Breaking down the Mets' options for 5th starter

August 27th, 2023

NEW YORK -- If not for Shohei Ohtani, whose every move as a visiting player has been robustly cheered at Citi Field all weekend, the second inning Saturday would have held only boos. Mets fans reserved those for one of their own, , who allowed four of his five runs in the second and couldn't escape the inning.

All told, Carrasco gave up more hits than he recorded outs in a 5-3 loss to the Angels, raising his ERA to 6.80 -- highest in the Majors among pitchers with at least 90 innings. Since the All-Star break, Carrasco’s ERA is 10.24 -- by far the highest among pitchers with at least seven second-half starts. All of which begs the question of why he continues to start every fifth game.

After the game, manager Buck Showalter acknowledged that the Mets could soon make a rotation change, saying: “We’re always looking if there’s a better way.” Should they indeed choose another path, here are their most realistic options:

Mike Vasil
Without question, this is the most intriguing potential Carrasco replacement. An eighth-round Draft pick of the Mets in 2021, Vasil has steadily enhanced his reputation over the past two years. He currently rates as MLB Pipeline’s No. 9 Mets prospect, the highest rank of any pitcher in the system. He’s also one of two pitchers among the Mets’ Top 30 Prospects currently at Triple-A Syracuse.

Upon earning a midseason promotion to Syracuse, Vasil initially struggled, but he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning of an Aug. 8 start and has excelled since that time, producing a 1.75 ERA over his past four starts. At 23 years old with plenty of college experience, Vasil has reached the point where he has little left to prove in the Minors.

So why not call him up? The answer, for an out-of-contention Mets team, is business. Although team officials haven't verbalized this, Vasil is not on the 40-man roster and isn’t eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in December, meaning the club has little incentive to add him now. Inevitably, Spring Training brings a 40-man crunch, so it does make sense -- despite the fact that Vasil deserves a chance on merit -- for the Mets to keep their roster as nimble as possible heading into the winter.

Justin Jarvis
Although Jarvis isn’t quite the same caliber of prospect as Vasil, he still ranks 15th on Pipeline’s list and has been at Triple-A nearly as long. Jarvis, whom the Mets acquired from the Brewers last month for Mark Canha, has one other factor in his favor: Unlike Vasil, he will be Rule 5-eligible this winter, meaning the Mets must add him to the 40-man or risk exposing him to other teams. It’s highly unlikely they will leave him unprotected.

As such, the red tape surrounding a Vasil callup doesn’t exist in this case. The problem is that Jarvis has a 7.96 ERA since arriving at Triple-A, putting a damper on the idea of a debut this season. Numbers like that suggest Jarvis may be better served developing further in the Minors.

For many reasons, Lucchesi makes the most sense for an immediate callup. A veteran of parts of five MLB seasons, Lucchesi made a successful spot start just last weekend. Lucchesi has hardly been perfect in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery, but he’s enjoyed more success in the Majors than the Minors -- and more success at any level than Carrasco.

More than that, Lucchesi is arbitration-eligible over the winter after making $1.15 million this season. Giving him regular starts in September would offer the Mets additional data points to decide whether they’d like to tender him a contract.

José Butto
Once a Top 30 prospect, Butto has seen his stock fall over the past year as he has struggled at both the MLB and Triple-A levels. Like Lucchesi, Butto recently made a Major League spot appearance, but unlike Lucchesi, he wasn’t particularly effective. It’s difficult at this point to imagine the Mets calling up Butto ahead of Lucchesi, despite the fact that he’s five years younger.