It’s no secret that the Mets’ rotation outside of Jacob deGrom has been awful this season. Even with the best pitcher in baseball leading the way, Mets starters have run a cumulative 5.18 ERA. Injuries and opt-outs decimated what was supposed to be the core of the rotation—Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, and Steven Matz—and both Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha have failed to fill those holes as free agent band aids.
This glaring roster problem has really hurt the Mets’ postseason chances. After entering the abbreviated season at 43.2% and spiking as high as 76.5%, the Mets’ playoff odds now stand at 26.9% per FanGraphs. That isn’t nothing, but it’s difficult to call the team as currently constructed a real contender.
At this point, it’s pretty safe to say neither Porcello or Wacha will be with the Mets next year, meaning their sole value to the team is what they bring to the table for the remainder of the year. Advanced metrics like DRA suggest both have been unlucky, but the sample sizes are small and the eye test suggests they might just be washed up as pitchers at this point. Given this, the Mets should seriously consider a youth movement in the rotation for the remainder of the season for two main reasons.
First, the results couldn’t be much worse in terms of runs allowed. Wacha currently has a 7.50 ERA, and Porcello isn’t much better at 6.07. Younger options in the Mets organization almost certainly have a higher probability of being good, and if they miss on that chance, they really couldn’t be much worse. In other words, there’s no downside to rolling the dice in terms of contention chances for this season. Second, trotting out some young arms for the last couple weeks could provide critical information on the viability of the organization’s depth going into the offseason. That sort of data could alter where the Mets decide to allocate resources going into the 2021 season, which arguably should be a priority at this point of the year (caveats about the team sale notwithstanding).
Starting with the most obvious candidates, Franklyn Kilome (assuming his nail heals in short order) and David Peterson should both be part of the rotation for the remainder of the season. Neither has been particularly impressive—Kilome has an ERA over seven and Peterson is running a K/9 under seven—but both have a prospect pedigree. Peterson ranked 7th on our top-25 list coming into the 2020 season, while Kilome ranked 9th, and both have upside for more. Perhaps most importantly, both are 25 with essentially nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. Giving both an opportunity adjust to the major league game should let the Mets evaluate whether either can hold down a significant role for the 2021 team.
Going deeper, two other arms would fit well into this plan: Thomas Szapucki and Harol Gonzalez. Szapucki (eighth on our list) has more upside between the two and would almost certainly need to be piggy-backed given his lack of minor league innings and injury history. Like Peterson and Kilome, he’s getting up their in age for a prospect at 24, however, and it would make sense to see if he could cut it next year as either a sixth starter type or as a bullpen arm. Getting as many major league innings over the next couple weeks would help assess his viability for either of those roles and there’s really no downside, so long as Szapucki is actually a healthy right now (far from a given).
Gonzalez, on the other hand, is a much safer and less exciting option. A prospect who has steadily worked his way up the ladder despite not having great stuff, Gonzalez could work as a command-and-control type at the back of the rotation. He’s not someone you want to pencil in at the start of the season, but a very useful, cheap piece to have around as depth. A couple major league starts to see if he’s viable in that role could help the Mets determine just how much depth they need to add this offseason. The same case could’ve been made for Kevin Smith before he was dealt for Miguel Castro last week.
Most of the other arms in the Mets system are either too raw to benefit from a major league look (Joshua Wolf, Junior Santos) or haven’t done enough in the high minors to warrant the opportunity (Tony Dibrell, Daison Acosta, Dedniel Nunez). The one exception is Matthew Allan, the Mets big get from last year’s draft class. Allan almost certainly isn’t ready to step into the rotation, but he could probably get a batter or two out as a reliever. The direct benefit to getting him in the majors this season isn’t as clear as the previous pitchers given that he’ll definitely need more time to develop, but it could be a useful experience if he’s impressed at the alternate site.
In short, it’s time for the Mets to move on from the options that they know will be reliably poor and try out some younger guys who might actually be good. If they’re not, nothing really changes in terms of their chances this season. If they are, maybe they can ride a wave of youthful pitching to the playoffs. Either way, evaluating these guys will help for next season, and that’s probably where the Mets should be looking at this point.