Opportunities for the New York Mets to actually become legitimate contenders in the National League are still out there despite pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training in just two weeks.
Realistically, there is no chance that they’ll shock the world and draft up a real pursuit of either Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but general manager Brodie Van Wagenen might not be done yet this winter.
According to SNY’s Andy Martino, the Mets are looking for starting pitching depth to round out their rotation. During the team’s most successful years, pitching has often been the Mets’ calling card rather than an overpowering offense and as it stands, New York has three legitimate starters to rely on.
While it would be unfair to expect Jacob deGrom to put up the kind of dominant numbers he posted during his Cy Young Award-winning campaign last season, he is still the undisputed Mets ace and is expected to win more than 10 games this time around after Van Wagenen improved the offense this offseason.
A healthy Noah Syndergaard could provide the Mets with one of the most lethal duos in baseball. Despite battling injuries over the last two seasons and not having his best stuff in 2018, the fire-balling right-hander was still 13-4 with a 3.03 ERA.
The top three suddenly became much more appealing with the emergence of Zack Wheeler, who went from minor-leaguer at the start of 2018 to one of the team’s most valuable starting pitchers. After missing two seasons due to recovery from Tommy John surgery, the future of the 28-year-old’s MLB career was in serious doubt after he went 3-7 with a 5.21 ERA.
He did little to soothe concerns during his first 14 starts after being called up last year as he went 2-6 with a 4.85 ERA. But the teachings of manager Mickey Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland resurrected Wheeler’s career as he went 11-4 with a 2.06 ERA in his final 15 starts of the season.
Wheeler, Syndergaard, and deGrom ensure that the Mets will have no shortage of dominant right-handed pitchers in 2019. The same can’t be said about the southpaws.
Steven Matz has proved to be unreliable seeing as he’s hit the 150-inning mark just once in his first four years in the majors. While a career 3.98 ERA isn’t necessarily bad when speaking about a fourth starter, it is a disappointing mark given the potential Matz had upon entering the league in 2015.
Behind him is the veteran lefty Jason Vargas, who had a horrendous 2018 with a 5.77 ERA. That number is actually kind to the 35-year-old considering he entered August with an 8.35 ERA.
Neither Matz nor Vargas can provide the Mets with a reliable left-handed arm, which could be a major cause of concern as the season progresses.
Luckily for the Mets, Dallas Keuchel is still out there on the free-agent market as a southpaw who can fulfill the pseudo-destiny of the Mets having a dominant rotation.
It’s been an inconsistent and rocky three years for the 31-year-old. The 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner sandwiched an All-Star 2017 season in which he went 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA with a combined two seasons that amounted to a sub-.500 record and a 4.11 ERA.
That could be playing a large part as to why he hasn’t been signed yet. However, a move to the National League offers the promise of Keuchel lowering that ERA while joining a rotation that will offer plenty of support around him, much like the Astros had done for him.
If he’s able to be had for an affordable price, which is really the only way the Mets would consider bringing him on, then New York’s top-four becomes quite formidable while allowing the flexibility of optioning either Vargas or Matz to the bullpen.
A dominant rotation allows the Mets some wiggle room for their offense, which does have some hypotheticals to contend with, such as what kind of production they’ll be able to get out of Juan Lagares, or if Robinson Cano continue to be a premier hitter in the National League, or if Brandon Nimmo can be the on-base machine he was last year.