Mets Not Done Upgrading Rotation

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When roster transactions once again fall within the purview of professional baseball teams, the Mets will be on the lookout for another starting pitcher to add to their already-formidable rotation, per Andy Martino of SNY.TV.

Martino specifies that the Mets will absolutely be willing to go the trade route to make that pickup. That certainly tracks with what’s available on the open market. Most of the top free agent hurlers have already signed, and while there are certainly still some viable names on the market – Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Carlos Rodon, to name a few – but the most intriguing long-term options can be found in the trade network.

For starters, the Reds and A’s are two of the teams that seem most willing to deal their current rotation arms. We know Oakland to be in play, and they have lots of offer with Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, and Chris Bassitt each capable of contributing first-division innings for a contender. If he’s available, Luis Castillo might be the most intriguing name of all, though it remains unclear exactly how available the Reds have made their presumptive ace. Sonny Gray should also be appealing after a 2.4 fWAR season with the Reds in 2021. Gray, like Castillo, remains under team control for two more seasons. Chris Paddack of the Padres could be an interesting arm to inquire after as well. It’s worth noting, of course, that none of these arms figure to come cheap.

The Mets have already added legend Max Scherzer to the rotation, but practically speaking, the upgrade over Marcus Stroman might not prove to be the skeleton key that Mets’ fans hope. It ought to open some doors, for sure, and that’s not to say the upgrade will “come out in the wash,” exactly, but it might not be enough to turn the Mets into instant contenders. Scherzer put up 5.4 fWAR over 179 1/3 innings last year, compared to 3.4 fWAR over 179 innings from Stroman, but there’s at least some age and injury risk for Scherzer, who finished 2021 with a tired arm.

Beyond losing Stroman, the Mets also lost Rich Hill, who contributing a competent 63 1/3 innings with a 3.84 ERA, and Noah Syndergaard, who, despite his name recognition, did not factor into the Mets’ 2021 season in a significant way. Otherwise, they’re starting staff remains intact. Is that a great sign? Mets started ranked 13th in fWAR, 8th in ERA, and 10th in FIP. That’s a good staff, but it also wasn’t enough to get the Mets to the playoffs.

Presuming good health, the Mets have a very strong cohort of veteran starters between Scherzer, 37,  Jacob deGrom, 33, Carlos Carrasco, 35 in March, and Taijuan Walker, 30. Scherzer aside, however, that group has hardly been the most reliable foursome from a health perspective, and they don’t exactly have youth on their side. Carrasco hasn’t made more than 12 starts in a season since 2018, Walker was healthy in 2021 for the first time since 2017, and deGrom made just 15 starts last season. Scherzer has been a workhorse, but Father Time remains undefeated.

Beyond those fours, Tylor Megill took hold of a rotation spot last season with 18 starts and a 4.52 ERA/4.69 FIP across 89 2/3 innings. Those numbers are likely to give the 25-year-old the inside track on a rotation job, but they won’t be enough to guarantee one. Trevor Williams, Sean Reid-Foley, David Peterson, and Jordan Yamamoto make up their depth group at present. Williams has the most rotation experience of the four, but he pitched better out of the bullpen after coming to New York from Chicago, and the Mets could see themselves fit to continue him in that role. On the whole, this group has spent significant time in big league rotations in the aggregate, but not so much so that it would be surprising to see the Mets seek out another arm.

The Mets made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason in signing Scherzer, but their work is far from done. If Mad Max and deGrom make 25-30 starts a piece, the Metropolitans will feel pretty good about their ability to stay in the race. That’s a better Plan A than most teams can muster. But it’s been a long time since Plan A has come to fruition for the New York Mets.

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