New York Mets Sam McWilliams
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The New York Mets have made their first signing of the 2020 offseason — it’s career minor league pitcher Sam McWilliams.

The New York Mets have made their inaugural signing of the Steve Cohen era. No, it’s not the flashy big-name signing that you’d expect. Instead, it’s a career minor league pitcher with some untapped upside: Sam McWilliams.

McWilliams is just 25 years old, but he’s moved around a decent amount. Once an eighth-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies, McWilliams was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a package for Jeremy Hellickson. He’d be traded again a few years later to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of a package for Steven Souza Jr. The Royals selected McWilliams in the 2018 Rule 5 Draft but returned him to the Rays after a disappointing spring training.

McWilliams is a big guy. He stands at 6-foot-7 and weighs 230 pounds. Like many pitchers, that size on the mound helps his fastball play up — it’s become his best pitch and he relies on it heavily.

He used to sit at 91-94 miles per hour with his fastball, making it difficult to rely on it at the rate he does. However, according to a report from Rays Radio, McWilliams began throwing 96-98 miles per hour in 2020 spring training. That uptick in velocity will make him a much more dangerous pitcher. Not only is his fastball better, but it also helps his slider and changeup play up due to the velocity difference.

McWilliams has been a starter for the majority of his professional career. Nonetheless, his future lies in the bullpen. The Rays moved him to the pen in spring training in 2020, but he didn’t make the roster and COVID-19 halted him from being able to show off his newfound velocity in the minor leagues.

The Mets are likely baking on McWilliams’ upside. Is it possible they see a player similar to Dellin Betances?

Whatever their plan, the Mets clearly like McWilliams. They wouldn’t have given him a record-setting contract otherwise.

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