NEW YORK -- For many teams around baseball no longer in the running to sign Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese free agent's narrowing of the field means a chance to pivot to other starting-pitching options. Not so for the Mets, who are unlikely to pursue other starters this offseason.As recently as
NEW YORK -- For many teams around baseball no longer in the running to sign Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese free agent's narrowing of the field means a chance to pivot to other starting-pitching options. Not so for the Mets, who are unlikely to pursue other starters this offseason.
As recently as September, general manager Sandy Alderson said the Mets would look to acquire a durable starter to insure against the possibility that Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler and others are unable to stay healthy. But as the realities of the offseason set in, Alderson changed his stance, indicating that the Mets' top priority would not be starting pitching, but relief help.
The exception was Ohtani, whose cheap price tag and high ceiling made him attractive to all 30 Major League teams. But reports Sunday night into Monday morning indicated that the Mets are not one of the seven teams the Japanese superstar is still considering.
While other starting-pitching options are available on the open market -- Jason Vargas and Carsten Sabathia, among others, would fit the Mets' budget as potentially impactful mid-rotation arms -- Alderson and company don't appear likely to pursue them.
"We haven't really focused on that, at least at this point," assistant general manager John Ricco said last week.
Instead, the Mets' plan to improve their rotation revolves around several non-traditional factors:
• The Mets have spent much of their recent time conducting interviews to fill out their training staff. The organization's overhaul includes the hiring of a high-performance director and a new head trainer -- both of whom, the team hopes, will help keep its fragile pitching staff intact.
• New manager Mickey Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland boast track records of improving some of the game's best arms. Under the stewardship of those two, the Mets hope bounce-back candidates such as Matt Harvey will not only stay healthy, but thrive.
• Heading into next season, the Mets plan to limit most of their starters -- Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom excluded -- to two turns through an opposing batting order each time out. In doing so, the Mets hope to limit some of the more damaging rallies against them in the middle and late innings.
• The Mets plan to bolster their bullpen with at least one, and possibly two, established late-inning arms. Having more legitimate options there will place less strain on the rotation.
It is not a foolproof formula, but one the team feels will allow it to improve its rotation without adding a starter from outside the organization. Given a limited budget, the Mets instead plan to spend their money on bullpen and infield help, which they believe will do more to augment the team.
That's not to say there's zero chance the Mets acquire a starter this offseason -- as Ricco said, "I still think if that guy is available at the right price, you could see us going in that direction."
But with Ohtani no longer an option, it is not the Mets' preferred method of improvement.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.