With the upcoming plan of potentially having occasional seven-inning games and double-headers in 2020, the New York Mets are going to need to figure out what to do with their pitching. After losing Noah Syndergaard to Tommy John surgery, Michael Wacha is going to be joining the rotation as the fifth starter.
However, if there are going to be instances where teams have six games in five days, the Mets are going to need that sixth starter once again. Last season, Walter Lockett, Corey Oswalt, and Chris Flexen started a few games, but general manager Brodie Van Wagenen tried to add depth to the rotation before the Syndergaard injury. It starts to beg the question of what to do with Seth Lugo.
In his three years in the major leagues, Lugo has pitched in every possible situation. He has been a starter, a long-man out of the bullpen, set-up man that can pitch multiple innings and even a closer. The exciting aspect this season with potentially seven-inning games will be how much Mets manager Luis Rojas has to use his bullpen. Lugo hasn’t shown he can pitch every day, so it certainly makes him an option to start.
By doing so, the Mets can push him as far as he can go and get the most out of him. If Lugo can only throw one inning and needs a day off, they are better of starting him in the shortened games. He will likely also need to throw in-between starts during the week, which could allow the Mets to have him come in relief in between starts on a limited pitch count.
The Mets can also do something similar with Robert Gsellman. He has had a history of starting games and has struggled a bit in the bullpen the last few seasons. Gsellman missed most of last season with an injury. Assuming Dellin Betances, who the Mets signed as a free agent this offseason, is back to his original form after an Achilles injury, the Mets will have the back end of games covered along with Edwin Diaz, Justin Wilson, and possibly Jeurys Familia.
Diaz is coming off an awful year where he was removed as the Mets closer after being acquired in the deal with Robinson Cano, where the Mets gave up Jarred Kelenic. Similarly, Familia was hardly used toward the end of the season despite his $30 million dollar contract. The Mets have a potentially dangerous offense, but if they can’t hold leads like they did last season, they are going to have a hard time having success.
With the potential of fewer games this year, each game is going to have more importance. The hope would be in some of the seven-inning games, the Mets won’t have to use their bullpen much. They have a reigning two-time CY-Young Award Winner in Jacob DeGrom but need the rest of the staff to step up. Marcus Stroman will be entering the final year of his contract and needs to step up as a top of the rotation guy.
Steven Matz has always been a valuable piece for the Mets, but it would be great if he can take the next step, as Zack Wheeler did when he was in New York. As the lone lefty in the starting rotation, Matz can be valuable against many of the NL East teams with left-handed bats in their lineup.
For both Rick Porcello and Wacha, it is tough to know what they will bring. The Mets have a new pitching coach in Jeremy Hefner who will work endlessly with those two to get them back to their old form. Porcello has won a Cy-Young in his career, and Wacha was a rising star during the beginning of his career.
Last season, the Mets signed Ervin Santana mid-season, but the veteran never reached the big league. There are still some starters available in free agency if the Mets want to add another arm. There is also a chance the rosters can be expanded this season which will benefit the Mets. Aside from the veteran arms out of the bullpen the Mets depth is light.
Taylor Bashlor, Jacob Rhame, and Daniel Zamora are all options this season, but they have not stuck in their previous opportunities. Also, with the three batter minimum this season, it is going to affect the way managers handle late-inning scenarios. Free agent pitchers like Danny Salazar or Clay Bucholtz could help eat some innings throughout the season and not cost the Mets much.
Expectations are going to be high this season after the New York Mets nearly made a run at a wild card game last year. With a new manager and a strong lineup and pitching staff, New York needs to find themselves back in the postseason for the first time since 2016.
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