Stephen Tarpley is no stranger to New York, having broken through in 2018 with the crosstown Yankees. The left-hander was solid in his brief stint that year, allowing three earned runs over nine innings pitched and finishing with a 0.2 bWAR after ten appearances. He earned a spot on the team’s postseason roster, where he gave up three earned runs in his lone inning of work in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Red Sox.
He has yet to match the results from his 2018 season. The reliever was drafted in the eighth round of the 2011 MLB Draft before opting to return to college, and he was later picked in the third round of the 2013 draft by the Orioles. He bounced around from Baltimore to Pittsburgh, and after a couple of years in the Pirates’ organization, he found himself in The Bronx after becoming the player to be named later in the Ivan Nova deal. That’s where he finally got his shot in the big leagues.
Following his first go-around, Tarpley declined in 2019 to the tune of a 6.93 ERA, 5.69 FIP, 1.99 WHIP, and -0.5 bWAR in 24.1 innings. Despite recording his first career save and his first career win during that season, he was eventually designated for assignment by the Yankees. The Marlins swooped in and acquired him in a trade for James Nelson, which brought him into the National League East.
Tarpley’s numbers for 2020 were bad, as he finished with a 9.00 ERA, 6.55 FIP, 1.73 WHIP, and his second straight season with -0.5 bWAR. However, those numbers were mostly hurt by two bad outings towards the end of the season, one of which came against the Mets. After allowing a run in his first appearance of the season, he allowed just one earned run over his next seven outings and entered his August 18 appearance at Citi Field with a 2.45 ERA. The Mets then pounded the 27-year-old to the tune of four earned runs over two-third of an inning, with three of those runs being allowed by Brad Boxberger after Tarpley exited.
Tarpley bounced back three days later, striking out four batters while logging 1.2 scoreless innings against the Nationals. It was at this point that he suffered a right oblique strain that put him on the shelf for 33 days. He returned with a scoreless inning against the Braves, which lowered his ERA to 5.06, but a five-run implosion in one-third of an inning against the Yankees brought his final number for the season to an unsightly 9.00.
Tarpley found his way to Flushing when the Mets picked him up off waivers from Miami on January 8, five days after the Marlins designated the pitcher for assignment. The 28-year-old still has some minor league options available, so he will really have to wow the Mets in order to find his way onto the 26-man Opening Day roster. He will likely start the year in Triple-A Syracuse and serve as potential bullpen depth in case of injury.
With Aaron Loup as the lone left-hander who has a guaranteed bullpen spot, Tarpley will likely be battling with Daniel Zamora, since they are the only other two lefties on the 40-man roster. With Joey Lucchesi potentially finding his way to the pen following the Taijuan Walker signing, and Jerry Blevins in camp as a non-roster invitee, that could further diminish Tarpley’s chance to make the team out of spring training. Regardless, there’s nothing wrong with bringing in some depth, and Tarpley is someone with major league experience who could find a role on the team at some point during the 2021 season.