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What the Mets could do about David Peterson

Peterson’s struggles should factor into the Mets’ roster decisions with some urgency.

Syndication: Arizona Republic Rob Schumacher via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Following the Mets’ loss in Baltimore last night, manager Luis Rojas said that David Peterson would make his next start at the major league level. Anyone who’s seen Peterson pitch this season, especially lately, couldn’t be blamed for thinking that might not be the case.

In this particular game, Peterson labored through two-and-two-thirds innings, allowing four runs on eight hits with four strikeouts and a walk on 69 pitches, and he now has a 6.32 ERA on the season. As short as the outing was, it was quite a bit longer than his previous start, which came in Arizona and saw him surrender five runs while recording just one out before the Mets went to the bullpen.

In his eleven starts, Peterson has lasted fewer than five innings six times, and he’s failed to get through the fourth inning in four of them. The Mets’ bullpen has been remarkably resilient as it has been asked to throw a ton of innings on a bunch of occasions—mostly Peterson or Joey Lucchesi starts—and has generally been successful in the process. Last night, though, that wasn’t the case, and all three of Robert Gsellman, Jacob Barnes, and Drew Smith are presumably unavailable tonight after having thrown 31, 35, and 41 pitches, respectively.

The situation raises two issues: the Mets’ use of the players already on their roster and the increasingly obvious need to get a starting pitcher from outside the organization.

Sean Reid-Foley’s body of work with the Mets is relatively brief, but when he’s been with the major league team, he’s been excellent. Clearly, the Mets haven’t completely bought in to his performance yet, as he’s been optioned to Triple-A Syracuse twice, most recently on May 31.

Unless the Mets were to put a new player on the injured list, they cannot bring Reid-Foley back to the major league roster until tomorrow, which marks ten days since he was optioned. If they’re inclined to do so, both Gsellman and Smith have options and could be sent to Syracuse at the team’s will, while Barnes—who has a 5.40 ERA in 18.1 innings with the Mets—is out of options and could be claimed by another team. If the Mets plan to continue rolling Peterson and Lucchesi out there on most turns through the rotation, though, it sure seems like they need Gsellman, Reid-Foley, and the recently-returned Seth Lugo in their bullpen for what will presumably be a continued need to have the bullpen carry a very heavy workload.

Should the Mets change their mind and option Peterson to Syracuse to try to get him right, their most obvious options for replacing him internally in the short term seem to be Thomas Szapucki, who has a 2.05 ERA with 25 strikeouts and 11 walks in five starts for Syracuse and has not yet pitched in the big leagues, or Jerad Eickhoff, who has a 4.62 ERA in five starts for Syracuse and previous major league experience.

With the Mets in first place and neither Carlos Carrasco nor Noah Syndergaard anywhere near a return to the major league rotation, though, the team should probably go out and get a starting pitcher in a trade, even if it’s just a cromulent one. While the Mets were rightfully commended for building more starting pitching depth this year than they had in years past—retaining Marcus Stroman via the qualifying offer, getting Carlos Carrasco from Cleveland, signing Taijuan Walker, and acquiring Lucchesi and Jordan Yamamoto—they still entered the year with Peterson basically guaranteed a rotation spot, something that seemed like a questionable plan going back to the early stages of the offseason.

Maybe both Carrasco and Syndergaard are ready to join the rotation at some point later this summer, but the Mets have an opportunity to maintain their lead in the National League East right now. And it surely wouldn’t hurt to have another capable major league starter in the mix even if the dream scenario of everyone being healthy at the same time comes true.

We looked at some pitchers who might be able to help the Mets in a trade a couple weeks back, but let’s take a quick look at some names again, focusing on players whose contracts are up after this season and are playing for non-contending teams.

Max Scherzer is the biggest name out there, and he’s looking as good as usual with a 2.22 ERA and 3.04 FIP in 77.0 innings for the lackluster Nationals so far this year. It would be surprising to see him traded within the division, though, assuming the Nationals want to trade him in the first place. And Danny Duffy was looking great for the Royals, who are 29-30 and maybe still consider themselves in the mix for a playoff spot, but hasn’t pitched since May 12 because of a flexor strain.

Former Marlins starter José Ureña has thrown 59.1 innings over the course of eleven starts for the Tigers and has a 4.25 ERA and 3.85 FIP, though it’s worth noting that he recently returned from a brief stint on the injured list that was the result of a forearm strain.

Tyler Anderson has a 4.67 ERA and 4.17 FIP for the Pirates, which isn’t spectacular, but he’s thrown 61.2 innings in eleven starts for an average of just under six innings pitched per appearance. That’s a significant amount more than Peterson’s average of just over four innings per start and, for that matter, Lucchesi’s average of under four innings per start.

Jon Gray had gotten off to a very good start with the Rockies, but he’s struggled recently and now has a 4.29 ERA and 4.59 FIP on the season. Surprisingly, he has a far better ERA at Coors Field than he does on the road this year, but that’s way too small of a sample size to read into to worry about those splits.

The Twins are bad, but Michael Pineda has a 3.46 ERA and 4.28 FIP in ten starts for them. He spent some time on the injured list with a thigh injury in May, and he’s only made one start this year in which no runs to score. He’s averaged just a tick over five innings pitched per start. Fellow Twins starter J.A. Happ is looking like he might be toast, as he has a 10.17 ERA in his last five starts and a 5.61 ERA on the season, but maybe it’s just a rough stretch and the Mets could see something there.

If Peterson can get back to the pitcher he was in the short 2020 season—an effective starter who averaged five innings per start—he might be better than some of the names above. But given the opportunity to stay in first place, the Mets should be looking to do something different, whether it’s giving Szapucki or Eickhoff a look in that spot in the rotation, turning Gsellman or Reid-Foley into a bulk guy behind an opener, or making a move to get a starting pitcher from elsewhere.

Still just 25 years old, Peterson simply looks like he could benefit from some time in Syracuse, and the Mets could certainly use more consistency and more innings from that spot in the rotation, even if the pitcher replacing him is only a marginal upgrade in terms of ERA.