Sunday, March 13, 2022

A Very Early Look at the Mets' Pitching

The weather here in Southern New England continues to be typical for this time of year: schizophrenically shifting back and forth between winter and spring. One day I was wearing shorts when I took my dogs for a walk with the temperature around 60. The next, I looked out of my window at about an inch of snow on the ground. While this weather can play havoc with my personal plans, it has no effect whatsoever on the New York Mets' preparation for the 2022 season that is underway down in Port St. Lucie. This weekend, the Mets have made some significant moves to bolster their chances of contending for a playoff spot this season.

There was speculation that the Mets might be interested in a couple of free-agent starting pitchers who came off the board fairly quickly, Carlos Rodón and Yusei Kikuchi. I wasn't surprised that Rodón was able to secure a 2-year deal for $20 million per and an opt-out. I was shocked that Kikuchi got 3 years/$36 million from the Blue Jays. I would have loved to see the Mets pursue Rodón, but I understand that Steve Cohen's large budget for the team wasn't quite infinite. As for Kikuchi, he really didn't seem worth either the years or the dollars to me.

It became clear that adding a significant starting pitcher to the mix would require making a trade. The Mets wound up getting Chris Bassitt, who pitched as the "ace" of the Oakland A's staff last season. He'll slot in as number 3 in the Mets' rotation. I've heard and read a lot of positive takes on Bassit. So far, Keith Law's take in The Athletic was the one negative I've come across.

For myself, I was disappointed that the Mets traded J.T. Ginn, their second-best pitching prospect behind Matt Allan. They've traded away so many of their top prospects in the past few years, and they really need to stop doing that at some point. On the other hand, it was apparent they needed another real major league starting pitching if they were serious about contending for more than a half-season this time around. If Bassit pitches close to the level he has for Oakland since 2019, he could be the Bob Ojeda for this year's rotation. Old-timers like myself remember how Bobby O was the missing piece of the Mets' rotation when he came over before the 1986 season.

As it stands, the Mets starting pitching depth looks like this:

Going 9 deep in legitimate starting pitchers isn't a bad place to start the season. Particularly since there were so many questions surrounding the staff. Jacob deGrom only made 15 starts last year. Scherzer will turn 38 in July and famously had the dead arm issue for the Dodgers in the playoffs last season. Carrasco struggled with injuries and their aftermath throughout 2021 and turns 35 on March 21. Walker wore down in the second half — understandable for a guy who only pitched 59 innings combined from 2018-2020. Peterson made only 15 starts last year due to injuries. The big lefty wasn't effective when he did pitch. Megill had a huge jump in innings last season and really wore down at the end. Williams pitched primarily out of the bullpen after coming over to the Mets from Chicago. Yamamoto struggled with injuries last year and was ineffective when he did pitch. Joey Lucchesi's name isn't on this list, as he is not expected to return from Tommy John surgery until the second half of 2022.

Some other names on the 40-man could conceivably augment the starting pitching — at least as emergency depth. Still, as things stand now, deGrom, Scherzer, Bassit, Walker, and Carrasco would be part of the rotation, with Megill and Peterson the primary depth. They could use one or both of the young pitchers in the bullpen, but I think they might be better off to start the year with the two starting games for Triple-A Syracuse. Both pitchers would likely benefit from more seasoning, and I'd like to see them stretched out as starting pitchers for at least the first few months of the season.

Moving on to the bullpen, the Mets needed to add to that group, and they've already picked up a solid reliever when they signed free agent Adam Ottavino. Ottavino slots into the back of the bullpen, taking the place of the departed Jeurys Familia.

They still probably need to do more. Aaron Loup still hasn't been replaced. A good lefty reliever would be a no-brainer, particularly since their likely starting rotation to begin the season consists of 5 right-handers. I'd favor bringing in a second lefty if possible. Indeed, adding more depth pieces would also be advisable, given how teams depend on their bullpen these days.

As the roster is currently constituted, the most likely guys to start the year off in the bullpen are as follows:

I like the Mets bullpen with the addition of Ottavino as a late-inning option. I believe that both Seth Lugo and Trevor May will bounce back and have stronger seasons for the club in 2022. Even with all his inconsistencies with command, Miguel Castro is a nice arm to have in your bullpen. I'm also high on Drew Smith and saw some potential in Sean Reid-Foley last season when he was healthy. Trevor Williams is a possibility for a long man/spot starter role. The guys near the bottom will likely serve as depth as long as they survive on the 40-man roster.

There is a good base of arms to build on here. Mix in a late-inning lefty that Buck Showalter can trust in late innings, and the Mets would be in pretty good shape. Tim Britton of The Athletic mentioned Andrew Chafin as a solid lefty option. As for a potential second lefty and another late-inning piece, Andrew Miller might be an interesting guy to take a flyer on. He'll turn 37 in May and wasn't great for the Cardinals last season. Miller is no longer the multi-inning option he was a few years ago. But he might be a bounce-back candidate on the right sort of deal. I've always liked the guy and believe Miller still has something left.

Josh Hader is a name on every Mets fan's wish list, including mine. However, I just find it hard to believe that the cost to acquire him would make sense. I know many fans would love to move on from Edwin Díaz, but he's a pretty good closer who is already here. I don't think the Mets can afford what it would cost in prospects for a pitcher of Hader's caliber if they are serious at all about keeping any prospects in their system.

Finally, RH Collin McHugh was a potential target that intrigued me. However, it would seem that the signing of Adam Ottovino and the ongoing need to add at least one lefty would preclude any reunion with McHugh for the Mets.

That's it for our extremely early look at the Mets' pitching staff. I'm eager to see how some of these guys look. I've never seen Bassit pitch and am looking forward to forming my own impression. I'm also interested to see how Carlos Carrasco looks. He could still be a valuable starter for the Mets if he is healthy and can stay that way.

Be well and take care. Let's go Mets!

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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