Analyzing the Mets' interest in free agent Jake Arrieta and looking at some potential alternatives

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Danny Abriano
·3 min read
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Jake Arrieta pitches for Phillies in front of black and white Citi Field TREATED ART
Jake Arrieta pitches for Phillies in front of black and white Citi Field TREATED ART

With Trevor Bauer choosing to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers despite the Mets making a bigger offer, New York is again looking for starting pitching help.

When the Mets traded Steven Matz to the Toronto Blue Jays, the thought was that it might be a precursor to a signing of Bauer or another starting pitcher. So who's left?

Before digging into the Mets' external options to fill out the rotation, let's look at what they have in-house...

As things currently stand, the Mets have three guarantees in the starting rotation: Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, and Marcus Stroman.

Beyond the three pitchers above are David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi, with Peterson deserving a leg up on the competition for the final spot in the rotation should the Mets add a fourth "guarantee" to go along with deGrom, Carrasco, and Stroman.

Then there's Noah Syndergaard, whose rehab from Tommy John surgery is progressing. Syndergaard could return around June 1 (or perhaps a bit earlier), which would be a huge boost for the rotation.

While the Mets should be optimistic about Syndergaard, they can't bank on him just yet. And adding another legitimate starter to the group already assembled would make tons of sense.

Per SNY's Andy Martino, the Mets are exploring the possibility of signing a starter, and are more interested in Jake Arrieta than James Paxton, Jake Odorizzi, or Taijuan Walker.

Frankly, the interest in Arrieta is perplexing.

Once one of the best pitchers in baseball, Arrieta -- now 34 years old -- has posted a 4.75 ERA (4.83 FIP) and 1.48 WHIP while allowing 200 hits in 180 innings for the Philadelphia Phillies between 2019 and 2020.

Arrieta's K/9 in 2020 dipped to 6.5 (it was 9.3 during his Cy Young season in 2015) and his advanced numbers were poor.

Out of 13 advanced stats tracked by Baseball Savant in 2020, Arrieta was average or better in only two of them (walk rate and the spin rate on his curveball).

In the other 11, including whiff percentage, xERA, xWOBA, and exit velocity allowed, Arrieta ranged anywhere from below average to among the worst in the league.

Arrieta could turn things around, but his metrics tell a story of a below average pitcher in clear decline.

It can be argued that the Mets would be better off going with Lucchesi or recently-acquired Jordan Yamamoto over Arrieta.

But a better play would be to try for Paxton, whose major issue has been health and whose upside remains tantalizing.

And if the Mets are reluctant to go beyond one year for any of the starting pitchers left on the market (both Odorizzi and Walker will almost certainly get multiyear deals), a play for Paxton makes even more sense.

Paxton, 32, was limited to just 20.1 innings for the Yankees in 2020 due to a left forearm injury. When he was in action, Paxton struggled, with a 6.64 ERA (4.37 FIP).

But Paxton has had a sub-4.00 ERA in every other one of his big league seasons, and has legitimate top of the rotation potential when on the mound.

His stuff can be electric, and he misses tons of bats. Paxton has a career K/9 rate just under 10, but he has averaged more than 11 strikeouts per season each year since 2018.

And while injuries have popped up often for Paxton, he tossed 160.1 innings in 2018 and 150.2 innings in 2019, with 2020 being the aberration so far.

There is a possibility that Paxton will again be bitten by the injury bug. But on what is likely to be a one-year deal, the Mets gambling on him would be worth it -- especially if the other option is Arrieta.

OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
NY Mets
+105--
Washington
-125--