Entering the winter meetings, the Mets had lots of holes to fill, but their number one priority was addressing the starting rotation. They had claimed they wanted an ace and a mid-rotation pitcher, and they’ve now gotten both of those by signing Justin Verlander and Jose Quintana to two-year deals.
The Mets are not done, as they are reportedly still very much in on Kodai Senga, but until that reaches its resolution, let’s take a look at the starting five the Mets have built so far and how it looks at the present moment.
Verlander signed on Monday morning to replace the departed Jacob deGrom. While Verlander could never replace deGrom in Mets fans hearts, he stands as good of a chance as anyone to replace deGrom’s on-field production. Verlander just posted an absurd 1.75 ERA in 175 innings, an innings total deGrom hasn’t reached since 2019. There’s every chance Verlander’s 40-year-old body also breaks down this year, but there’s no reason to thing he wouldn’t still be an ace caliber pitcher if he’s healthy.
Speaking of bodies breaking down, Scherzer was great for about 95% of the time he was on the field last year, but his recurring oblique issues might have had an effect on him down the stretch, costing the Mets in the final two starts he made. Like Verlander, Scherzer is unlikely to be bad if he’s on the field, but the oblique issues raise questions about his ability to hold up in what will be his age-38 season.
What’s funny about the Mets signing Quintana is that he’s an 11-year veteran, but actually makes the Mets rotation younger. The 33-year-old is the youngest member of the current top four in the rotation.
Quintana was almost out of baseball after a disastrous 2021 season in which he was DFA’d twice, but he went to the Pirates last year on a $2 million contract, and wound up having one of the best seasons of his career between Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
Once considered one of the most underrated and consistent pitchers in baseball, Quintana has profiled more as a #4 starter since about 2017. His 2022 season was the first time he posted an ERA below four since 2016, but he’s also made at least 31 starts in eight of his last 10 seasons with his disastrous 2021 and the brief 2020 season being the only two exceptions. Quintana takes the ball and eats innings, which is very valuable, but expecting him to match his top line 2022 numbers and be more than the fourth starter he’s been for years is probably foolish, since there’s no underlying indicator to explain his sudden renaissance last year.
Carrasco is very similar to Quintana in that you’d be ecstatic to have either as your number four starter, but expecting them to be your third starter is probably asking a bit much at this stage of their careers. The 35-year-old followed up a lost 2021 season with a very nice 150 innings in 2022, but his upside is probably not much beyond the 3.97 ERA he posted last year. Given his age and relative health concerns, he’s not a guy you really want to have to rely on for anything more than depth at this stage of his career.
David Peterson/Tylor Megill
Both Peterson and Megill are currently set to duke it out for the 5th starter spot. Considering Peterson’s 2022 season was significantly better than Megill’s, he would probably have the inside edge as things currently stand. Of course, both Peterson and Megill would not be out of place as 5th starters on most teams, but considering both players still have options left, the Mets are under no obligation to guarantee them anything, either.
Neither pitcher was guaranteed a spot on the 2022 rotation, and both saw regular starts while they were healthy. Considering the age and health history of the rotation, both pitchers would probably once again see ample time even without a guaranteed spot. If the Mets want to repeat their 100-win total again, they should probably repeat the strategy they used last year.
Depth: Elieser Hernandez, Joey Lucchesi, Jose Butto
Hernandez was acquired in a trade from the Marlins a few weeks ago. With a career 5.04 ERA in 287 career innings, he’s not a serious contender to make the healthy rotation. However, he has some upside beyond what he’s done and has options remaining, making him a pretty good 7th starter. Lucchesi will be returning from Tommy John surgery and is likely a full-go for spring training. Butto made one start for the 2022 Mets and did not look anywhere close to ready, but some more seasoning and some adjustments from new Director of Pitching Development Eric Jagers could help Butto stick in the big leagues.
All told, that rotation looks pretty good and would probably be among the best in the league with standard health, but considering the age of the rotation, “standard health” is no guarantee. There is also a noticeable lack of exciting upside after the top two. It wouldn’t hurt to fill it out with a younger, more exciting mid-rotation piece.
The Mets do appear interested in adding another starter, so they seem to recognize this as well, and Senga fits that description to a tee. He has ace upside, and in a worst case scenario, Quintana and Carrasco would represent good, safe veteran depth behind him to provide stability if he does not adjust well to MLB. Chris Bassitt is also still an option, though the Mets haven’t been closely connected to him.