Cleveland Guardians Target #2: T.J. McFarland – Relief Pitcher
Likely the largest area of concern heading into the offseason is going to be Cleveland’s bullpen. Fortunately the team has their closer of the future figured out with the emergence of Rookie of the Year candidate Emmanuel Clase and his ridiculous 100+ MPH Cutters. Nick Wittgren suffered some regression this season, and James Karinchak fell off the face of the Earth, earning a one-way bus ticket back to Columbus to finish out the season. As big of a defender as I’ve been of Bryan Shaw during his time in Cleveland, it’s definitely time to let this ship sail as well.
The other thing Cleveland is nearly entirely devoid of is left-handed pitching out of the bullpen. Sam Hentges and Logan Allen are the only lefties with extended time at the big league level in 2021. So where do the Guardians look to add an affordable lefty with a solid track record? The answer here is current St. Louis Cardinal T.J. McFarland.
McFarland, 32, is in his ninth year in the league and has been an excellent option out of the bullpen for the Cardinals this year. In 38 appearances this season McFarland, the former Cleveland draft pick, has logged a 4-1 record, and a 2.41 ERA in 37.1 IP. He’s a pitch-to-contact sinker-baller with a Sinker/Slider/Changeup pitch mix that has resulted in a 63.4% ground ball rate in 2021.
Over the course of his career, McFarland is 24-15 with a career 3.94 ERA with mixed results from year-to-year, but put into a bullpen that would use him properly as the Cardinals have in 2021, this matchup dependent lefty could be a respectable add for the Guardians. Currently on a one-year $1M deal as well, McFarland definitely won’t be the most expensive free agent arm on the market this coming offseason. Another similar deal and mutual interest could bring him to the shores of Lake Erie.