Taking stock of Mets' Trade Deadline options

June 29th, 2022

NEW YORK -- Any prognostication for the 2022 Mets, now nearly halfway through their season, would be incomplete without an acknowledgment that their roster figures to look quite a bit different in August than it does right now. That’s not only because the team expects to have Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer back by then, but also because upgrades are almost certain to arrive through the trade market. 

The Mets’ need for help in multiple areas was apparent Tuesday in their 9-1 loss to the Astros at Citi Field, which featured a nine-run barrage against starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco and reliever Chasen Shreve.

Might those players still be significant parts of the team’s stretch-run equation? Here’s a look at how aggressively general manager Billy Eppler could act:

Starting pitching
Upgrade urgency: Low to medium
Potentially available: Frankie Montas (A’s), Luis Castillo (Reds), Tyler Mahle (Reds)

The numbers on Carrasco are becoming alarming. The right-hander holds a 5.83 ERA over his last dozen starts dating to April, a 6.20 ERA over his last eight and a 14.85 mark over his past two (the first of which coincided with a since-resolved bout of lower-back tightness). It’s been four years since Carrasco was last consistently effective over a full season; since that time, he’s gone 18-20 with a 4.73 ERA in 62 appearances for Cleveland and New York. 

“I’m kind of a little bit disappointed,” Carrasco said on Tuesday, blaming his four-run first on a check-swing call to Jose Altuve leading off the game.

While Carrasco’s statistics will strengthen calls for the Mets to acquire another starting pitcher at the Deadline, the Mets are likely to be cautious here for two reasons. 

1. The team is looking to build something sustainable year after year, meaning it can ill afford to part with top prospects for an expensive rotation rental. It’s one area in which the Mets’ financial advantage may not matter much. 

2. deGrom and Scherzer are both due back in a matter of weeks, pushing Carrasco either to the back of the rotation or potentially -- eventually? -- out of it altogether. The Mets’ theoretical playoff rotation would include deGrom, Scherzer, Chris Bassitt and only one starter from a group including Carrasco, Taijuan Walker, Tylor Megill and David Peterson. That makes Carrasco’s recent performance a little less alarming. 

The counterargument, of course, is that the Mets must guard against another major injury to deGrom or Scherzer. But if that scenario unfolds, competing for a World Series would instantly become a longer-shot proposition. On some level, using prospects for a rental in that scenario would make even less sense.

Upgrade urgency: High
Potentially available: Andrew Chafin (Tigers), Gregory Soto (Tigers), Cionel Pérez (Orioles)

Shreve’s performance in relief of Carrasco -- four batters faced, three earned runs, two homers -- underscored the Mets’ need for relief help. It’s one area in which the Mets are all but guaranteed to make a splash, given the lackluster performances of nearly everyone other than closer Edwin Díaz.

Over the winter, the Mets never showed much interest in top free-agent lefties such as Chafin, preferring to stay under MLB’s highest Competitive Balance Tax tier while seeing how the bullpen fared over the first half of the season. That gave Shreve a chance to make the club on a Minor League deal, but it’s since “been a challenge for him to get back to that consistent level he was at for us early in the year,” as manager Buck Showalter put it. 

Owner Steve Cohen has expressed a willingness to go over the threshold with the Mets in prime playoff contention, putting the roster spots of players such as Shreve at risk. The Mets could even add multiple relievers at the Deadline, giving Showalter ample options heading into the stretch run. Chafin might be among the targets this time around, along with a slew of others across baseball.

Upgrade urgency: Medium
Potentially available: Josh Bell (Nationals), Trey Mancini (Orioles), Willson Contreras (Cubs)

Entering the season, the Mets seemed like the National League team best equipped to take advantage of the newly codified universal DH. But Robinson Canó was designated for assignment by early May, Dominic Smith slumped so badly that he received a brief demotion to the Minors, and J.D. Davis -- who finished 1-for-4 on Tuesday with a strikeout and a double play -- struggled to take advantage of the resulting opportunities.

Few would question Eppler if he tried to upgrade that position with one of the big bats reportedly available, such as Bell or Mancini, or if he supplanted starting catcher James McCann with someone like Contreras. While offense hasn’t necessarily been the Mets’ bugaboo, an upgrade never hurts. That would also free the Mets to dangle Smith or Davis -- both reasonable change-of-scenery candidates -- as a way to address other needs.