It was no secret that the Mets badly needed reinforcements on the pitching front, which was one of the focal points for the front office heading into the trade deadline. The team was unable to land the big fishes like Max Scherzer and José Berríos, but they did make a couple of smaller acquisitions to help their rotation out, picking up Rich Hill from the Tampa Bay Rays about a week ahead of the deadline and then adding Trevor Williams as part of the Javier Báez trade with the Chicago Cubs yesterday. The Mets did not add anybody to help their bullpen, so their pitching is pretty much set for the remainder of the year.
Heading into today’s game, the team finally has five starters who could go every fifth day, which is a nice luxury that they haven’t enjoyed since the All Star break, although it is not something they should bank on in the long term, as we’ve come to learn. The club will roll with the following five starters for the foreseeable future: Carlos Carrasco, who made his return from the injured list last night, the aforementioned Hill, Marcus Stroman, Tylor Megill, and Taijuan Walker.
The unfortunate news after Friday’s deadline hoopla was that Jacob deGrom would need to be shut down for two more weeks as a result of some inflammation in his throwing arm, which puts the most reasonable return for the ace at early September, assuming no further setbacks or ill effects from his arm issues. The deGrom injury is unfortunate, and further reason why the Mets needed to make pitching a priority rather than constantly hinting that their ace would be back soon. In any event, the team is taking it slow with their ace and hoping to rest him up with the hopes of getting him back in time for the playoff push. Anything the team gets from deGrom the remainder of the year will just need to be considered an added bonus.
The wild card in all this is Carrasco’s return. While I refuse to refer to the right-hander as the equivalent of a deadline acquisition, as the club no doubt views him, his return should be a big boost to the team’s pitching down the stretch. The first pitch of the right-hander’s Mets career was deposited into the stands, but he recovered to toss four solid innings. He will continue to stretch out at the big league level, and should be back to his regular self after a few more starts. When the veteran does fully stretch out, the team could hopefully expect him to give them length in every start, and return to the pitcher who pitched to a 2.91 ERA last year and owns a 3.76 career ERA.
Stroman is the pitcher in the bunch that the team likely will not need to worry about. Aside from deGrom, he has been the team’s most consistent starter in 2021, and the one who has been the most relied upon to go out there every fifth day and give the team innings. They will need him to continue doing that while pitching to a 2.63 ERA. Megill has been a nice surprise, as nobody could have reasonably expected him to provide the team with the performances he has given them. It’s hard to predict if he will be able to keep this up, and it’s unclear if he’s on any sort of innings limit, but given the injury news on deGrom, he will continue to get opportunities, at least for the next month. Hill, who makes his second start for New York tonight, gave fans and his new team a glimpse of what they can expect with him, as he will likely go right around five innings every start and should at least keep the team in the ballgame.
The big question mark is Walker, who has looked bad since the break. He has thrown 32 more innings this year than he has thrown in the past three seasons combined, so fatigue is likely a factor. He could probably use some rest given the extra workload, but he will not be afforded the opportunity given the state of the rotation. As such, the Mets will have to hope Walker can figure things out and get back to the pitcher who posted a 2.50 ERA in the first half, and not the one who has an unsightly 15.43 ERA post-All Star game.
Williams, whom the club picked up from Chicago, will largely take over the role left over by the injured Joey Lucchesi as the team’s Triple-A depth starter. It was reported by Mike Puma that the Mets valued the fact that Williams had an option, so he will likely stay in Syracuse until a vacancy arises. While his numbers this year aren’t good, he does present the team with a better option than going back to the likes of Jerad Eickhoff for one-off outings. Lastly, the team expects Noah Syndergaard back some time in September but again, anything you get from Syndergaard is gravy and should not be counted upon. David Peterson is unlikely to return this year and, if he does, it probably would not be until later in September, far beyond when he would be able to help this club.
In terms of the bullpen, the Mets did not make any additions to help out their relievers, which was a failure on the part of the front office. A lot of relievers switched hands, many for relatively reasonable prices, and the Mets should have made a bigger push to inject some new life into their bullpen. In any event, the group the team is rolling with now will likely be the one holding down the fort through September. The team’s pen has posted a 4.26 ERA over the month of July, and a 4.02 ERA overall this season heading into tonight’s game.
The bullpen is, rather neatly, split into two pretty distinct factions. There are the pitchers Luis Rojas turns to in a close game or when his team is ahead by a slim margin, and the guys he turns to when his team is either ahead by a lot or behind. On the former, there’s closer Edwin Díaz, followed by Seth Lugo, Trevor May, Jeurys Familia, Miguel Castro, and Aaron Loup. On the latter, there’s Anthony Banda, Drew Smith, and Yennsy Díaz. On the 40-man roster, the team has Geoff Hartlief down in Triple-A, who falls pretty firmly into the latter category.
On the injury front, there isn’t a lot of help coming for New York. Stephen Nogosek is on the 10-day IL, though he would fit more into the latter group of pitchers used when the team is ahead by a lot or behind. There has not been any update on Robert Gsellman’s progress as he recovers from his injury, and the same goes for Sean Reid-Foley. Both right-handers are on the 60-day IL.
For better or worse, this is the group of pitchers the Mets will go with for the foreseeable future, at least through the month of August. A lot will depend on Carrasco’s performance post-injury, and how Walker adjusts in the second half. This core could conceivably help keep the team afloat en route to an NL East title, and there is still a lot of talent here if they pitch to their career norms. While it would have been nice to see the Mets add more to shore things up on the pitching front, they still have a good group going forward.