With names like Andrew Cashner, Rich Hill, Jon Niese, Jeremy Hellickson and Michael Pineda circulating as potential trade bait on or before the trade deadline, the Mets would be best served by bolstering their bullpen rather than seeking a starting pitcher to replace innings lost due to Matt Harvey’s season-ending surgery. The current Bartolo Colon, Logan Verrett, Jacob deGrom, Stephen Matz and Noah Syndergaard rotation wouldn’t see any real improvement with a realistic trade target who offers little upside to Logan Verrett.
In fact, of the names circulating right now, Andrew Cashner likely has the most upside, assuming he can stay healthy, despite a 4-7 record, 5.05 ERA and 1.48 WHIP, to go with a K:BB ratio of 53:27 in 67 2/3 innings this season. That said, rumors have Cashner, who may be in need of a change of scenery, potentially landing with the Rangers or Marlins.
Admittedly, while the Mets’ starting staff has little room for further injuries (and are already dealing with Matz and Syndergaard on close watch due to bone spurs), Zack Wheeler has reportedly been throwing bullpen sessions down in Port St. Lucie and, while a formal schedule hasn’t yet been announced for his further rehab, we may see him back with the team in mid-to-late August.
Additionally, Gabriel Ynoa (Triple-A Las Vegas: 9-4, 4.09 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 116 2/3 IP) could be a potential rotation replacement in the event of another injury or rotation turn skip for Matz or Syndergaard despite carrying a poor K:BB ratio in 116 2/3 innings at Las Vegas (59:32). Using minor league trade chips to pick up arms for the pen (similar to last season and utilizing the game plan developed by the Kansas City Royals over the past few seasons) as a means to bridge the gap from starters to Reed/Familia should be the focus of the Mets’ front office when it comes to pitching help.
Potential targets could include LHP Ryan Buchter on San Diego (entering July 20th: 41 IP, 2.41 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 57:21 K:BB); RHP Brad Boxberger on Tampa Bay due off the DL in late July; RHP Jeremy Jeffress on Milwaukee (entering July 20th: 39 1/3 IP, 2.29 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 29:10 K:BB); old friend RHP Tyler Clippard on Arizona (entering July 20th: 35 2/3 IP, 3.53 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 42:12 K:BB); and RHP Nate Jones on the White Sox (entering July 20th: 41 2/3 IP, 2.38 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 44:8 K:BB).
Ideal options? Probably not. Exciting options? Definitely not. But these options not only would require a fraction of the talent that a starter could potentially command, given SP demand, but are also realistic given the likely trade chips the Mets would be willing to dangle. Additionally, bullpen arms would be much more likely to provide relative value in the long run than a borderline fifth starter who would only be a minimal improvement over Verrett, Wheeler or Ynoa at best.