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How the Mets’ rotation looks without Max Scherzer

Scherzer’s departure leaves a significant hole in the starting rotation.

Milwaukee Brewers v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The New York Mets have traded Max Scherzer to the Rangers for Luisangel Acuña. The Mets made Scherzer the highest-paid player in league history by average annual value in 2021, and Scherzer has spent the last two seasons as the team’s second ace pitcher. Though he never pitched as well as his peak in Washington, Scherzer still swung between very good and elite in Queens and stood as the face of Steve Cohen’s big-money takeover. And now that he is gone, the Mets have a prime rotation spot to fill.

The likelihood of the sell-first Mets acquiring a starting pitcher via trade before the August 1 deadline looks low, so someone from the organization will likely fill Scherzer’s spot for the rest of the season. David Peterson would be the easiest choice, having last pitched two innings out of the bullpen on July 27. He would be fully ready to take Scherzer’s spot against the Royals on August 3. Though he’s earned a spot back on the big league club, Peterson has pitched dreadfully this season, sporting a 6.12 ERA in eleven starts and earning a well-deserved demotion to the minors.

Tylor Megill, currently pitching in Triple-A Syracuse, has only pitched marginally better than Peterson this season. Though holding a 6-4 record in fifteen starts, Megill’s hit and walk rates have skyrocketed to career-highs while his strikeout rate has plummeted to a career-low.

If the Mets really want to bring someone up from the minors it would make more sense to bring up someone on a trial run for the big league roster, but unfortunately no one really stands out as worthy of a tryout. Both Bryce Montes de Oca and Elieser Hernández would fit this role well if it weren’t for their injuries, and their minor league workhorses José Butto and Denyi Reyes have not pitched well in Syracuse this season. Mike Vasil pitched well in ten starts in Double-A Binghamton but stunk it up once promoted to Syracuse, and there doesn’t seem to be much motivation to get the beautifully named Christian Scott up from Binghamton to Queens with his sub-3 ERA in just seven starts. Going to the well only makes sense if there’s something in the well to go to, and when it comes to prospective starting pitching talent, this organization is as dry as a desert.

Of course, that was also the case in 2020 when the Mets needed two months of pitching from somebody, turned to David Peterson, and found a fringe major-league starter from the barren depths of the minors. Considering the Mets’ deadline sell-a-thon, it still may be worth it to give a kid a shot for the next couple of months, but it likely won’t be the long-term solution to replace Scherzer in 2024.

That will come from the free agent market, which on the pitching side has a lot of star names at the top, but maybe not for the Mets. The odds look good that Shohei Ohtani will test free agency this upcoming offseason, and while the Mets have the funds to make Ohtani the highest-paid major leaguer ever, conventional wisdom points to Ohtani staying on the Pacific coast. The odds also look good that Marcus Stroman will opt out of his player option, but considering their acrimonious split, it’s unlikely Stroman or the Mets would even consider a reunion.

The best pitcher on the market outside of the top two will likely be Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who has spent his last seven seasons playing for the Orix Buffaloes of the NPB. Yamamoto has been NPB’s most decorated pitcher since Masahiro Tanaka, and just entering his age-25 season, he will likely set the record for a contract for a player entering MLB from NPB. Considering how well Kodai Senga has pitched for the Mets this season, and considering the Mets’ ample resources and need to fill starting pitching slots with younger star talent, the Mets signing another ace pitcher from NPB makes a ton of sense.

Scherzer won’t be the only starter gone from the rotation next season, as the chances of the Mets trading Justin Verlander just went up and the likelihood of the Mets re-signing Carlos Carrasco looks dim. But shedding these players also gives the Mets an opportunity to sign younger stars like Yamamoto, and a rotation that starts next season with Senga and Quintana is not unworkable for a team as willing to spend as the Mets. But Mets fans have the right to feel bummed, as one of the biggest signings in the history of the franchise has turned into a deadline sell-off in just eighteen months. There’s always next year.