Rarely do the New York Mets have a "good" problem, however now that their rotation is starting to come into form the front office has some intriguing decisions to make when it comes to the Mets pitchers, this year and for years to come.
If the Mets are to succeed it will be because of their pitching staff and while it’s fairly cut and dry who is in the rotation now, this won’t last long.
By my count the Mets will have eight quality starters who are under contract and ready for the show by mid-season 2014 and 10 by 2015.
Aside from Bartolo Colon, 40, who the Mets have signed for one more season, the rest of the current rotation is young and locked up for the foreseeable future. Jon Niese, 27, (who has a career 3.93 ERA) is in the midst of a reasonable five year, 25.5 million dollar contract, Dillon Gee, 27, (3.87 ERA) won’t be eligible for free agency until 2017 and Zack Wheeler, 23, (3.65 ERA) and Jenry Mejia, 24, (3.60 ERA) aren’t eligible for free agency until 2019.
Alone this is a pretty formidable rotation, however when you add All-Star Matt Harvey, 25, (2.39 ERA) who is recovering from Tommy John surgery and elite prospects Rafael Montero, 23, (2.61 career minor league ERA) and Noah Syndergaard, 21, (2.78 career minor league ERA) the future of the rotation is promising, but unclear. (This is excluding the likes of Steven Matz who, while still in Single-A could be promoted to Double-A soon and has been dominant and Jeremy Hefner who pitched very well with the Mets last season before getting injured, he is expected back for next season.)
The Mets have an overabundance of Major League ready arms, this is a great position for General Manager Sandy Alderson and the Mets to be in as pitchers are very prone to injury, (see Harvey, Matt).
Sure, this is unquestionably a good problem, but even good problems need solutions.
While it’s unlikely that all of these starters stay healthy and effective over the next few years, it’s up to the Mets to manage their pitchers in a way that can lead the team into the playoffs and beyond.
There are a few different strategies the team could follow.
They could sit tight and just let the natural rigors of baseball (i.e. injuries and effectiveness) decide who will be in the rotation the second half of this year and beyond.
Another option is that they can reach into their reservoir of talent and trade for MLB hitters or top hitting prospects. This is a risky idea because in the "moneyball" era of baseball top prospects are clung to like a child hugs their teddy bear. Every Mets fan knows the feeling of letting a prospect get away and him succeeding in a different uniform. With that said, the high value of pitching and prospects means that the Mets would likely be entering a sellers market and be able to trade for quality hitters.
Montero’s name has been thrown around in some trade rumors this year and I’m sure if the Mets said he could be had for the right price, a lot of teams would come knocking on their door. Not to mention established the value of established pitchers like Niese or Gee who would warrant a quality major league bat in return if traded.
A third option is the Cardinals option. This is where the talented pitchers get funneled into the Majors once they’re ready and pitch in the bullpen until spots open up in the rotation. This is modeled after the St. Louis Cardinals’ overall success and their success handling their own glut of pitching talent.
Bleacher report ranked the red birds as MLB’s top team for homegrown talent (the Mets were ranked 16) and it shows throughout their pitching staff. In their rotation four of the five starters are homegrown and the other is, Adam Wainwright who was traded to the Cardinals, but still rose through their farm system.
Their bullpen is also predominantly homegrown, five of their seven relievers are homegrown and even more importantly four of those five spent the majority of the minor league careers as starters. Closer Trevor Rosenthal is one of these pitchers and he clearly has the talent to be starting on every major league team, but he is currently in the same role Wainwright had in 2006 (yeah, I know I don’t like talking about it either).
The Mets’ front office has their work cut out for them. It’s vital that they make the right decisions with the pitching staff going forward.