Forgotten former Mets player is a trade target to expect if the team buys lightly

Briefly a member of the Mets in 2020, Hunter Strickland is a reasonable trade deadline target for a Mets team that might not buy heavily.
Los Angeles Angels v San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Angels v San Francisco Giants / Eakin Howard/GettyImages

The 2020 New York Mets are easy to forget about. Brian Dozier. Billy Hamilton. Robinson Chirinos. All of them were members of the team at some point. Long forgotten are many of those players who appeared in one shortened season for the Mets in what ended up as a spring to the finish line rather than the marathon we’re used to.

One of those forgotten Mets is Hunter Strickland. Appearing in just 3.1 innings, the 3 earned runs he allowed made him easy to dismiss. Once one of the better relievers out of the San Francisco Giants bullpen, Strickland has had the kind of career you’d expect from a relief pitcher. It’s up. It’s down. At 35, it’s the former.

As the world all gathers their eyes to see what it is the Los Angeles Angels want for their closer Carlos Estevez, a more practical trade deadline target for the Mets is his teammate, Strickland.

Why the Mets should trade for Hunter Strickland

A 2-1 record and 3.76 ERA in 38.1 innings of work is good. A 3.68 FIP suggests he’s neither lucky or unlucky. He just is what he is—whatever that may be.

Strickland has been able to find the strike zone consistently this year. Walking batters at a rate of 2.1 per 9 albeit with a low strikeout rate of 7.3 per 9, he’d be a different kind of reliever out of a Mets bullpen inconsistently throwing strikes.

Hitters haven’t even done well against him when they do make contact. His 6.8 hits per 9 is surprisingly strong and it has helped give him a 0.99 WHIP on the year.

Strickland has kept the line drives to a minimum at just 19.6%. Only a .203/.255/.357 slash line against him, Strickland’s ERA is mostly the result of a couple of bad June outings. It actually reached a low of 1.73 heading into a game against the Houston Astros on June 7th before they scored 3 earned against him in 0.2 innings. They’d tag him for 2 more earned two days later. On June 13th, he gave up 3 more earned runs to the Arizona Diamondbacks without allowing an out.  Then came a beat down by the San Francisco Giants with 3 more earned runs in less than an inning of work.

The ERA ballooned to 4.75 but has since dropped a full run as he hasn’t allowed a run since. In fact, Strickland hasn’t allowed a hit in any of his last six appearances with 2 walks and 8 strikeouts in those games.

Strickland is a name David Stearns knows. He was purchased by the Milwaukee Brewers in mid-2021 from the Tampa Bay Rays. In 36.1 innings he had a 1.73 ERA.

Why the Mets shouldn’t trade for Hunter Strickland

Here’s the problem the Mets run into. Is Strickland really any more of an upgrade over someone like Adam Ottavino or an optional reliever? Strickland won’t cost them much at all in a trade. He is having a good year but he’s not worth a top 30 prospect. 

The Mets don’t have much room for a non-optional reliever on the staff. Leaving at least one space for a guy to be optioned is necessary. They’ve opened this possibility up in recent weeks, but need to avoid trapping themselves with nothing but non-optional choices. Strickland would take up a spot better utilized on a player of Estevez’s caliber.

Between now and the trade deadline, the Mets will have to make some tough choices. Strickland’s low salary won’t have the Angels gifting him on waivers after the deadline so any hopes of snagging him that way is moot. Strickland is more proven than players like Ty Adcock and would fit nicely as some veteran depth in a bullpen with a lot of question marks.

It’s a reasonable expectation for the Mets to add one or two bullpen arms at the most this summer. Will they shop amongst the group like Strickland or satisfy us more by going after someone like Estevez?