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Searching for starting pitchers for the Mets on the trade market

The Mets are in first place and clearly need to add some pitching before the July 30 deadline.

Minnesota Twins v Chicago White Sox
Kenta Maeda
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Mets are in first place in the National League East, a position that they will have held for two months straight come tomorrow. And while their offense has proven capable of coming through late in games, the team is in first primarily because of its pitching, as the Mets’ lineup has the second lowest number of runs scored per game in all of baseball.

The Mets rank third in baseball with a 3.35 ERA as a team, and Mets starting pitchers have a 2.96 ERA that is the best in baseball. Those numbers have largely been put together by the Mets’ big three starters: Jacob deGrom, Taijuan Walker, and Marcus Stroman.

Behind them, things have been pretty dicey. After struggling early in the year, Joey Lucchesi was enjoying a successful stretch that abruptly ended when he needed and had Tommy John surgery. David Peterson is on the injured list, too, albeit with a shorter-term injury than Lucchesi’s. But with a 5.54 ERA in 15 starts with the Mets, there was an argument to be made for optioning him to Triple-A Syracuse and filling his spot in the rotation with a better pitcher even before the injury.

Beyond those two, Jerad Eickhoff made two starts for the Mets and was designated for assignment when the second one went poorly. Jordan Yamamoto is on the 60-day injured list, and neither Corey Oswalt nor Thomas Szapucki appear to be realistic solutions right now. Robert Stock gave the Mets a solid outing in the nightcap of the doubleheader yesterday, but relying on him to continue to make starts wouldn’t be ideal. Tylor Megill has been impressive in his first three big league starts, and of all of the healthy internal options to hold down a rotation spot, he looks like the best one right now.

With Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard still on the injured list and attempting to make it back by the end of the month and before the end of the season, respectively, the Mets might be tempted to continue patching the rotation together. But they should instead look to the trade market and bring in at least one starting pitcher. Here, then, are a few pitchers who could make sense for the team, broken down by their current teams.

Diamondbacks: With a 25-63 record, Arizona is the worst team in baseball. Madison Bumgarner is the biggest name in their rotation, but after having his performance fade a bit in his last couple of years with the Giants, he’s fallen off a cliff since signing a five-year, $85 million deal with the Diamondbacks before the 2020 season. He’s also on the injured list because of a shoulder issue.

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks
Merrill Kelly
Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Merrill Kelly hasn’t been spectacular, but he has a serviceable 4.60 ERA this year and a $5.25 million team option for next year with no buyout should the option be declined. Having spent several years pitching in the KBO, Kelly has a 4.30 ERA in the big leagues since returning to the states for the 2019 season.

Caleb Smith has been pretty good since getting traded from the Marlins to the Diamondbacks last year, but the 29-year-old lefty is under team control for two seasons beyond this one and has a $1.5 million salary this year. After making one start to begin his season, Arizona used him out of the bullpen for a while before putting him back into the rotation. In seven starts since then, he has a 3.62 ERA and 4.81 FIP, while he has a 3.45 ERA and 4.27 FIP overall on the season.

Orioles: Baltimore has the second-worst record in baseball, but their only pitcher worth trading for is John Means, who is cheap, under team control through the 2024 season, and presumably isn’t going anywhere.

Pirates: The Pirates are baseball’s third-worst team, and their pitching hasn’t been great overall. They do have one starting pitcher on an expiring contract who could help at the back end of the Mets’ rotation, though, in Tyler Anderson. The 31-year-old lefty has a respectable 4.39 ERA and 4.41 FIP with Pittsburgh this year after signing a one-year, $2.5 million deal with them, and he’s averaged just a shade under six innings pitched per start.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Colorado Rockies
Tyler Anderson
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Rangers: Kyle Gibson is having a great year so far with a 2.29 ERA and 3.47 FIP through 102.0 innings of work. That’s far better than his career norms, and he’s in the middle of a three-year, $28 million deal that he signed with Texas before the 2020 season. Any team trading for Gibson right now would be buying high, as he has a 4.38 ERA for his career and a 4.15 ERA since the start of the 2019 season, but he’s always been at least a serviceable major league arm.

Detroit Tigers v Texas Rangers
Kyle Gibson
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Rangers also have Mike Foltynewicz, who signed a one-year, $2 million deal for this season and is trying to keep his major league career afloat, but he has a 5.17 ERA and 5.48 FIP in 94.0 innings over 17 starts. Jordan Lyles, too, is on the last year of his two-year deal with the Rangers. He’s been slightly better this year with a 4.98 ERA and 5.07 FIP in 90.1 innings over 17 appearances, all but one of which was a start.

Twins: Coming into the season, the Twins were expected to contend for the American League Central title, but they’ve fallen far short of that level of play and currently sit in last place in the division. The 27-year-old Jose Berrios is their best starting pitcher and has a 3.36 ERA and 3.47 FIP this year, but he’s on a relatively cheap contract with one more year of arbitration-eligibility left before hitting free agency. He figures to cost a significant return in any potential trade.

MLB: JUL 07 White Sox at Twins
Michael Pineda

In terms of starting pitchers on expiring contracts, the Twins have one in Michael Pineda, who has a solid 4.11 ERA and 4.25 FIP on the season. He just returned from the injured list, though, and gave up five runs in five-and-one-third innings in his first start back last night. Pineda is in the final year of the two-year, $10 million deal he signed with the Twins before the 2020 season.

And the Twins also have Kenta Maeda, who is still on the heavily incentive-laden eight-year deal that he signed with the Dodgers when he came to Major League Baseball and still has two years left on that deal after this one. Having pitched brilliantly for the Twins in the short season last year with a 2.70 ERA that earned him a second-place finish in American League Cy Young voting, he has struggled this year. In 62.2 innings over 13 starts, Maeda has a 5.03 ERA and 4.56 FIP, both of which are a good bit higher than his career numbers.

Royals: Danny Duffy was enjoying an excellent start to this season before he hit the injured list with a flexor strain. He’s since returned, but the struggling Royals are taking is very slow with his workload, as he’s pitched a total of 10.1 innings in four appearances since then. He has a 2.60 ERA and 3.27 FIP in 52.0 innings, and he’s in the final year of a five-year, $65 million contract.

Minnesota Twins v Kansas City Royals
Danny Duffy
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Mike Minor is in the Royals’ rotation, too, but he has a 5.36 ERA and 4.29 FIP and signed a two-year, $18 million contract before this season. He had a great year for the Rangers in 2019, but since then, he has a 5.43 ERA in 159.0 innings.

Rockies: It’s no surprise that the Rockies are bad, but German Márquez has been very good. The 26-year-old has a 3.59 ERA and 3.42 FIP in 105.1 innings, but he’s also on a very team-friendly contract that has two more guaranteed years left on it and a team option for the 2024 season. The Rockies are weird and unpredictable, but logically, Márquez should be the costliest pitcher of anyone mentioned in this piece.

St Louis Cardinals v Colorado Rockies
German Márquez
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The 29-year-old Jon Gray might slightly easier to pry away from the Rockies, as he’s in his final year of team control and set to hit free agency when the season ends. While has hasn’t been quite as good as Márquez, he has been solid, with a 3.94 ERA and 4.12 FIP. Both of those numbers look a lot like what he put up in 2019, making his ugly 6.69 ERA in the short season in 2020 look like the aberration.

Tigers: We’re skipping the Marlins here, as trades within a division are relatively rare and Miami’s good starting pitchers are all young, cheap, and under team control for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, the Tigers’ rotation includes several such pitchers, as well, but Matthew Boyd has just one more year of team control left after this season. The 30-year-old lefty is performing far better than his career norms with a 3.44 ERA and 3.75 FIP this year. His ERA has typically been about a run higher than that in his most recent full seasons of work.

Even if the Mets’ most optimistic timeline for Carlos Carrasco’s return plays out, with the team considering bringing him back before he’s fully stretched out for a starting pitcher’s workload, the entire pitching staff would benefit from at least one addition. Even if the Mets get to a point that every possible pitcher is healthy, they could slide starters into the bullpen, which could also use a little help. And they sure could use a little more depth to cover for any injuries that might pop up between now and the end of the season.