T.J. McFarland and Drew VerHagen
Coming off a 2021 season in which he threw 38-2/3 innings with a 2.56 ERA (154 ERA+), T.J. McFarland was brought in to be a solid middle-innings reliever. He wasn’t expected to close or even to handle particularly high-leverage situations, just keep games close and get them to the late-innings studs.
Well, in about 2/3 as many innings as he tossed last year, McFarland has surrendered nearly twice as many runs. It’s true, 24-1/3 innings is a small sample, but it’s also been an awful sample. he has allowed a woeful 35 hits, an acceptable eight walks, and struck out a weak 15 batters.
McFarland has ping-ponged among great, good, mediocre, and bad seasons, with 2022 being his worst to date. Would a serviceable reliever be of value to the Cardinals or any other team? Absolutely. Does McFarland fit that description at 33 years of age? Maybe, maybe not. With St. Louis fighting for first place in the National League Central and other arms pushing for innings, it may be time to bid adieu to McFarland.
Drew VerHagen was terrific for the Detroit Tigers…for 26-1/3 innings in 2015. Aside from his 2.05 ERA that season, his best MLB mark was 4.63 in 2018, and his worst was 7.11 in 2016, leading to a career ERA of 5.11 in the Motor City. Those performances resulted in him spending the 2020 and 2021 seasons in Japan.
Playing for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, VerHagen posted a 3.51 ERA over 207-2/3 innings with 215 strikeouts, 62 walks, and 181 hits allowed. Those are all solid numbers, but they’re also in NPB, which most consider somewhere between Triple-A and MLB, so they’re far from awe-inspiring.
St. Louis brought VerHagen back stateside with a two-years, $5.5M contract, and he’s performed about as well as previously in the majors. In 18-1/3 innings, he has a 4.91 ERA, 13 strikeouts, 10 walks, and 19 hits allowed. Put differently, he’s the same pitcher who rarely excelled in Detroit, only now he’s three years older. There are better options available, so saying sayonara to VerHagen is completely justifiable.
The Cardinals don’t have much flotsam on the roster, but casting aside Dickerson, McFarland, and VerHagen to allow more opportunities for other players – fellow bench/bullpen pieces, minor leaguers, or players acquired in trade – would help. And doing it sooner that later would help that much more.