With spring training report dates and workouts quickly approaching, the Mets could still use at least one more starting pitcher. With Jacob deGrom at the top of the rotation and Carlos Carrasco, Marcus Stroman, and David Peterson following him, the rotation is already pretty strong. And the Mets do have reasonable options to fill the rotation in hand, as they have picked up Joey Lucchesi and Jordan Yamamoto in good depth moves. Noah Syndergaard is on track to return from Tommy John surgery sometime during the upcoming season, too.
The team would clearly be in a better position, though, if another good major league pitcher were added to the mix. The Mets made a serious play for Trevor Bauer, offering him just over $100 million for three years, but saw him sign with the Dodgers instead. Strictly on the baseball side of things, the team clearly thought that adding that pitcher would improve their roster.
And while none of the remaining pitchers in free agency won a Cy Young last year, the Mets would still be in great shape if they add more starting pitching. Adding one starter would push Peterson down to the fifth spot in the Opening Day rotation, and adding two would allow the Mets to start the year with Peterson, Lucchesi, and Yamamoto as rotation depth. All three have options remaining and could either start the year in the major league bullpen or a minor league rotation.
Free agency isn’t the only answer, as the Mets have demonstrated with their additions of Carrasco, Lucchesi, and Yamamoto by trade this offseason. But let’s take a look at the starting pitchers who are still available on the free agent market. Per MLB Trade Rumors, there are nineteen such players, and we’ll run down the list by ERA since the beginning of the 2019 season.
Taijuan Walker leads this group of pitchers with a 2.65 ERA over the past two seasons, albeit over the course of just a dozen total starts. Because he’s thrown just 54.1 innings, he’s been worth 1.4 bWAR. With a 4.50 FIP over that span, he’s been worth 0.6 fWAR. The 28-year-old right-handed pitcher has missed a lot of time due to injuries over the past few years and has topped out at 29 starts in a single season over the course of his career, but his performance is intriguing.
Rich Hill has a 2.68 ERA and 4.06 FIP since the start of the 2019 season. Like Walker, staying on the mound has been the biggest challenge, but he’s made 21 starts and thrown 97.1 innings. He’s been worth 1.9 bWAR and 1.6 fWAR, and we’ve touched on why the 41-year-old lefty would be a good fit for the Mets this year.
3.00 to 3.99
Matt Shoemaker has made just eleven starts with 57.1 innings pitched himself over the past two seasons,with a 3.14 ERA, 4.95 FIP, 1.8 bWAR, and 0.6 fWAR. The results were much better in his five starts in 2019 than his six starts in 2020.
With a 3.75 ERA, Jake Odorizzi comes next on the list. Despite having missed most of the 2020 season with injuries, he threw 172.2 innings over the past two seasons. He has a 3.58 FIP over that span and has been worth 3.4 bWAR and 4.2 fWAR.
35-year-old lefty Gio Gonzalez made more relief appearances than starts last year, and while he has a 3.86 ERA over the past two seasons, it’s worth noting he had a 3.50 ERA in 2019 and a 4.83 ERA last year.
At 37 years old, familiar foe Cole Hamels made just one start that lasted three-and-one-third innings last year. He was solid for the Cubs in 2019 with a 3.81 ERA and 4.09 FIP in 141.2 innings.
For a combination of solid performance and durability, 33-year-old lefty Brett Anderson put up a 3.96 ERA and 4.53 FIP over the past two seasons. It’s a little tough to see him being a great fit for the Mets, though, with his very low strikeout rate and the Mets’ defensive flaws in the field.
4.00 to 4.99
Jeff Samardzija had a decent season in 2019 but got rocked in four starts in 2020. In total, he had a 4.05 ERA and 4.96 FIP over 198.0 innings.
With a high strikeout rate and a 4.16 ERA and 3.92 FIP, James Paxton is next on the list. He’s one of the more intriguing names on the market because he had a track record of putting up good season after good season 2016 through 2019 with the Mariners and Yankees. Like many of his free agent peers, he dealt with injuries in 2020 and only made five starts with poor results.
Mike Leake, Homer Bailey, and Anibal Sanchez come next, with ERAs of 4.29, 4.52, and 4.52, respectively. Relative durability was a strength here, as all three made at least 32 starts and threw at least 171.1 innings, even with Leake not pitching in 2020 and Bailey making just two starts. Sanchez threw the most last year but struggled mightily with a 6.62 ERA.
And then comes Jake Arrieta, who has been linked to the Mets in rumors over the past few days. Over the course of 33 starts and 180.0 innings, he has a 4.75 ERA and 4.83 FIP over the past two years and hasn’t been anywhere near the pitcher he was at his peak with the Cubs a few years ago.
Arrieta is followed by Julio Teheran, whose cumulative 4.76 ERA is just a tick behind Arrieta. Coming off a solid season in which he had a 3.81 ERA in 33 starts in 2019 for the Braves, though, Teheran had a staggering 10.05 ERA and 8.62 FIP last year for the Angels.
The rest of the pack includes Tommy Milone (5.26 ERA), Trevor Cahill (5.44 ERA), Rick Porcello (5.55 ERA), Tyson Ross (6.11 ERA), and Zack Godley (6.49 ERA). Of that group, Porcello led the way with both 1.3 bWAR and 3.5 fWAR thanks largely to having thrown 233.1 innings. But the Mets should absolutely be aiming higher than any of these five pitchers.