What are Mets' rotation options without Thor?

March 24th, 2020

NEW YORK -- Last season, the Mets’ top six starters began 154 of their 162 games. As much as some of that was thanks to an organizational focus on health, the Mets understood the unlikelihood of repeating such a rare feat.

As a result, the team made starting pitching depth a focal point of its offseason plan, acquiring Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha on one-year contracts -- moves that seem prescient now, giving the Mets a fully stocked rotation despite the news that Noah Syndergaard will miss the entire 2020 season due to Tommy John surgery. Here’s a look at the Mets’ rotation depth without Syndergaard in their short-term plans:

For the Mets, this is the easy part. deGrom is the National League’s two-time reigning Cy Young Award winner. He and Stroman were rotation locks heading into camp, and they will anchor the starting five without Syndergaard present.

Matz, Porcello and Wacha spent the Grapefruit League season engaged in a three-way competition for two starting spots, though Porcello seemed to have a job sewn up by the time camp was suspended. That left the Mets considering all sorts of options, from a straight fifth-starter competition to a system that would require openers, or that would have Matz and Wacha both start games based on matchups.

Now, all of it is moot. The five names above represent the Mets’ top five starting options, and will almost certainly make up the team’s Opening Day rotation. Whenever baseball resumes, the Mets’ rotation competition will not resume along with it.

It was notable this spring when Luis Rojas referred to Peterson by name as the Mets’ “seventh” starter. Rojas, who had been hesitant to label anyone in his first camp as Mets manager, gushed about Peterson’s poise and increased velocity -- up to 95 mph after topping out in the low 90s last summer.

The Mets’ first-round Draft pick in 2017, Peterson figures to start this year in the Triple-A Syracuse rotation, with a chance to contribute in either a starting or bullpen role when the need arises in New York. Syndergaard’s injury puts Peterson closer to the big leagues than he might have been before, provided he continues to show development in the upper Minors.

Lockett’s status could also change because of Syndergaard. Out of Minor League options but unlikely to make the team, Lockett was a decent bet to be claimed off waivers at the end of Spring Training -- clubs love live arms, and Lockett has one, with big league experience to boot. Now that their organizational depth has been tested, might the Mets be more hesitant to designate him for assignment?

The other three names here give the Mets varying levels of insurance. Ramirez is an eight-year veteran who signed a Minor League deal this winter and threw eight solid innings in Grapefruit League play this spring. He remains in the organization’s plans. Oswalt was the Mets’ sixth starter at this point last year; he has struggled in the Majors but thrived in the Minors.

Also on the 40-man roster is Gonsalves, whom the Mets claimed off waivers from the Twins this winter. The organization intends to continue stretching him out as a starter at Triple-A Syracuse.

Notably missing from this list? Seth Lugo, who would easily rank among the Mets’ top starting options if they ever moved him back to the rotation. To date, they’ve shown no willingness to do so.

The Mets’ best pitching prospect is Matthew Allan, their third-round pick last June, but he’s still years away from the big leagues. Closer to the Majors are Szapucki, Kilomé and Humphreys, all of whom are healthy following Tommy John surgeries. They could all realistically help in 2021, as could Smith, a former college reliever who was the Mets’ organizational Pitcher of the Year in 2019.