Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Mets Can Still Use Starting Pitching

Now that Carlos Carrasco has joined Francisco Lindor on the Mets, the team has a top 3 in their rotation to match up with anyone in baseball. If Noah Syndergaard makes it back and the other three remain healthy — always a big if when you're talking pitching — the Mets would have as good of a rotation 1-4 as they've had in many years, easily one of the best in baseball this year. Combined with the solid offense and a defense that has certainly been upgraded and could be a really solid group if a true CF is signed, this is a legit playoff contender with a real shot at going all the way. But the questions certainly remain when it comes to the depth of this rotation, and we've seen lack of depth sabotage many promising Mets seasons in recent years.

As it stands right now, the fourth and fifth starters at the start of the season will come from the group of David Peterson, Steven Matz, and possibly Seth Lugo, who I'd still prefer to see back in the bullpen. You can add Robert Gsellman, Franklyn Kilome, Sam McWilliams, Corey Oswalt and Thomas Szapucki to that competition also. It's certainly more respectable depth than the Mets have enjoyed in quite some time, but I think it's fair to say that we're all crossing fingers that nothing more than a handful of starts is needed from that second group in particular.

The Mets rotation isn't the group of kids that powered them to the 2015 World Series. Jacob deGrom will turn 33 in June. Carrasco will turn 34 during spring training. Stroman will be 30 in May, and Syndergaard will be 29 in August. That doesn't make them candidates for Old Timers Day, but it does increase the likelihood that some of that group will miss starts during the year, and we don't know for sure what Syndergaard will be able to give the team when he comes back.

Right now David Peterson has a leg up on being the fourth starter, but I've written previously that he doesn't seem like a legitimate candidate to make 30 starts. He's been in the Mets system since 2017 and never pitched more than 128 innings. Last year he pitched less than 50 innings and missed some time with shoulder fatigue. Even if you thought he might be durable in 2021, you still have to question if he's "proven himself" based on 9 MLB starts in a weird season. Remember how good Gsellman looked in 2016 in 7 starts? I'd want to see more from David Peterson before I was confident he was a solid major league starter, and I'd also want to see him prove that he can hold up to the workload.

As great as Seth Lugo has looked as a reliever, he's never come closer to proving that he can be a good starting pitcher in the major leagues. He's never pitched more than 101 innings in the majors, and has a partial tear in his UCL. I can't understand why the Mets would make him a starter unless they really, really believed he can be a good one. If I was making the decision, I'd leave him in the bullpen. If they do decide to make him a starter, however, they can't half-ass it like Brodie did last year. He's got to be a starter from the start of spring training.

As it stands right now, you have big, big questions about all of the Mets starters beyond that top three, including Syndergaard until he proves that he's all the way back from his surgery. You're also dealing with all of the weirdness leftover from last season, starting with a disruption to spring training, the greatly accelerated summer camp leading into the short season of actual games. It's created a real uncertainty about any pitcher being ready to make 30+ starts and pitch close to 200 innings. I can't see the Mets heading into the season without adding one more legit name to that mix for the other 2 spots in the rotation.

Teams are going to go into next season with various strategies to protect a pitching staff, especially if baseball does go back to a full 162-game schedule. The Mariners even announced they were going to a 6-man rotation this season to limit their starters innings, and other teams are considering that and other strategies to manage their starters workloads. I'm not a big fan of that 6-man rotation idea, as in itself it disrupts pitchers from the routine they've become used to, but I think that all teams will need to deploy some sort of strategy to limit the workload of many, if not all, if their starting pitchers. You probably will see things like using the 10-day DL, skipping starts here and there, and occasionally giving pitchers an extra day of rest. I don't think there will be a single team in baseball in 2021 that will complain about having too many starting pitchers.

I've always liked Corey Kluber as a potential lottery ticket for the Mets rotation, and now there's word that he's passed his first audition for interested teams. I'd love to see the Mets offer the guy an incentive-laden contract and promise him a rotation slot if he can prove to be healthy and effective in spring training. If they can't lure Kluber, I'd love to see some sort of similar upside play for a starter. I want to see the Mets head into the season with a crowd of rotation candidates. Even if things go well this season, I think they'll need to go 7 or 8 pitchers deep. Winding up with too many guys would be a welcome problem. You might even be able to trade from a surplus in that scenario.

Whatever moves the Mets are still considering making, rotation depth and another quality bullpen arm would seem to be an absolute necessity heading into the season. This new front office has truly done and said a lot of the right things, and has rightfully earned the trust of Met fans — and we're not a very trusting group, thanks to years of overpromising and underdelivering by the club. It would be a huge failure of this front office to allow the promise of this upcoming season be undermined by a lack of depth, particularly in pitching.

Okay, that will do it for me today. Please stay safe, be well and take care.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos


  1. I agree, we need 1 more SP and 1 or 2 RP. I dont believe in Stroman in a big spot at all and be careful with Syndergaard. He may need some time to get right. That leaves you with 2, not 4 high end guys. Kluber is a lottery ticket. Find someone that brings more certainty.

  2. 1 more starter means you have deGrom, Stroman, Carrasco and then a crap shoot. You remove one of the variables if you land a solid, healthy starter. I could live with Peterson or Matz at number 5 if Syndergaard's recovery really will happen in 2021. I disagree about the bullpen from Richard Hausig. If the move of Lugo back to the pen in addition to Diaz, Familia, May and others, one more reliever should do it.

  3. Yup, you can never have enough pitching. I have been a proponent of adding Taijuan Walker to the staff since the free agent signing period started. I still am.

    I also don't think it is a bad idea to take a flyer on Kluber. I am not sure what it would take to sign him. The guys seemed to think an incentive laden contract would be enough, but I suspect if he is healthy and a lot of teams are in on him, he will get pretty expensive for the 'flyer'.

    James Paxton is another guy that could yield a high reward.

    Now with that all said, I will start a new series called "Bill's Bets" (if my name started with a P, I would do "Pete's Prognostications", but it doesn't). All that aside, I am going out on a limb to say that two of the guys mentioned in the article will have strong years. I think Steven Matz will have a very good bounce back year with the James McCann signing paying extra dividends. I also see Sam McWilliams being the 2021 version of the 2019 J.D. Davis as the breakout guy.

    Lastly, I am feeling that Thomas Szapucki will give the staff something positive before the year is out. He doesn't have a ton of track record or even a lot of minor league innings, but as a lefty, he could add something.

  4. Yeah, I agree that Mats is a candidate for a bounce back. It's a part of the reason I think Kluber would be an interesting bet at the right price. If he gets too much from another team then they should move on

  5. Matz is 20-40 since his 11-1 career start. 20-40 inspires zero confidence in me. I want someone else for SP 5, not Matz, for that reason. They say insanity is making the same mistake over and over. Peterson is fine for SP 4, most likely.

  6. See, I'll disagree with you a bit there, Tom. I think that as long as Matz isn't someone the team is counting on, he could prove to be a useful gamble for them. The main thing for me is for them not to continue running him out there if he's not pitching well

  7. He still needs about 14 more losses to get to Anthony Young territory :-)

    I agree with you Mike, if he is still soiling the bed by the middle of May, figure something else out. I think it is time to put this one to bed. I know Tom's take, and I have probably stated mine a little too often :-)

  8. It's ok. There's no limit to how often you state the same opinion on this blog. I think if Matz pitched for another team and was non-tendered, he'd by the type of guy the Mets would consider bringing in to compete for a job. That's exactly how they should treat him this year. No job would be his to lose. He has to outright win one and then pitch well enough to keep it

  9. That is the thing I laugh at . if he were another team's castoff, us fans would be clamoring for him. For a guy that pitched to a league average 4.2 ERA with a 1.3 WHIP over 60 starts in the 2 years directly prior to the COVID disaster, there is a lot of short term memory going on. Jose Martinez had the same year as a non-pitcher that Matz did in 2020. It is funny how 2020 is used by the fans (and players). Bauer now wants to be paid like a hall of famer while Matz completely outpitched him in 2019 and if it were up to most commenters, he would be run out of town on a rail with his $5M in tow. Have you ever looked at Rich Hill's stats for his years between 24 and 29? Pretty much a Matz mirror with a couple of really poor years. Interesting. Wonder if Matz can turn it around and be one of those older southpaws that keeps turning in value.

    Let's get to February as quickly as possible .. getting bored of the 'hot stove'. Time to play some baseball!


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