The New York Mets landed a veteran, proven starting pitcher on Wednesday. Marcus Stroman, who sat out the 2020 season, accepted his qualifying offer to lock him in to the 2021 season with the Mets, but that doesn’t take New York out of the starter free agent market.
Jacob deGrom, if the season started today, would be followed by Stroman, David Peterson, Seth Lugo (probably) and Steven Matz. Noah Syndergaard is due to return from injury at some point in the 2021 campaign. Lugo’s status is uncertain, having proven himself a premier reliever. The Mets would ideally find a way to get Lugo back in the bullpen.
Kevin Gausman has taken his qualifying to remain with the San Francisco Giants, but plenty of experienced starting pitchers remain on the market. Trevor Bauer is the headline name, who flirted with Sandy Alderson on Twitter on Wednesday.
Armed with Steve Cohen’s millions, the Mets are a natural landing spot for Bauer. There will be a lot of competition for the former Cleveland starter, though, which could force the Mets to look elsewhere for value arms considering they have $62.1 million tied up to deGrom, Stroman and Syndergaard in 2021.
Here are three free agent starters the Mets should pursue this offseason.
It’s unclear whether Charlie Morton will pitch in a Major League game again. He didn’t chase the money when he was a free agent a couple of years’ ago, and he’s hinted at retirement this time round after the Rays declined their club option.
Shoulder inflammation forced Morton to the IL last season, a concern for any potential suitors. He’s just turned 37. It would be a surprise to see anything more than a one-year deal for the two-time All-Star, but he’ll be a popular option for teams looking to bolster their rotation. Morton remains one of the game’s best strikeout arms, though a dip in his fastball velocity in 2020 might concern some front offices.
The Mets can afford to outbid others for one year of Morton. If he’s open to playing in New York, Alderson should do all he can to bring in the former Pittsburgh Pirate. A deGrom, Syndergaard, Morton, Stroman postseason rotation would be formidable.
Ahead of last season, Mike Minor was in line for a nice deal this winter. Losing two mph off his fastball and pitching to a 5.56 ERA has done the veteran left-hander no favours – he’s unlikely to get more than a one-year pact.
An All-Star in 2019, some front offices might like the idea of a resurgent 2021 from Minor. He continued to strike batters out in 2020 despite the poor outcomes, and he’s among the most durable of the free agent starters.
MLB Trade Rumors picked the Angels as a landing spot for Minor. That makes plenty of sense for both parties, and keeps Minor in a division he enjoyed plenty of success in. A lot of teams will be in the market for Minor if he’s available on a one-year deal.
With the Mets short on starters, Minor’s ability to pitch quantity as much as quality will be useful. He’s got relief experience too, which could be handy once Syndergaard returns.
After a torrid few years, Drew Smyly enjoyed his best season in a long while with the Giants. San Francisco tied Smyly up to a one-year, $4 million deal last offseason, and the former Tigers southpaw was solid, posting a 3.42 ERA in 26.1 innings. It was the strikeout numbers that will have front offices excited this winter.
Injuries have plagued Smyly’s career, but he threw the ball harder than ever in 2020, sitting at 93.8mph with his four-seamer and recording a monstrous 50% whiff rate on his curveball.
A strikeout rate in the 97th percentile might not be an accurate representation of what is to come, yet Smyly’s bounceback year should intrigue the Mets. He won’t eat a lot of innings, but his versatility is useful.
Smyly would be underwhelming as the main starting pitching addition, but if they paired him with someone like Morton or Minor, he could be a great signing as a fifth starter or lefty reliever.