The New York Mets are giving former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jerad Eickhoff another chance to return to the major leagues in 2021. Eickhoff’s pathway, though, is narrow at the outset.
The New York Mets may have their eyes set on big-name free agents such as George Springer and Trevor Bauer, but they are still seeking to build out their pitching depth as much as possible.
Their latest new pitching free agent signing is someone they are familiar with. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted that the Mets signed Jerad Eickhoff to a minor league contract. Eickhoff, who has pitched his entire major league career in the National League East, is most known for his stint with the Philadelphia Phillies where he served as an integral part of the Phillies’ starting rotation.
Eickhoff will have the opportunity to pitch his way back to the major leagues with the Mets. If he is able to make the major league roster, Eickhoff will earn a $1.25MM salary, and he could collect an additional $700,000 in incentives.
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Eickhoff’s pathway to the major leagues will not be an easy one. Not only do the Mets have a lot of pitchers on minor league deals, but Eickhoff is four years removed from his best season. In 2016 with the Philadelphia Phillies, Eickhoff compiled a 3.65 ERA/4.19 FIP and 7.62 K/9 over a career-high 197 ⅓ innings.
Eickhoff’s main issue is that he has been injury-plagued the past few seasons. In 2018, Eickhoff only threw 5 ⅓ innings from a variety of maladies. First, Eickhoff suffered a strained back muscle followed by a return of numbness in his fingers as a result of nerve damage, which was especially painful when he threw his curveball.
Eickhoff was eventually diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. Then, in 2019, he ended up on the injured list twice: He first suffered tendinitis in his right bicep, and then dealt with a laceration on his right middle finger.
When he was performing at his best, Eickhoff relied on four main pitches as a starter: a four-seam fastball, curveball, slider, and sinker. He profiled as a fly ball pitcher, mostly because his fastball had below-average velocity and couldn’t rely on it to strike out hitters. Apart from his fastball, Eickhoff’s curveball also induced many fly ball outs because of its sharp, downward curve attribute.
Eickhoff is several years away from his most productive season. As a result, he has a long, uphill battle to make the Mets roster. First, he has to show through his performance that he is completely healthy. Second, he has to prove that he can still throw quality pitches that can get hitters out.
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Eickhoff will get a chance to start his major league comeback during Spring Training. Even if he falls short of achieving his goal, his addition to the Mets group of former major league pitchers fighting to return to the league should make for an interesting competition to watch when Spring Training commences.