Mets left-hander José Quintana has spent the entire season on the injured list until this week, only making his debut as a Met yesterday. Nonetheless, he’s drawing interest from other clubs around the league ahead of the trade deadline, reports Andy Martino of SNY.
Quintana, 34, had a strong campaign last year, split between the Pirates and Cardinals. He tossed 165 2/3 innings over 32 starts, allowing just 2.93 earned runs per nine innings. His 20.2% strikeout rate was a bit below average, but he paired that with a strong 46.4% ground ball rate and 6.9% walk rate. He was able to parlay that into a two-year, $26MM deal with the Mets coming into 2023, a small part of the club’s massive offseason that saw them run up the highest payroll in MLB history this year.
Unfortunately, he was shut down in the spring and required bone graft surgery for a benign lesion on one of his ribs. That kept him on the shelf until he began a rehab assignment last month and he has just now returned to the big leagues. That absence from Quintana is just one of many challenges the Mets have faced in their rotation this year, as Justin Verlander and Carlos Carrasco have also spent time on the injured list while Max Scherzer missed time due to a sticky stuff suspension. That’s left Kodai Senga as the only consistent member of the rotation this season.
The club now finds itself in an uncomfortable position, with just over a week until the trade deadline. They have a record of 45-51, which puts them 17.5 games back in the division and seven games back in the Wild Card race. FanGraphs currently pegs their postseason odds at 15.1%, still giving them a chance but surely less than what they hoped for during their aggressive winter.
Owner Steve Cohen spoke to the media last month in order to address the club’s disappointing season. He said that it would be “silly” to make additions at the deadline if the club didn’t change its position. They were 8.5 games out of the playoffs at that time and have inched closer but are still on the fringes of contention.
Perhaps a hot streak in the next week or so will change the picture, but it seems as though the club might consider selling some short-term assets before reloading for another shot at competing in 2024. They have already traded Eduardo Escobar to the Angels and it was reported this week that Mark Canha is drawing some interest. Impending free agents like Carrasco, David Robertson, Tommy Pham are also logical candidates to be discussed.
Quintana would be a bit of a different situation for the Mets, and there’s nothing in the above report to indicate they have actually entertained the idea of moving him, just that other clubs are interested. He still has another year left on his deal, which means the Mets could spurn that interest and hang onto him for 2024.
Their rotation has some question marks for next year, with Carrasco set to reach free agency and create at least one vacancy. Scherzer also has the ability to opt out of his deal, leaving his $43.33MM salary for 2024 on the table. It’s hard to say whether he would do so or not, given that he’s about to turn 39 in a few days and isn’t having a dominant season. His strikeout and walk rates are both a couple of ticks worse than last year while his 3.99 ERA is a big jump from last year’s 2.29.
On paper, the Mets have Verlander, Senga and Quintana for next year’s rotation, along with the uncertain Scherzer situation and players like Tylor Megill, David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi as internal options to take Carrasco’s spot. The upcoming free agent class is heavy on pitching and Cohen has clearly demonstrated he’s not shy about spending, so perhaps they feel they have a path to a strong rotation next year, but moving Quintana would give them one more thing on their to-do list in the upcoming offseason.
If Quintana is available, it seems fair to expect the Mets to eat most or all of the remainder of his contract in order to extract the best possible return in terms of player talent. That’s been the club’s tactic in the aforementioned Escobar deal, as well as the Trevor Gott/Chris Flexen trade and James McCann trade. That should make him theoretically attainable by any contending club, regardless of their payroll situation, as long as they are willing to part with something the Mets want.
As mentioned, there’s nothing at this moment to indicate the Mets are actively shopping Quintana, but he would surely be of interest to clubs given his lengthy track record and success last year. The Mets will have to make some tough decisions soon, given their precarious place in the standings. Part of that might involve weighing the value of Quintana’s potential contribution to the 2024 club against whatever trade offers they receive. The trade deadline is August 1.