The New York Mets have been ravaged by injuries from the beginning of the season. If a book were written about the Mets season thus far, injuries would be the major theme of it. And yet, like a migraine headache or the loss of a job, adversity is a temporary period. On the other side of Independence Day, slowly but surely many of the team’s injured players are making their returns to the lineup.
However, despite the team’s current first place standing in an enfeebled and underperforming National League East, the Mets are in a vulnerable position considering their thin starting rotation. Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco, two of their starting pitchers, have not thrown one pitch yet and have suffered significant setbacks in their rehabilitation. Jacob deGrom and Taijuan Walker will more than likely not be able to keep up their exceptional, otherworldly performances for the rest of the season. Although the offense is improving, the Mets are currently reliant on three main pitchers (deGrom, Walker, and Marcus Stroman) while patching together the bottom of the rotation.
Syndergaard and Carrasco should return by the end of July, but the Mets cannot rely on pitching health to fortify their rotation, given their lack of serendipity thus far.
But the Mets have a unique opportunity to rewrite their story. An excellent introduction to part two would be not only the triumphant returns of Syndergaard and Carrasco, but the addition of new reinforcements to help set the team up for a deep postseason run.
Given the Mets injuries, acquiring another starting pitcher at the Trade Deadline should be the team’s top concern.
The good news for the Mets is that they already have their aces. All they need is one or two additional depth pieces that can slot in the back of the rotation. My colleague made a case for the Mets acquiring Caleb Smith of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Here, I want to make the case for another Diamondbacks starting pitcher: Merrill Kelly.
Kelly is a prototype of a backend rotation starter. He does not have overpowering stuff, but he leads a Diamondbacks pitching staff in strikeouts.
Part of Kelly’s appeal is that he can eat up innings for a Mets team that wants to avoid overworking their bullpen. In 13 of his 17 starts this season, Kelly has pitched at least 5 ⅔ innings, and he has had 7 inning games in two of his past three starts.
Kelly has had an unique and interesting professional career thus far. Drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays out of Arizona State, Kelly ended up in the Korean Baseball Organization after failing to get his career off the ground in the Rays organization. With the SK Wyverns of the KBO, Kelly compiled a 48-32 record with a 3.86 ERA while helping his team win the 2018 Korean Series championship.
When he joined the Diamondbacks, Kelly became only the fifth MLB player to play high school, college, and professional baseball in Arizona. Given the chance to start, Kelly so far has had a roller coaster season, but he has been pitching better as of late, which is an encouraging sign for teams like the Mets who may want to acquire him at the Trade Deadline.
The Diamondbacks are clearly going nowhere this season, and it is expected that a huge firesale will happen considering the valuable individual pieces that remain on the team. The Mets should take note of this, because relying on Syndergaard and Carrasco to come back and immediately pitch like aces is an unrealistic expectation.
As a backend starter, Kelly would not cost the Mets much. But he is worth more to the Mets than the MLB-worst Diamondbacks. At the very least, Kelly is insurance against future injuries to the rotation and in case Syndergaard and Carrasco do not return to the team on schedule. With a club option for 2022, Kelly also gives the Mets flexibility for next year, depending how he performs the rest of the season.
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Considering how the Mets season has gone, they can never have enough pitching, and Kelly at least will help restock the half-empty cupboard.