Mets fans have heard the front office boast about the future for five consecutive losing seasons, but the next 12 months should be as pivotal as promised in pursuit of the club’s return to relevance.
With a former Cy Young winner, some stable veterans and plenty of hopeful hurlers, the organization has excess pitching potential and options to capitalize. Redistributing one or more of their mound assets to boost a lineup ranked 10th in the NL in runs (3.9 per game) and 13th in batting average (.239) could go a long way toward reaching October for the first time since 2006.
The 25-year-old phenom, who started last year’s All-Star Game, will be welcomed back from Tommy John surgery with open arms. Last year’s 2.27 ERA speaks for itself as Harvey’s four go-to pitches create an atmosphere seldom seen at Citi Field. Though the Mets have all but shut the door on his possible return to the mound this season, fans know what they can expect from the fireballer come April.
Drafted sixth overall by the Giants in 2009, Wheeler was traded to the Mets in 2011 for Carlos Beltran. Since the right-hander’s debut one year ago, he has enjoyed short-lived success. After ending the year 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 17 starts, the 24-year-old has lost eight of 11 decisions this season with an inflated 4.45 ERA.
Despite lacking consistency, his upper-90s fastball and three complimentary pitches keep his stock high around the league. Trading Wheeler may make sense if the Mets can get a good bat … exactly what they gave up to get him in the first place.
Drafted in the ninth round in 2010, the former college shortstop has shown flashes of greatness in his first nine starts. While it took deGrom, 26, until his eighth start to record his first big-league victory, he is the only pitcher in Mets history to pitch five or more innings with five or fewer hits in his first five major league starts. Though too early to rate his exact value, he has proven he belongs in the majors and could round out an exciting trio with Harvey and Wheeler should they stay assembled.
Mejia won all three of his decisions in seven starts this season but was moved back to the pen in mid-May following a couple rocky outings. In the absence of Bobby Parnell, Mejia assumed the closer role, recording eight saves in nine tries. The 24-year-old’s five-pitch arsenal includes a live fastball, a nasty slider and a swing-and-miss changeup that make him fun to watch, even if it is only for an inning at a time. Paired with Jeurys Familia, also 24, the two are budding into a solid late-game tandem of the future.
The Mets gave one of the team’s top-ranked prospects a chance following Mejia’s shift to the bullpen. In four winless starts, Montero failed to attack hitters as billed and was demoted back to Triple-A Las Vegas. “Little Pedro” will have to rediscover his so-called great command to make a return to the bigs.
One of two highly-touted prospects acquired in the R.A. Dickey trade with the Blue Jays in 2012, the former first-rounder’s 97-mph fastball and “a hook from hell” — as described by Terry Collins in spring training — makes one forget he is only 21. Though expected to pitch for the Mets this season, Syndergaard suffered a strained tendon in his throwing elbow, followed by a sprained joint in his left shoulder at the beginning of June. The 6-foot-6 right-hander is currently healthy, but his 5.35 ERA in Triple-A this year has fans wondering whether he will blossom into a Harvey or fall into Wheeler-like patterns when called up.
Without Harvey this season, Niese received the Opening Day nod and has pitched like an ace ever since, notching a 2.88 ERA at the season’s midpoint. Earning just eight starts in his first two seasons in 2008 and 2009, the 27-year-old became a key part of the rotation in 2010. As a consistent left-hander, it would make sense for the Mets to keep Niese, a guy who sits second or third on the totem pole assuming Harvey has a smooth return and one of the promising youngsters lives up to the hype.
In 2011 — Gee’s first full season — the right-hander went 7-0 with a 2.86 ERA — including relief appearances — after his first 10 starts. Since, he and Niese have anchored the rotation with steady numbers. The 28-year-old carried a 2.73 ERA this season in eight starts before going on the disabled list on May 11 with a muscle strain. Gee could be part of a blockbuster trade for a Giancarlo Stanton-type hitter if paired with a guy like Wheeler or Syndergaard.
The Mets signed the 41-year-old to a two-year, $20 million contract during the offseason. The former AL Cy Young Award winner is 8-6 with a 3.88 ERA and has won six of his last eight starts. The Mets should consider dealing Colon to a contender before the trade deadline while also weighing the importance of a reliable veteran among some unproven hopefuls next year.