Though this may have been unthinkable just a year ago, it's undeniable that the Mets are in desperate need of starting pitching. Their 5.14 ERA ranked 27th in baseball and going into 2018, and only Jacob deGrom (and Noah Syndergaard, if healthy) can be reasonably counted on to be major contributors.
The Mets need to improve the rotation fast, and the best way to do that is with a big fish. This offseason, the biggest fish out there is Yu Darvish and if the Mets are serious about contending in 2018, they should have every intention of bringing him to Queens.
Darvish is coming off a solid season, his first full year since he underwent Tommy John in spring of 2015. He brought the same nearly unhittable stuff that has been his hallmark throughout his career, putting up a strikeout ratio of over 10 batters per 9 innings, a mark he has hit every year in the majors. And while control has sometimes been a challenge for him, his walk ratio was well below his career average. He did experience an uptick in home runs allowed, but it was proportionate to the MLB norm in this power-heavy year and certainly not enough to be considered a red flag.
Entering his age 31 season, Darvish is most likely at or just past his peak, but the reality of the market is that younger pitchers are very difficult to come by, especially good ones. Just a handful of starting pitchers under 30 will be available this offseason and none of note. Taking on the risk of a pitcher in his thirties is just part of the game these days and any team upgrading their rotation will have to accept that.
Health-wise, Darvish has shown himself to be largely durable and his performance post-surgery has been strong. His 3.70 ERA since Tommy John is an increase from the 3.27 he put up prior, but comparing his ERA+ before and after, which is adjusted to account for the league-wide spike in offense, shows that they are quite close. And while he put a fair amount of mileage on his arm during the first phase of his career in Japan, his inning totals were not unusually high, which is often a concern with some Japanese pitchers. He can be relied upon for a solid 30 starts per year and brings no excess injury risk compared to most starters his age.
The sticking point for the Mets will be his contract and with the way the team has approached free agent signings in recent years, it will probably be the breaking point too. Even a mediocre postseason showing (though that may change with a gem tonight) will not drive down a price tag that will easily reach nine figures and will likely be at least six years.
The length of the contract alone will be off-putting to Sandy Alderson, who has yet to sign a free agent to a contract longer than four years. The math behind this approach isn't exactly wrong -- the back ends of these deals are almost always frustrating and burdensome. But the Mets have strong pieces coming together, two potentially front-line starters, and $60 million coming off the books. A Darvish signing would instantly put the team in a position for a division run and send the message that they are all-in for 2018, and beyond.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring