“You can never have too much pitching,” is how the old baseball adage goes.
The Mets saw this firsthand in 2017 when all of their starters except Jacob deGrom missed an extended amount of time due to injury. However, contrary to what New York’s general manager Sandy Alderson said in early September, he has backpedaled on the team acquiring a mid rotation innings-eater to bolster the rotation.
“I think if we were able to find a Bartolo Colon type, who fits in the three-four spot and semi-guarantees 180-200 innings, that would probably be something that would stabilize our rotation,” he said then. “So, I think it’s something we’d look at, yes.”
However, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag Sports reported Thursday that while the team will look at possible back-end of the rotation type guys, it’s no longer considered a priority at this point.
Mets starting pitchers had a disappointing 5.14 ERA in 2017 breaking the previous franchise record of 4.77 that was set in 1962 and matched in 2009. They also threw only 865.2 innings, the fourth fewest in the majors. Walk rates skyrocketed while strikeout rates shrunk.
While at this point in the offseason it seems as though the Mets are more keen on solidifying their bullpen after being linked to Bryan Shaw and Mike Minor, a starting pitcher on a short-term pact should still be in the cards for them.
However, there are a few names that could be appealing to the team on shorter term deals. Among them we have Jason Vargas, C.C. Sabathia and R.A. Dickey, who could likely be had on just one-year pacts. Alex Cobb, Tyler Chatwood, Mike Fiers and Wily Peralta are a few others that have some appeal but are looking for multi-year deals.
Let’s take a look at what the Mets have right now and see what kind of depth they have…
I have faith that Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard gives the Mets a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. The former has already reached the 200+ innings plateau and knows the rigors that comes with it, and I think he can do it again. Syndergaard on the other hand, had a big reality check and missed nearly the entire season after foregoing an MRI and subsequently suffering a partially torn lat muscle. He is taking steps to change his offseason training to focus more on flexibility instead of building mass and muscle to make sure he can stay healthy next season.
Harvey is going into his contract year and will reportedly be working close with Scott Boras this offseason on an intensive throwing program. Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland will also be working to get Harvey back to a high level of performance.
Can he return to his former glory? I don’t think that’s the expectation. However, if he can just be a serviceable starter and maybe even a little more than that, I think the Mets would take it. The velocity is there, he just has to work to make sure his pitches aren’t flat and his control is on point.
As for Matz, the southpaw underwent surgery to re-position the ulnar nerve, similar to what deGrom underwent in 2016. If that was the main issue with Matz, there’s no reason he can’t come back just as strong as deGrom did in 2017. That said, it’s time for Matz to prove that he can stay healthy for an entire season. It’s time for him to put all the questions about his durability behind him.
The rest of the rotation will come down to a competition between Zack Wheeler, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo in regards to in-house options. Wheeler hasn’t done much to prove he is the prospect the Mets once thought they had and could very well transition to a bullpen role instead. The same could be said for Lugo. Gsellman, however, still has the skill set and upside to become a very serviceable starter at the very least.
Looking deeper, Chris Flexen has shown he isn’t quite ready yet for the major leagues, while Rafael Montero continues to be an enigma, giving the team 18 hit or miss starts. On the bright side, top prospect Corey Oswalt could make the jump to Queens at some point this season if everything breaks right for him.
In conclusion, despite all the other areas of concern this team has, it would behoove them to acquire that quality innings eater for the rotation this offseason. Beyond deGrom and hopefully Syndergaard, there are still too many questions and a high level of risk that needs to be mitigated.