The battle between Steven Matz and Michael Wacha for the fifth spot in the rotation is also a matter of the New York Mets deciding which pitcher would be a better reliever.
The New York Mets won’t have to make a decision about who their fifth starter will be anytime soon. Even on Opening Day, some early off-days will allow them to start the season with a four-man rotation of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, and Rick Porcello.
This is, of course, assuming it’s Steven Matz and Michael Wacha battling for that final spot. Anything can happen between now and then with something as simple as a twinge in an elbow putting a spin on the plans.
When deciding between Matz and Wacha, the Mets have to consider more than who will be the more effective starter. A large part of the decision should also involve which of these two the team prefers in a relief role.
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For what it’s worth, neither has done much relief pitching in the major leagues. Matz made his only two appearances last year. Wacha, with 14 career games as a reliever, spread his out over the course of three different non-consecutive seasons.
There’s no real value in looking at the actual numbers they have produced because of how little it is.
Working against Matz could be the fact that the team has seen what he can do up close. After parts of five MLB seasons, it’s looking like his ceiling is a back of the rotation arm.
Wacha is a little more mysterious to the organization. Watching from afar can only tell you so much about a player. And as a former Brodie Van Wagenen client, he could be the favored choice. As he has insisted, he came to New York with plans to start.
The lone benefit of moving Matz to the bullpen over Wacha is the fact that the team only has one lefty expected to make the Opening Day roster. Fellow southpaw Justin Wilson is coming off of a productive first season with the Mets and could certainly use a little help.
With the three-batter minimum coming to Major League Baseball this season, the death of the lefty specialist is now in full effect. This doesn’t really matter to the Mets as neither Matz nor Wilson would have this role if the Jerry Blevins of the world were still thriving.
It’s possible the Mets always had a plan to move Matz to the bullpen in mind. When he made his two relief appearances last summer, it was something they could get away with because of the schedule. The team was heading into the All-Star Break and had no need to start him when they had their other starters performing better.
Whatever it is the Mets decide, I don’t think they’re writing anything in ink. At least one of these six starters will get hurt at some point and Matz and Wacha could both be in the rotation together for a lengthy period of time.
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At least for the start of the season, it’s a matter of deciding which of these pitchers is a better starter just as much as it is choosing whether Matz or Wacha would be the more productive reliever.