PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- If the elbow tightness affecting Steven Matz this month reminded the Mets of anything, it's that pitching depth is paramount. The Mets already knew that, of course, after leaning on Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo last summer when Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Matz faltered.But
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- If the elbow tightness affecting Steven Matz this month reminded the Mets of anything, it's that pitching depth is paramount. The Mets already knew that, of course, after leaning on Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo last summer when Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Matz faltered.
But the Mets don't have as much obvious depth this season. Though they run seven-deep with quality big league starters, from their top four to Gsellman, Lugo and Zack Wheeler, the drop-off after that bunch is noticeable. And for a Mets team that used 12 starting pitchers last summer, it could quickly become relevant.
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So while it's difficult to determine what the Mets might do this summer as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, a deal for a starting pitcher seems feasible. For a team such as the Mets in win-now mode, buying at the Trade Deadline in general is a realistic possibility.
The past two seasons have seen the Mets make splashy deals to acquire outfielders, from Yoenis Cespedes in 2015 to Jay Bruce last summer. But this year, they appear well-stocked to fend off injuries to most parts of their lineup. Already, the Mets are using Jose Reyes as a substitute for David Wright. Wilmer Flores and T.J. Rivera, who have held starting infield jobs in the past, will begin this year on the bench. In the outfield, Michael Conforto burns for his opportunity.
The same type of depth does not exist in the rotation, particularly with Wheeler and Matz battling minor aches at points this spring. Outside of former blue-chip prospect Rafael Montero, who is enjoying a bounce-back spring, the Mets do not boast much depth beyond their top seven. When the club traded for Cespedes, Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe and others in 2015, they siphoned off much of their big league-ready starting pitching. The next wave of elite pitchers is not scheduled to arrive for another couple years, when Justin Dunn, Thomas Szapucki and friends graduate to the Majors.
Not to mention the Mets' old safety net, Bartolo Colon, is now pitching for the Braves.
Should the Mets need starting pitching at the Deadline, Colon would lead the list of quality, inexpensive options -- assuming the Braves fall out of contention and make him available. Otherwise, it's not an easy market to navigate. When Francisco Liriano, Matt Moore and Rich Hill switched teams at the 2016 Deadline, their old clubs received serious player packages in return. This year's crop of potential trade targets includes Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb, though neither would come cheaply.
Colon might, particularly considering the Mets' recent history of completing small deals with the Braves.
But the Mets' hope, of course, is that they won't need to dip into the trade market for anything at all. The key to their success this year is the health of their rotation.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.