The final move made by the New York Mets this offseason was the acquisition of right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker and while there’s more room to make improvements, this will most likely be the roster heading into Opening Day. Walker gives the Mets a number four start in the rotation and allows for a true battle for the fifth spot until Noah Syndergaard returns in June.
With the dust settling on the first four spots in the rotation, the Mets have done an impressive job retooling their starting pitch while also adding much needed depth. While the Mets didn’t nab Trevor Bauer and missed out on some other free agent arms, there’s still much reason to be excited about this rotation. Marcus Stroman, who accepted the team’s qualifying offer this winter, said expressed his feelings about the Mets’ starting pitching: “I speak highly of our guys for a reason,” Stroman said. “I think we’re unbelievable with what we have. Any team can always make additions, but I love our staff. I love our staff one through five. I love our entire team. to be honest with you.”
It’s understandable why Stroman, and Mets fans alike, are excited about this pitching staff, but where do the Mets currently rank when stacked against other staffs around baseball?
There’s no doubt that the Mets have a top offense in baseball, but it was their starting pitching that did them in last year. With the season around the corner, here’s a look at how the front office rebuilt the pitching staff in Flushing and where it places the Mets amongst the rest of the league:
Why the Mets could have the top rotation in baseball
Let’s start with the fact that the Mets have the best pitcher on planet earth. deGrom has seemingly gotten better each year, which is a scary thought for opposing teams around baseball. The two-time Cy Young winner actually added velocity to his fastball last year, which only improved the pitch and complimented his secondary pitches as well. While early indications suggest that deGrom will be in the running for his third Cy Young award, the rest of the rotation behind him got significantly better this year.
The blockbuster that brought Francisco Lindor to Flushing also came with one of the most underrated moves this offseason: the acquiring of all-star Carlos Carrasco. Lindor understandably highlighted the deal, but Carrasco being plugged into the rotation was a massive addition that would’ve created buzz if Lindor was never involved. Carrasco, a cancer survivor, was a top-of-the-rotation start with his time in Cleveland. Outside of his shortened 2018 season, the crafty right-hander never pitched to an ERA over 3.63 since 2014, with a 2.91 ERA in 68 IP last year.
The return of Marcus Stroman, the addition of Walker and the battle for the fifth spot between Joey Luchessi, Jordan Yamamoto and sophomore David Peterson has provided insurance behind the top two arms in the Mets’ pecking order. After Stroman opted out of the 2020 season and Syndergaard underwent Tommy John surgery, the Mets were razor thin in their pitching depth, which resulted in a league worst 7.89 ERA if you remove deGrom and Peterson’s numbers.
The Mets should see a major boost in production from their starters and unlike last year, they have built respectable depth that should provide insurance in the event of inevitable injuries over the course of a season. It’s also important to note that the Mets will be getting Syndergaard back in the rotation in June, which both improves and deepens their current rotation.
Why the Mets don’t have the best rotation in baseball
The Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, as it currently stands, both have rotations that are better than the Mets. While a case can be made for both teams having potential issues down the road, if the season started today, I’d rank both these teams ahead of the Mets.
Have I mentioned that Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher on the planet? Well, he is and unfortunately, he only pitches every fifth day. When you look at the two through five spots in each rotation, the Dodgers and Padres have both built exceptional depth in addition to the Mets this offseason.
First, let’s look at the Dodgers. Walker Buehler is one of the best young arms in baseball and has the fourth best odds to win the NL Cy Young. The person with the second best odds after deGrom? Another, now infamous, Dodger: Trevor Bauer. Add those two arms to the Hall of Fame resume of Clayton Kershaw and the promising talent of Julio Urias and Dustin May and you’re looking at a very talented and very deep rotation. What’s more is that David Price will be in the rotation this year after sitting out last season due to COVID-19. Price isn’t what he once was, but he adds more talent and experience to an already stacked rotation.
The San Diego Padres: the team that won the offseason. It’s hard to argue that anyone had a bigger or better offseason that the Padres who absolutely stacked their roster, primarily in their rotation. The Padres already had lots of talent in Chris Paddack, Dinelson Lamet and prospects on the way Mackenzie Gore & Adrian Morejon. Then this offseason came and the Padres went ballistic.
Within 24 hours, San Diego traded for both Yu Darvish and Blake Snell. This was after having already traded for Mike Clevinger, who won’t pitch this season due to Tommy John surgery. They rounded out the rotation by trading for Joe Musgrove, who I thought would’ve been a perfect trade target for the Mets. You could argue that the Padres have a better rotation than the Dodgers, albeit some question marks along the way. However, they’ve built enough depth that even a major injury (or two!) wouldn’t thwart their World Series aspirations.
Given the talent and depth from the first to the fifth starter, here’s how the rankings shake out as of right now:
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- San Diego Padres
- New York Mets
- Washington Nationals
- New York Yankees
As it stands right now, the Mets have the third best rotation in baseball. Although the best pitcher on the planet resides in Queens, the Dodgers and Padres made massive upgrades to their rotations that the Mets simply can’t match up with right now. I’d take Dustin May, Julio Urias or Chris Paddack over any of the pitchers who could win the fifth spot in the rotation.
Additionally, David Price and Joe Musgrove are both better options as a number four starter than Taijuan Walker. Once Syndergaard returns, that certainly changes the conversation, but given the depth beyond the first four starters, the Mets will stay put at number three.