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.
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