How can the Mets fill their rotation void as pitching injuries and concerns grow?
Coming into April, the last thing on anybody’s mind was concern about the New York Mets’ rotation. If anything, most were talking about how to deal with the surplus that was coming when Zack Wheeler returned. Would the Mets go with a six-man rotation or move Bartolo Colon to the pen?
Fast forward to the All-Star break and Wheeler isn’t back (and won’t be for another month at least). Matt Harvey is done for the year. Steven Matz is pitching with a bone spur in his elbow and Noah Syndergaard left his last start with arm fatigue.
What was a strength has now flipped on its head. It’s to the point where it may not be if the Mets explore a trade, but rather who their dance partner will be ahead of the deadline.
Logan Verrett has filled in admirably at times and got a shot to start Saturday before the break, but the bullpen is certainly going to be taxed because he doesn’t pitch very deep into games consistently. Verrett has filled that dual role alternating between the rotation and the pen, but the Mets might be better served to look at other options for the rest of this season.
Could one of them come from Las Vegas? Gabriel Ynoa seems like the clear cut option to take a spot in the rotation for the moment. Though Ynoa doesn’t miss a lot of bats, he has good command and a respectable ERA (3.92) for being in a very hitter-friendly league.
Behind Ynoa, there aren’t any options that you consider jumping into a starting role. Theoretically, Sean Gilmartin and Rafael Montero would be next in line, but neither is a strong option to ride out the season.
That brings us to the trade market. What does it present? What are the price tags associated? How much do the Mets want to dig into their farm system? These are just some of the questions that GM Sandy Alderson and company will obviously answer, but let’s have a little fun and dig into this more.
Some of the names being bandied about: Rich Hill (Oakland), Drew Smyly (Tampa Bay), Jeremy Hellickson (Philadelphia), Andrew Cashner (San Diego), and Clay Buchholz (Boston). Of this group, Hill is the most intriguing option for a short term fix. For the Athletics, they decided to dish out a $6 million contract to Hill for one year and it may pay off in the aspect of nearly Major League ready prospects.
Hill may also come with the highest price tag of the aforementioned bunch considering the 36-year old has re-invented himself and become an All-Star caliber pitcher. We saw this in a brief stint with Boston last year and it’s carried over to the present. The rest of the options are less attractive rentals considering what they would probably cost from an already depleted farm system.
I’ll isolate a couple more names, one of those being Julio Teheran for the Braves, who is having a rotten luck season in the win-loss column. But he has regained the form that made him an All-Star in 2014 and again this season.
Teheran is just shy of a career-best for strikeouts per nine innings and his walks are down after an off year in that department in 2015. However, the price may be too high. And though the Mets and Braves danced at the table last year, this circumstance has a different feel to it.
Another player who is rumored to be available is Drew Pomeranz. The 27-year-old lefty and former first round pick is having a monster season for San Diego. He’s given up fewer hits per nine innings than everybody in the bigs not named Marco Estrada or Clayton Kershaw. And the Padres have come out and stated they’re building toward the future. That was made even more evident by how they attacked international signings.
With San Diego not a factor to contend and their focus hinged more on keeping Wil Myers around long-term, that opens the door for Pomeranz. The question then becomes not only how high the price would be, but if he’s really the least likely movable piece to become a rental.
Pomeranz has already had three different stops in his Major League career (Colorado, Oakland, and San Diego). So while a very appealing option, the combination of fewer movable assets combined with the price tag would seem a bit much for him. Pomeranz is arbitration-eligible after this season.
The other caveat is something mentioned in earlier: the Mets’ farm system. It’s been decimated over the past year with deals and graduations to the majors so there aren’t a lot of attractive options for other teams. They’re competing against teams who are in this arms race but have more valuable assets to trade.
In fact, Baseball America released their midseason Top 100 prospects and only two Mets — Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith — are on that list. Those are going to be the two most attractive bargaining chips and I don’t see the Mets parting with Rosario.
If they think about Smith then it’s a lot to give for most of the names already mentioned, considering most would not be kept after this season (Hill, Cashner, and Hellickson would be free agents after the season and Buchholz has a $13.5 million club option next year).
With that known, is a more realistic option a lesser package pieced together for a bullpen arm? Though the Mets’ overall pen numbers are solid (sixth in the league in bullpen ERA), another arm added wouldn’t hurt.
Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia have solidified the back end of the pen, Jerry Blevins has filled his role well, and Hansel Robles overcame a rough stretch and has gotten back on track. However, one could see the Mets making a move for a middle reliever to further nail down the bridge to Reed and Familia.
If the Mets want to add another arm at the deadline, Alderson is going to have to get creative, and there has to be an acceptance that the farm system is going to be even thinner for the foreseeable future at the cost of trying to win big now. Not only that, but he has a good bit of competition to deal with and not as much to offer as most other clubs.