After being quiet for much of the offseason, the Mets have been more active in recent weeks, bring Jay Bruce back to Queens on a three-year deal and reportedly agreeing to a two-year pact with Todd Frazier. And now that they’ve satisfied their needs in the infield and outfield for the most part, the team could turn its focus to the starting pitching. Both MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo and the New York Daily News’ John Harper reported Tuesday that the Mets could look to the open market for some support in the rotation.
DiComo suggests that the Mets are keeping an eye out for rotation help but don’t consider it as much of a priority as an infielder was, whereas Harper characterizes the need a bit more aggressively, writing that a source told him that the Mets are “serious” about looking at rotation possibilities. Meanwhile, the Record’s Matt Ehalt suggests that if the team adds a rotation arm, it’ll likely be an affordable source of innings rather than a top starter with draft compensation attached (Twitter links). Ehalt also notes that a lefty reliever is another area of focus for the Mets.
Starting pitching was a strength during the Mets’ 2015 World Series run, as the team rode strong performances from Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey plus veterans Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon to an NL pennant that season. Steven Matz made his big league debut that season as well and impressed in six starts.
However, the Mets’ rotation was in shambles for much of the 2017 season, with Syndergaard, Harvey, Matz, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo among the rotation pieces that missed significant time due to injury. Only deGrom held up and made a full season’s worth of starts, logging 201 innings over the course of 31 trips to the hill.
All of the team’s rotation options that were limited in 2017 are expected to be healthy for Spring Training, but the general lack of stability surrounding them is an unequivocal cause for concern. Harvey has undergone both Tommy John surgery and thoracic outlet surgery in recent years. Matz’s career, both in the minors and Majors, has been punctuated by shoulder and elbow troubles. Wheeler was torched for an ERA north of 5.00 in his first season back after two years lost to Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard pitched just 30 1/3 innings last year due to a torn lat muscle.
The question for the Mets, at this point, is one of how much ownership will be willing to spend to bolster the starting corps after already signing Frazier, Bruce, Anthony Swarzak and Jose Reyes this offseason. The Mets still project for a payroll that comes in south of last year’s Opening Day mark, and as was the case in 2017, they’ll recoup $15MM or so of the $20MM owed to David Wright this year by virtue of the insurance policy on his contract (assuming that Wright once again is relegated to the 60-day DL for much, if not all of the season).
Harper, within his column, opines that Lance Lynn would be an ideal fit for the Mets, though there’s been no serious indication to this point that the Mets would play for any of the top four starters on the market, particularly those wiho rejected a qualifying offer. In addition to Ehalt’s report, GM Sandy Alderson recently expressed reluctance to pursue Mike Moustakas in part due to draft compensation, and the team ultimately elected to bring Frazier into the fold instead.
While Lynn, Alex Cobb, Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish aren’t in the fold (Darvish due to general price tag, the others due to price and draft compensation), the market for starters has scarcely moved at all this winter, so Alderson & Co. have plenty of alternatives. Other available options for the club would include Jaime Garcia, Andrew Cashner and old friend Jason Vargas. Bounceback candidates still exist in the form of Chris Tillman and Hector Santiago, while less exciting but durable innings eaters still available include Ricky Nolasco and Wade Miley.