Suddenly, the Mets go from the security of using a six-man rotation to a need to fill two spots. Injuries trump everything in this game…
Until yesterday, the Mets were riding high with a Spring Training that has slowed a few players (think Dominic Smith) nursing injuries – but there hasn’t been a knockout punch that’s forced the team to rethink their basic strategy and 40-man roster composition.
Things were moving along so smoothly that I felt secure in writing yesterday’s essay proposing that the Mets, with a wealth of starters having good to excellent springs, using a six-man rotation to save strength for the playoffs.
That, of course, was before Carlos Carrasco came down with a hamstring injury, which, if properly cared for by the Mets (always a consideration), will keep him out of action until May, at minimum.
This new injury comes on the top of the sore arm Carrasco experienced a week or so ago that essentially put him on a slow train before returning at full strength.
Mets: Looking Beyond Carrasco For Help
The removal of Carrasco, who was projected and relied on the Mets number two starter behind Jacob deGrom, presents a solvable and another not so solvable problem for Sandy Alderson and manager Luis Rojas.
Easily solved is the Mets’ depth ability to add two of these three starters to make five. with Joey Lucchesi, Jordan Yamamoto, and David Peterson (right) all seemingly ready to step up without missing a beat.
The problem not easily as solved though is finding the starter who can slot into the number two slot behind deGrom to replace Carrasco, who, if healthy, would adapt easily to the National League, resuming his status as an elite pitcher following his arrival from Cleveland.
Mets: Remedies Closed For The Moment
Noah Syndergaard, of course, looms in the background as an easy choice for that role, but his arrival from Tommy John surgery is loosely pegged for late May or mid-June, assuming his rehab moves along smoothly.
At this point in the season’s prelude, there is not likely to be anyone suitable to the task among remaining free-agent starting pitchers that will catch the eye of Sandy Alderson.
Similarly, as teams pare down their rosters to meet the 26-player limit to begin the season, the possibility of trades is diminished until the dust settles for all teams.
With those options virtually eliminated and time running out before Opening Day against the Nationals, what can the Mets do?
Mets Options Okay With Some TLC
The first and most sensible option is to let the chips fall where they may among Lucchesi, Yamamoto, and Peterson. The Mets can expect to see each make one to two appearances before the team moved north. One of the two will disqualify himself for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. Otherwise, flip a coin, and the team will not be hurt.
However, the second option is to take extra-special care monitoring and supervising the rehab program for Noah Syndergaard – a bull in the wild who needs to be throttled at times.
So far, so good, and the Mets are pleased with Syndergaard’s more “mature” approach to rehab (right). He’s listening and following the program put forth the Mets step by step.
But at some point, two opposite ends can be expected to meet.
In his walk year with the Mets, Syndergaard will be an unrestricted free agent when the World Series concludes this season. Big money is on the line, and his among starting pitchers in the Class Of 2022 finds him in substantial competition among other elite pitchers in the league.
Sooner or later, the pressure on Syndergaard to perform this year can easily supersede the best of any man’s common sense.
Noah Syndergaard Holds A Key To The Mets Season
Therefore, it shouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility for the Mets to attempt to intervene by offering a contract extension number to Syndergaard’s team, thereby at least introducing the Met’s commitment in their desire to retain him beyond this year.
Whether or not a deal is consummated can at least be a sign (when Syndergaard sees the number and years) that the Mets are serious enough for him to stay the course with the assurance that caution is the better part of value over the course of his pending career.
In sum, the Mets are fortunate to have the depth in their rotation that affords them a chance to promote pitchers like Lucchesi and Yamamoto while at the same time rewarding someone like David Patterson, who knocked it out of the park in 2020.
But the key for the Mets is Noah Syndergaard to be deGrom’s wingman in the playoffs. The duo that can complement and challenge Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer (Nationals), Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler (Dodgers), or even Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler (Phillies) as a one-two punch is not a luxury, but still very much a necessity for the Mets to make some noise in 2021.
The Mets dilemma with Carrasco out is manageable but not automatic without some TLC applied by the coaching and medical staff that ensures their best team is on the mound come October 3rd when the postseason sweepstakes begin.