For the first time in what seems like ages, the New York Mets are legitimately pursuing pressing team needs rather than feigning interest. That’s the Steve Cohen effect.
One of the organization’s glaring issues is the starting rotation and necessary depth to keep it afloat should injuries — which always tend to strike — rear their ugly heads.
With Cohen in place as the richest owner in Major League Baseball, the Mets are suddenly the big fish on the free-agent market — and they seem to be acting accordingly.
Shortly after signing reliever Trevor May to start bolstering a beleaguered and questionable bullpen, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported that the Mets were among teams making the “biggest push” to sign starting pitchers.
At the moment, the two largest targets on the Mets’ wishlist are perceived to be 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer and a mid-rotation option such as Jake Odorizzi.
Bauer in Queens would create one of the most fearsome 1-2 starting-pitching punches in baseball alongside Jacob deGrom, who had won the previous two Cy Young Awards. Odorizzi would then slot in as a third or fourth starter.
With Wednesday being deadline day for teams to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players, the Mets are expected to bring back Steven Matz, who struggled mightily in 2020 but showed an inkling or two of progress (career-highs in fastball, slider velocity, strikeout rate).
That potentially leaves the Mets — should they make those free-agent signings (a big ‘if’) with the following available starting arms for Opening Day:
- Jacob deGrom
- Trevor Bauer
- Marcus Stroman
- Jake Odorizzi
- Steven Matz/David Peterson
Peterson put together a solid showing in his rookie season last year and will be up for consideration for that No. 5 spot in the rotation under these hypothetical circumstances.
A spring-training competition for the last slot between Matz and Peterson — both southpaws — would immediately add a viable depth arm. The reserves cupboard would only grow when Noah Syndergaard completes his recovery from Tommy John surgery, which is expected to come no later than June or July.
That would potentially flex the winner of the Matz, Peterson competition out of the five-man rotation.
Immediate, competent depth would allow the Mets to keep Seth Lugo — arguably their most valuable reliever in recent years — in the bullpen rather than flexing him back and forth between relief and starting roles.
It all looks hunky-dory on paper, but it comes down to the execution of the players and management involved, which makes this offseason’s free-agency period that much more pivotal for the Mets.