New York Mets general manager Billy Eppler confirmed what had been deemed a future necessity for more than a month now, telling MLB Network Radio that he will be active in the starting pitching free agency market.
While the degree of just how aggressive or big-spending they’ll be still remains unknown — Eppler said that the Mets probably won’t “be walking into 2024 with the same preseason odds that we did in 2022, 2023” — New York has a teeming list of free-agent options to consider bolstering a suddenly-thin rotation.
Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, the two co-aces who were supposed to pace a World Series contender, are gone. Carlos Carrasco has pitched himself off the club next year with a league-worst 6.80 ERA. That leaves the Mets with their new-found ace in Kodai Senga and Jose Quintana as the only trusted options next season while David Peterson and Tylor Megill try to prove throughout the remainder of 2023 that they’re still worthy of another chance at a bottom-of-the-rotation spot. Joey Lucchesi is also under contract next season, though he nor Megill and Peterson don’t inspire much confidence.
Triple-A options have emerged, as well. Justin Jarvis was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in the Mark Canha trade and is the team’s No. 15-ranked prospect. Mike Vasil, drafted in the eighth round two years ago, is No. 9, and should also make a push in spring training to make the big club.
But hypotheticals can’t be leaned on. Proven arms are needed, and Eppler rightfully identified the need to be posted on the open waters of free agency this offseason.
2024 Mets projected starting rotation
Kodai Senga, RHP: Senga has been superb in his rookie season with the Mets, overcoming the litany of adjustments that come with making the jump from Japan to become New York’s most valuable pitcher. Owning a 10-7 record with a 3.08 ERA, he owns a 2.63 ERA over his last 12 starts as his vaunted ghost forkball remains unhittable.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP: The 25-year-old Japanese star is five years younger than Senga and is even more highly regarded than his compatriot coming out of Nippon Professional Baseball. The righty owns a remarkable 1.86 ERA and 0.945 WHIP over seven NPB seasons. He is expected to be posted this winter and the Mets have already been scouting him. Given Eppler’s standing in Japan — he not only signed Senga but was the man to bring Shohei Ohtani to the Los Angeles Angels — the Mets are deemed an early favorite for what could be their largest signing of the offseason.
Sonny Gray, RHP: Outside of Yamamoto, the Mets will likely be looking for veteran arms that could be had on short-term, affordable deals. Sonny Gray could be just that. He’ll be 34 next season and is having a strong campaign with the Minnesota Twins, going 7-6 with a 2.92 ERA. He’s not an overpowering strikeout pitcher with 156 punchouts in 157 innings, but his 2.82 FIP and 0.3 home runs per nine innings lead the league. Whether or not this prices him out of the Mets’ market remains to be seen, but he should understandably be on the Mets’ radar.
Jose Quintana, LHP: Quintana’s deal should provide the template for what the Mets are looking for financially in that potential No. 2 free-agent signing this winter. Signing a two-year, $26 million deal over the winter,the 34-year-old’s debut in Queens was delayed due to rib surgery in the spring, but he’s performed well since his return. Despite a 1-5 record, Quintana owns a 3.26 ERA across eight starts.
David Peterson, LHP: We’ll give the early edge to Peterson, for now, because of what he’s shown since returning to the starting rotation from the bullpen after the trade deadline. He has a 4.15 ERA in his last six starts, including a one-run, three-hit, eight-strikeout gem across seven innings on Aug. 27 against the Los Angeles Angels. He’s allowed two runs or fewer in four of those last six starts, with the exceptions coming against the high-powered Atlanta Braves on Aug. 21 and the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.
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