When the Mets surprised the baseball world and traded for the Blue Jays’ right-handed ace Marcus Stroman on Sunday night, they transformed their rotation not just for the remainder of the season but for 2020, as well.
With the caveat that at least one pitcher is expected to ship out to another team prior to Wednesday’s trade deadline, Stroman’s addition gives the Mets a solid core to take them through next year and fills the gap that Zack Wheeler is increasingly likely to leave.
Regardless of what the next three days holds for the Mets, 2020 will be led, of course, by Jacob deGrom, who remains one of the best pitchers in the game, both this season and for the span of his whole career. He has already shown the ability to adjust his slider grip to the new baseball, which renders him even more valuable in comparison to his peers. He is a workhorse, a true ace, and the envy of nearly every pitching staff in baseball.
Slotting in behind deGrom is either Stroman or Noah Syndergaard, depending on how you rank Stroman’s current season numbers and resistance to the home run ball in relation to Syndergaard’s better career numbers and peripherals. Either way, the team finds itself in excellent shape as each of these young pitchers is capable of putting up elite numbers while also going deep into games.
Ideally, whichever of Stroman and Syndergaard isn’t the number two pitcher becomes one of the best number threes in the game. That is the basis of a playoff-ready rotation. But with the Mets still taking calls on Syndergaard, it’s possible that they’ll find themselves will Steven Matz as their third pitcher. Matz is a perfectly serviceable lefty with two full years of team control remaining, but he looks a lot better in the back end of a rotation than in the middle.
The back of the rotation is the real question mark for the Mets. Jason Vargas is halfway out the door, and while the Mets could always keep him around after a Wheeler trade and pick up his $8 million option for next year, it’s just as likely that they cash in on his unexpectedly decent 2019 season in a small trade and look to the free agent market to fill his spot.
In theory, bringing in Stroman in lieu of extending Wheeler should save them a few million, but given their history and deGrom’s looming pay raise, they are unlikely to reinvest those savings into a more valuable free agent. But there will be a range of team-friendly (i.e. inexpensive) pitchers available, including Michael Pineda, Brett Anderson, and Rick Porcello. If Syndergaard and Wheeler both depart, then the team will find itself picking two from this group, and that looks a lot less appealing.
One notable side effect of this trade that could have an impact on the 2020 rotation is that Anthony Kay was widely considered the closest to major league ready of the Mets’ thin collection of pitching prospects. David Peterson remains an internal possibility to debut later in the season, but any injury depth will need to come from minor league signings or future trades.
At the end of the day, the Mets find themselves with a potentially dominant collection of starters in 2020—if they keep Syndergaard—and a pretty solid group if they don’t. Combined with an impressive core of young position players, this would in theory set them up to be legitimate contenders for the season—but then again, the Mets are always finding new ways to surprise.