New York Mets rotation has room for Kohei Arihara in 2021
The New York Mets need to continue to fortify their starting rotation, and Japanese right hander Kohei Arihara could be one of those pieces.
The New York Mets starting rotation was one of the team’s main weaknesses last year. Outside of Jacob deGrom, the Mets only received reliable performances from David Peterson. The other starting pitchers (Rick Porcello, Steven Matz, and Michael Wacha) failed to make up for the losses of Noah Syndergaard (lost due to injury) and Marcus Stroman (opted out of the 2020 season).
As Thanksgiving concluded, several international free agents were starting to get posted by their respected teams. For this article, I would like to focus on one international free agent who could be useful for the Mets. This player’s name is Kohei Arihara, who currently plays in Japan as a member of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
According to MLB.com, MLB teams will have 30 days starting from 8pm on Thanksgiving to negotiate with Arihara and his representatives on an MLB contract. If he fails to agree to terms with an MLB club, then he would stay in Japan, unable to be posted again until next year.
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As a starting pitcher, Arihara’s success in Japan indicates that he can contribute at the MLB level. Over the course of his six years in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league, Arihara pitched to a 3.65 ERA and a 1.1.95 WHIP. His best year was in 2019 when he compiled a 15-8 record, a 2.46 ERA, and a 0.919 WHIP.
The Mets, meanwhile, are still searching for rotation help.
Jacob deGrom will return to headline the rotation once again. David Peterson has likely earned a spot in the rotation following his showing during the 2020 season. Marcus Stroman accepted his qualifying offer. Noah Syndergaard will probably return sometime in 2021. The Mets rotation is beginning to look more promising, but the team could still use a backend starter or two.
Kohei Arihara could be that starter. What makes him the perfect candidate to fill that spot is while he does not overpower hitters like Syndergaard or deGrom, he has an extensive and varied arsenal of pitches that he deploys. This makes him a versatile pitcher who can get both left- and right-handed hitters out.
Apart from his fastball, Arihara mixes in four offspeed pitches, each specifically designed to be deployed depending on whether the batter is left- or right-handed. In Japan, Arihara has used sliders, cutters, changeups, and curveballs. With all of these offspeed pitches available to him, Arihara can match up with any batter in the league regardless of the circumstance.
In a league that relies on power pitching, Arihara is a departure from that. He will not throw 100 miles per hour on his fastball, but his adroit skill with so many different pitch types make him an unpredictable hitter that batters will struggle to adjust to. As a result, his market should be robust. According to the East Village Times, Arihara has already been linked to teams, such as the San Diego Padres, who are looking for rotation help.
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The Mets are one of those teams. Because of this, Kohei Arihara fills a position of need for the Mets and offers them a picture radically different than its top starters Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, and Noah Syndergaard. For the Mets to compete in the National League, patching up their rotation should be their highest priority. As a result, Kohei Arihara should be one of the top pitchers on the Mets wish list as 2020 draws to a close.