The Mets are still looking to add depth to their starting rotation, but prefer to ink a veteran to a minor-league deal, according to New York sources.
For instance, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen had interest in free agent Martin Perez before the Twins signed him to a one-year, $3.5 million deal, according to Fancred's Jon Heyman. And New York also had interest in Derek Holland, who earlier this month secured a one-year, $7 million deal to remain with the Giants.
Should the Mets still be in the hunt for a starting pitcher of this magnitude, here is a short list of five remaining free agents that should interest Van Wagenen and may be willing to accept a minor-league deal.
RHP Josh Tomlin
I've been hearing since December that Van Wagenen and his staff have been eyeing Tomlin, who struggled with a 6.14 ERA in 32 games (nine starts) last season with the Indians.
It's understandable that Tomlin, 34, would be a prime target given he can start, as well as pitch in relief. He has also said on record that he enjoyed his time in Cleveland working with Mickey Callaway. In 2017, Callaway's last season as pitching coach for the Indians, Tomlin made 26 starts and had a 4.11 xFIP.
RHP Francisco Liriano
Liriano, 35, has pitched 13 seasons for seven organizations, though none in the NL East. Like Tomlin, he has been mostly a starting pitcher during his career, while making 50 career relief appearances.
In 27 games (26 starts) for the Tigers last season, he was a depressing 5-12 with 5.11 FIP and 1.49 WHIP.
RHP Clay Buchholz
The Rangers, according to Heyman, have showed the most interest in him this winter. Buchholz, 34, lives in Texas, which is probably why it is assumed the two sides will eventually reach a deal.
In 16 starts last season, he had a sensational 2.01 ERA before ending his season early with a flexor strain. He did not need surgery, but for a pitcher that has often been injured during his career, it has clearly been a cause for concern considering he missed all of 2017 and additional time in 2015 with a tear of the same muscle.
RHP Edwin Jackson
Jackson spent the 2018 season with the A's, going 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 17 starts. His 1.6 WAR was his best since 2012 as well.
Jackson, 35, signed a minor-league deal with Oakland last season, tying an MLB record for teams played with in a career (13). He would break a tie with Octavio Dotel if he was to sign with the Mets.
RHP Yovani Gallardo
Gallardo, 32, is three years removed from his last good season, when he was 14-11 with a 3.42 ERA for the Rangers. Since, he has bounced between multiple teams, made trips to Triple-A and back, and struggled to find any sort of consistent performance.
According to reports, he would prefer to re-sign with the Rangers or a team that plays on the west coast.
What would I do?
Granted, none of the above are top-of-the-line options. But it's understandable why Van Wagenen wouldn't want to lock in to a pitcher like Gio Gonzalez, who I can understand not wanting to sign with the Mets. The reality is that Callaway's staff is pretty loaded, and the Mets need to give Jason Vargas a fair shot at remaining their fifth starter given he has one year remaining on his current deal that will pay him $8 million.
I.e., because Van Wagenen can't guarantee starts to a pitcher like Gonzalez -- because he isn't guaranteed starts -- Gonzalez shouldn't want to join the Mets.
This is why Van Wagenen is rumored to be wanting a pitcher willing to take a minor-league deal; this way, he can can at least temporarily stash him in Triple-A before needing to make a decision about the pitcher's status.
The way I see it, Liriano probably has the most upside. If Callaway and pitching coach Davie Eiland can get him to rely less on his sinker and throw more four-seam fastballs, change-ups and sliders, there is a chance he could be an effective pitch-to-contact guy and a reasonable option for the back of the rotation.
Tomlin's only saving grace is his history with Callaway. Last season, pretty much everything Tomlin threw was flat, over the plate and hit out of the ball park. His mix of pitches is fine; it's the lack of movement that is a concern. But if Callaway is confident he can get Tomlin back to where he was in 2017, he's well worth the inexpensive deal.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!