Trade targets? Mets could boost rotation

June 12th, 2021

NEW YORK -- Recent setbacks for Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard have altered the Mets’ pitching landscape. When the Mets broke camp in March, they hoped for both of those players to be in their rotation by June. Now, both remain weeks, if not months, away.

As such, rotation help is the area the Mets are most likely to supplement in advance of the July 30 Trade Deadline. As things currently stand, the Mets have three standout starting pitchers in Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker. Two others, David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi, stand on shakier ground due to their on-field performances, with no obvious candidates pushing for promotions at Triple-A Syracuse. As such, general manager Zack Scott acknowledged on Friday that pitching could be a target in the coming weeks.

“If I’m projecting out, it’s going to be the most obvious area of need, just because of the timelines of those two injuries,” Scott said, referring to Carrasco and Syndergaard. “But hopefully, we have some guys step up.”

The Mets recently shut down Carrasco’s throwing program because he was not making the type of strength gains they expected in his rehab from a torn right hamstring. Carrasco received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his leg earlier this week and will not begin throwing again until next week.

Mets officials do retain hope that Carrasco can join the rotation by mid- to late July. But even after he begins throwing, Carrasco still must complete a full Spring Training-style progression, which will take about a month. Syndergaard is even further behind due to a bout of right elbow inflammation that should keep him sidelined until early August, if not later.

“Obviously, that’s going to influence what we’re looking at right now,” Scott said of potential trades. “Starting pitching depth is always something, I feel like every Deadline in my career, we’ve been looking for that. So that definitely contributes to how we’re looking at it.”

If the Mets do swing a trade for a starting pitcher, however, it’s unlikely to happen until much closer to the Deadline. Like all teams, the Mets regularly check in with rivals about players who could become available. But with so many clubs still in contention in early June, Scott quipped: “The ‘Buy It Now’ prices are very high.”

Depth add
The Mets did make one starting pitching add on Friday, claiming veteran right-hander Nick Tropeano off waivers from the Giants and optioning him to Triple-A Syracuse. Tropeano will be a candidate to start for the Mets later this month, when they have three doubleheaders scheduled over a seven-game stretch.

This was the Mets’ second claim of Tropeano in the last eight months. The team added him to its roster last October but non-tendered him in December. Tropeano later signed as a free agent with the Giants, who designated him for assignment earlier this week.

The Mets intend to keep Tropeano stretched out as a starting pitcher, as he was while pitching with the Giants’ Triple-A Sacramento affiliate earlier this year. In three starts for Sacramento, Tropeano compiled a 2.79 ERA, as well as a 1.50 mark in four relief appearances for the big club. He and Thomas Szapucki are the Mets’ two most realistic short-term rotation fill-ins because both are already on the 40-man roster.

To clear space for Tropeano, the Mets transferred relief pitcher Tommy Hunter to the 60-day injured list.

Injury clarity
Brandon Nimmo recently received a welcome piece of news from Ohio-based hand surgeon Dr. Thomas Graham, who diagnosed him with a small ligament tear near the base of his left index finger. Graham and Mets doctors had previously feared that Nimmo was dealing with a nerve problem, which can be tricky to diagnose and even more difficult to heal. Instead, a subsequent MRI reading revealed that a small portion of ligament had actually peeled off his finger bone.

“That’s where the swelling came from,” Nimmo said. “This explains it a little bit more. A freak accident still. It’s still not normal. It’s still not supposed to happen. But we’re hopeful this is the one and only time it ever happens.”

Graham told Nimmo that the ligament should fully reattach to his bone in time. Nimmo does still feel some discomfort in his finger, but he will know more once he begins a batting practice progression in the coming days. If all goes well, he should begin a rehab assignment by the middle to end of next week.

Utility man returns
Prior to Friday’s game against the Padres, the Mets activated infielder Luis Guillorme from the IL, one day ahead of schedule. To clear space, they optioned fellow infielder Travis Blankenhorn to Syracuse.

Guillorme had been on the IL since April 30 due to a right oblique strain. Although he was on the bench Friday versus left-hander Blake Snell, he should take over for José Peraza as the Mets’ primary second baseman until Jeff McNeil also returns from the IL.

McNeil, who is rehabbing a strained left hamstring, is due to begin a Minor League rehab assignment on Sunday. The Mets hope he can return by the following weekend. (Outfielder Michael Conforto, who is also nursing a strained right hamstring, is about a week behind McNeil.)

Mets cetera

• The Mets have signed native New Zealander Elliot Johnstone to a Minor League deal. Johnstone, who pitched two seasons for the Auckland Tuatara of the Australian Baseball League, hopes to become the first New Zealander in Major League history.

• Former Mets infielder Todd Frazier is continuing his professional career close to home. Frazier debuted on Friday for the Sussex County (N.J.) Miners of the independent Frontier League. He is fresh off a stint with Team USA, which he helped qualify for a berth at the Tokyo Olympics.