Mets Monday Morning GM: Buy pitching now, trade for more later

New York Mets v Washington Nationals
New York Mets v Washington Nationals / G Fiume/GettyImages

The New York Mets need to improve their starting rotation with at least one more arm for the coming season. Discussed plenty by fans far and wide (both geographically and in size), it’s the mostly agreed-upon biggest need for the club aside from maybe a left-handed reliever.

Jacob deGrom is coming off of a year where he missed half of the season due to injury. Max Scherzer is getting older and while we can trust him to perform well, everyone sees the twilight of their career one day.

Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker make it difficult to fully trust this rotation. Outside of Walker’s hot start, it was a miserable year for them both. Each could rebound and give the Mets far more in 2022. With no guarantee, the Mets need to improve the rotation. The best way to do this is to buy in free agency now and trade for help later on if needed.

The Mets have the cash to buy a free agent but limited resources to acquire one in a trade

Outside of a sweetheart deal, any trade the Mets make to improve their starting rotation through this will cost them some assets. They could look to take on a bad contract along with any starting pitcher they like but those options are limited. We have yet to see the Steve Cohen-led Mets do anything like this, too. He might not be so keen on it.

There are certainly ways to acquire talented players without depleting the farm system too greatly. The Mets are fortunate that they don’t have to get too creative, nor should they, by taking on an albatross contract in order to improve their roster in another place. Right now, this is the “break in case of emergency” option the club has.

The free agent market for starting pitchers is a little limited. There’s no one pitcher out there without a few warts. Clayton Kershaw has the injury factor. Carlos Rodon has only one phenomenal season on his resume, his most recent in 2022.

Everyone else out there seems to fall into a different tier. A guy like Zack Greinke may have Cooperstown calling him in a few years. At this point, he’s a roster clinger you have to hope is able to fill in as a solid number four and not much else.

It’s unlikely the Mets end up solidifying their rotation through free agency. Yusei Kikuchi is a likely name they end up signing. On a one or two year deal, it’s not bad but also not going to punch their ticket to the World Series. They may need to add more, particularly if Carrasco and/or Walker stinks. We may also get to July and one of the starters is down for the count.

In that case, the Mets would have pieces to trade. The trade deadline always has candidates we didn’t expect to see on the block. Some guys may be members of preseason contenders who have sunk too quickly. Others may be pitching out of their minds. An unexpected All-Star on a bad team becomes trade fodder midseason. So while there are plenty of names to trade for now, the Mets will have a whole new market to explore midseason.

What they won’t be able to do much of between now and then is acquire players to deal away for this trade deadline acquisition. Unless they plan to actively trade away pieces for prospects, their “cash reserve” of minor leaguers or big leaguers they can move won’t increase all that much.

The Mets should plan to dive headfirst into trying to win this year. It’s a slow and steady race, though. Carefully planning ahead, they can set themselves up well now with a massive payroll and make themselves even better midseason with some savvy trading.

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