The New York Mets have big questions to answer as they seek to build their rotation.
What would ordinarily be a joy-filled time in the hearts of baseball fans, has quickly soured into a season of frustration and angst. Faithful fans of the New York Mets expected to see their 2022 Opening Day on March 31st against the Washington Nationals. As everyone in the MLB world is well aware, the lockout has derailed these plans indefinitely.
While this pause in the season stings, particularly following the recent COVID affected seasons, there is light at the end of the tunnel. At some point, hopefully, sooner rather than later, the MLB and MLBPA will agree on a deal. And baseball will begin again!
When this happens, the NY Mets will have a window to continue the roster construction that started with such impressive momentum. While the splash signing of superstar Max Scherzer was a massive boost to the rotation, many fans and analysts agree that New York must pursue at least one additional starting pitcher.
Scherzer is 37 years old. deGrom is coming off a mysterious arm injury that derailed the majority of last season. And Taijuan Walker and Carlos Carrasco are massive question marks.
This begs the obvious question: Should the Mets pay a premium for a proven commodity? Or should they gamble on more of a wild card option? Here is a look at both scenarios:
Option #1: The Known Commodity
Option #1 would have the Mets allotting their best remaining resources toward signing another front-page pitcher. Clayton Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young award winner and 2014 NL MVP is a prime example of this type of target.
While he is 33 years old, Kershaw is still a proven talent who holds tangible value in 2022 and beyond. Adding him to the club would give the Mets one of the oldest starting rotations in recent memory. It would also establish one of the most decorated units in the history of sports.
The longtime Dodgers ace is currently projected to post 11 wins, a 3.38 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP, a 2.8 WAR, and 146 strikeouts. Despite struggling with injuries earlier on in his career, Kershaw has established himself as a module of consistency over the past half-decade.
His $31+ million projected contract value per season is a steep price, particularly for a team with an already inflated payroll. However, new owner Steven Cohen has more than deep enough pockets. He also has a clear desire to win now.
Should the front office be willing to dish out another premium contract, a player like Kershaw would be an obvious asset.
Option #2: The Wild Card
A player like former White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon headlines a list of potential wild-card options. While Rodon boasts neither the track record nor the ceiling of a player like Kershaw, there are three tangible advantages to adding him to a rotation.
The first time All-Star is just 29 years old. While he is slightly past most players' physical prime, his youthfulness provides advantages over a more seasoned option. a sub-30 player would be less susceptible to injuries while providing New York with a piece that could boost the franchise well beyond 2022.
Second, Rodon would come with a less expensive price tag. Spotrac currently estimates the seven-year pro will command somewhere closer to $24 million per season. This difference would give the Mets flexibility as they seek to build out their bullpen and other areas of need.
Lastly, Rodon offers a noticeably high ceiling. His best will never match Kershaw's. However, the former White Sox pitcher is currently projected to post nine wins, a 3.88 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP, a 2.0 WAR, and 133 strikeouts.
His floor is admittedly much lower. And his limited track record of prime production is a bit more concerning. Yet, at the end of the day, Rodon would immediately become one of the best #3 starters in the league.
How should the Mets address this tension? Simple. The answer all comes down to cost. If New York is indeed willing to spare no expense in pursuit of an NL East crown and a 2022 postseason run, they should absolutely target a player like Kershaw.
At the end of the day, both Scherzer and deGrom have a history of age, miles, and injuries. If New York expects both to be healthy in 2022, the franchise would be wise to capitalize on their window.
However, should financial constraints be on the club's radar, Rodon is the best option. The veteran would provide needed support for a top-heavy rotation while saving money for the Mets to spend on other needs.