seasons. His most recent very good season came in 2019, when he finished with a 2.93 ERA in a season he spent with the Diamondbacks and Astros. Greinke was very successful without having thrown all that hard by modern standards for years, but it dipped from averages around 92 miles per hour in 2016 to 90 miles per hour in 2017 and 89 miles per hour since the 2018 season. That didn’t slow him down all that much initially, but his strikeout rate plummeted to 17.2 percent in 2021, down from rates in the mid-20s in each of the previous four seasons. Still, his ERA this year was better than the ERAs of Taijuan Walker, Tylor Megill, David Peterson, and Carlos Carrasco, all of whom are in the mix for spots in the Mets’ Opening Day rotation as of right now.