The 2019 Mets began the season with the hope their starting pitching would outlast their formidable challengers in the NL East. They could use a do-over…
The New York Mets began the season with a one-two starting pitching punch of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard that was (on paper) equal to or better than the Nationals combo of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, the Phillies Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta, and the Braves Mike Foltynewicz and Julio Teheran.
As the 2019 season makes the turn at the quarter-pole, the Braves duo is a combined 2-7, the Nationals tandem is 5-7, while the Philadelphia’s one-two is at a league-leading 7-3. Meanwhile, the Mets pair struggles along at 6-7. Both deGrom and Syndergaard have shown signs of life in recent starts, and there is every reason to believe the trend will continue. But the problem is deeper…
The problem for the Mets, however, is matching up in 3-4-5 spots in the rotation against the rest of the NL East. The Mets have Zack Wheeler in the three-hole (3-2, 4.35 ERA), but the Phillies counter with Zach Eflin (5-3, 2,47), the Nationals with Patrick Corbin (3-1, 3.20), and the Braves with Max Fried (5-2, 3.25).
And from there it’s essentially no-contest with both the Mets four and five starters on the 10-day Injured List, with no one of any consequential value to replace Steven Matz and Jason Vargas.
Hear Ye, Hear Ye – The Mets Need Starting Pitching
Within the past week, GM Brodie Van Wagenen and the Mets manager, Mickey Callaway have endured the presence of the team’s “boss” in a 90-minute session that gently, but forcefully, said to both of them, (paraphrasing) “C’mon guys, let’s go – now”.
With the possible exception of the Washington Nationals (16-26 and 3-7 over their last ten) manager, Dave Martinez, Callaway easily earns the title as the manager most like to go if the Mets continue to ride along as a .500 team in the NL East.
Unfortunately for Van Wagenen and the Mets, there is no pitching help on the horizon at the Triple-A level in their farm system. The team could jump to Anthony Kay at Double-A Binghamton, who has made eights starts with a 4-2 record and a sparkling 1.24 ERA, but that leaves the team open to charges of rushing talent and a panic modus operandi.
So, where does that leave Van Wagenen? He can stay, hoping beyond hope, that Steven Matz will simply stop being a pitcher who is one pitch away from this or that injury, and that Jason Vargas can somehow muster the wherewithal to pitch through the sixth inning delivering a quality start now and then – or he can pray to God the Phillies will self-combust under the weight of their slumbering “Super-Star”, Bryce Harper.
Yes, Dallas Keuchel is still out there. But he is ticketed to remain unsigned until the June Draft is completed, allowing a team to sign him without losing a draft pick to the Astros as compensation. A month from now, the Mets season could be over as it was last year in June. Or, not.
Brodie Van Wagen – A Man Tied Up In Knots
Brodie Van Wagenen hailed himself as the “fixer”, challenging NL East team to “come and get us”. That bravado, while not empty of fulfillment, is at least somewhat in doubt as the Phillies threaten to run away with the division while the Mets have nowhere to go in the Wild Card race with five teams to climb over to qualify.
Trades? Well, take a look at the Mets roster. Who is tradable that can reap benefits equal to or greater than their loss? Todd Frazier stands out like a sore thumb, but where is he a fit with a team who needs a .151 hitter since his return from injury? Shh…don’t tell anyone, but the Yankees might like a second go-around with Frazier, especially since it looks like Miguel Andujar is due for season-ending surgery.
Juan Lagares, Keon Broxton, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman – maybe. But again, what is the expected return for players of this caliber – certainly not a major league-ready starting pitcher.
The Mets are stuck, but maybe that’s the best thing that could happen to the team. Callaway’s message can (then) be similar to Aaron Boone‘s message to his players – or something like – “Look, it is what it is. We can buckle under or rise up. We have 25 players in this clubhouse being paid major league salaries. How about we start playing like it?”
Otherwise, I don’t have a clue.
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