Entering the 2021 MLB offseason, one of the New York Mets biggest needs lied with their starting rotation. The team was obviously headlined by two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, although the rest of the unit contained many questions.
Fast forward to spring training, as the Mets starting pitching has gone from a weakness to strength once again. Behind deGrom is Marcus Stroman, who returns on a one-year qualifying offer, given he sat out the 2020 season.
After them are two new faces in Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker. Carrasco comes to the Mets in the Francisco Lindor deal and pitched for a 2.91era in 2020. Similarly, Walker’s 2.70era in 2020 earned him a two-year deal from the Mets in free agency.
As for the final spot in the rotation, the Mets bolstered their depth, creating a big competition. David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi make the most sense, being lefties with high upside. But there are plenty of other arms currently down in Florida with the team worth getting shot.
That being said, it may be in New York’s best interest to use a six-man rotation for the 2021 season.
Mets Rotation Depth
This off-season, the Mets did a fantastic job adding significant depth to their starting rotation. Thus, the team has a long list of pitchers competing for that final spot behind deGrom, Stroman, Carrasco, and Walker.
On the 40-man roster, David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi, Sean Reid-Foley, Sam McWilliams, Jordan Yamamoto, and prospect Thomas Szapucki all make for potential starters. As for non-roster spring training invitees, Jerad Eickhoff, Mike Montgomery, and Corey Oswalt could put up a fight too.
Again, Peterson, who pitched a fantastic rookie year, and Lucchesi make for the two frontrunners for the final, or potentially two final spots in the rotation. Then again, all seven others have experience or upside to solidify a spot on the team’s final 26-man roster.
It also was not long ago that the Mets last attempted a six-man unit. Back in 2017, the team used one made of deGrom, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Robert Gsellman, Steven Matz, and Seth Lugo. And its purpose of easing innings and extra rest are exactly why it makes sense to bring back in 2021…
Lasting Effects of 2020
The 60-game sprint this past season not only saw teams play a third of their usual season but also saw pitchers throw significantly fewer innings than usual. For example, deGrom, who pitched over 200+ innings from 2017-2019 threw only 68 in 2021. Then again, this is deGrom, who will once again be in Cy Young conversation.
Where this concern of workload arises is with the rest of the rotation. How does Stroman return after a year off? Walker has not thrown more than 60+ innings since 2017. More importantly, Peterson only threw 49.2 in his rookie season after over 115+ the past two years.
All MLB teams currently face the issue of stretching out their starters over 162 games after the shortened 2020 season and risking injury. The pandemic created this prolonged break from normalcy that could lead to injuries and fatigue later in the season. However, with a six-man rotation, pitchers will take on fewer innings and limit the concern of fatigue.
The Return of Thor
Not to mention the team’s biggest wild card Noah Syndergaard, who will return to the rotation a few months into the season. Coming off of Tommy John surgery, the team will want to be careful with his re-incorporation to the rotation, and in a six-man rotation, Thor will not be thrown right back into the fire.
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Ultimately, between the return to a long MLB regular season, the variety of starting options, and the eventual return of Noah Syndergaard, the Mets must strongly consider employing a six-man rotation in 2021.