The Cardinals have released left-hander T.J. McFarland following last week’s DFA, as first indicated on their transactions log at MLB.com. He’s free to sign with any of the 29 other clubs and, so long as he’s in a new organization prior to Sept. 1, could be postseason-eligible with that new team.
Of course, the veteran McFarland would need to rediscover his 2021 form before even being considered for such a role with a new team. The 33-year-old was a rock-solid member of the Cardinals’ bullpen last year, racking up groundouts in droves (63.7%) while rarely issuing free passes (6.3%) or surrendering home runs (0.70 HR/9). Despite a paltry 14.6% strikeout rate, that blend of grounders and lack of walks/dingers resulted in a 2.56 ERA through 38 2/3 frames. Fielding-independent metrics weren’t as bullish but generally pegged the southpaw as a quality bullpen option (3.78 xERA, 3.79 FIP, 3.85 SIERA).
McFarland faced exactly one more batter with the Cardinals in 2022 (145) than he did in 2021 (144), but his return stint in St. Louis proved nightmarish in that near-identical sample. All of his rate stats trended in the wrong direction (11% strikeout rate, 7.6% walk rate, 53% grounder rate, 1.38 HR/9) — and so, too, did his results. In 32 2/3 innings, McFarland was rocked for a 6.61 ERA. Fewer strikeouts and grounders, paired with a considerable uptick in walks, long balls and general hard contact is hardly a recipe for success for any pitcher, after all.
That said, McFarland’s 88.9 mph average sinker in 2022 was pretty closely in line with his 89.2 mph average in 2021, and even his “diminished” walk and ground-ball rates are well better than the league average. The bottom-of-the-barrel strikeout rate is an obvious concern, but McFarland has never been one to miss bats (13.8% career strikeout rate) and nonetheless still carries a 4.13 ERA in 472 1/3 Major League frames.
If a new team can help McFarland get his sinker back on track and bump that grounder rate closer to the 63% mark he carried into the season, it’s possible he could get back on track and contribute some useful innings in the season’s final few weeks. The Cardinals are paying the remainder of this year’s $2.5MM salary regardless, so a new club would only need to pay McFarland the prorated league minimum for any time spent on the big league roster. At the very least, any contender looking for some lefty depth to stash in Triple-A could take a chance on stashing McFarland in the upper minors.