By: Thomas Trovato

This is NOT the starting rotation we were promised!


After the season ended in 2022, the Mets were faced with a massive amount of change in their pitching staff:

  • Jacob deGrom, the most dominant (when healthy) starting pitcher in baseball, opted out of his contract and became a free agent.
  • Chris Bassitt, the rotation mainstay and #3 starter, became a free agent.
  • Taijuan Walker, who mostly worked as the #4 or #5 starter, became a free agent.
  • Carlos Carrasco had a team option, and the Mets had to decide whether or not to retain his services for $14 million.

In other words, the Mets starting rotation without any of those options would be: Max Scherzer, David Peterson, Tylor Megill, Joey Lucchesi, and Jose Butto. That is an unlikely selection to repeat a 101-win campaign. (More to come on this in a moment)

The Mets were unable to re-sign Jacob deGrom (this requires a blog post in its own right), declined to pursue Bassitt or Walker, and instead made 3 major additions to the 2023 starting rotation.

  1. Justin Verlander, AL Cy Young winner at age 39, what can he do at age 40?
  2. Kodai Senga, 5 years/$75 million is a huge investment for a 30-year old rookie who has never pitched outside of Japan.
  3. Jose Quintana, 2 years/$26 million, a rather economical move for the high-priced Mets roster, but a steady, innings eater should be a perfect counter to balance the age and injury concerns for Verlander and Scherzer.

In addition, the Mets decided pick up the team option on Carrasco, despite having signed the 3 pitchers above. While many Mets fans (myself included) were despondent over not re-signing deGrom, the opportunity to go into the 2023 season with the following starting pitching rotation and depth options seemed like Billy Eppler had done all he could to help the Mets contend in October.

Starting Rotation: The Good

  • Justin Verlander
  • Max Scherzer
  • Kodai Senga
  • Jose Quintana
  • Carlos Carrasco

Depth Options:

  • David Peterson
  • Tylor Megill
  • Joey Lucchesi
  • Elieser Hernandez (trade w/Marlins)
  • Jose Butto

Starting Rotation: The Bad

  • Justin Verlander – teres major strain
  • Max Scherzer
  • Kodai Senga
  • Jose Quintana – lesion on left rib cage
  • Carlos Carrasco – bone chip in elbow

Depth Options:

  • David Peterson
  • Tylor Megill
  • Joey Lucchesi
  • Elieser Hernandez – right shoulder strain
  • Jose Butto

Well, let’s just say that the starting rotation depth is definitely being tested! After 18 games, the Mets still haven’t seen Verlander on the mound once, Quintana’s return timetable starts in July, and maybe Carrasco’s ineffectiveness on the mound is due to a bone chip in his elbow. Combine that with an up and down performance by Scherzer, the lack of length in Senga’s starts due to his adjustments as an MLB starter, and the loss of Elieser Hernandez as a depth option has left the Mets woefully thin. If the Mets are serious contenders, then recently acquired Dylan Bundy should not be starting any meaningful games for the Mets.

So, Who’s Left? The Ugly.

Starting Rotation: Current

  • Max Scherzer – about to get served a 10-game suspension for his ejection for using rosin and sweat that was “too sticky” for umpires Phil Cuzzi and Dan Bellino.
  • Kodai Senga – still struggling to get through 6 innings, although the ghost fork has been lights out for opposing batters.
  • David Peterson – getting hit hard, but the Mets defense has been bailing him out.
  • Tylor Megill – the Mets most consistent starter still struggles with his command.
  • Jose Butto – made one start already, but will bounce between AAA and the majors, especially with Scherzer about to be out.
  • Joey Lucchesi – effective in AAA recently, but his Mets 2023 debut will come this week against the Giants.
  • Dylan Bundy – still getting stretched out in AAA.

This rotation more closely resembles what the Mets looked like without their signature free agent acquisitions. The once-vaunted starting rotation depth is completely used up. In the offseason, if any Mets fan thought that Jose Butto was going to be a regular in the starting rotation, the Mets had to be in trouble. Despite the injuries and ineffectiveness, the Mets have somehow been able to start the season at 11-7, but the strain on the Mets bullpen is going to hurt. For example, if Jimmy Yacabonis has to throw 49 more pitches in relief like he did on Wednesday due to: a) ejection, b) ineffectiveness, or c) lack of starter depth, the bullpen is going to completely collapse. In many ways, this is what happened to the Mets in 2022. The starting rotation got hurt – deGrom and Scherzer hit the shelf à too much strain was put on the other starters and the bullpen à the entire staff wore down as the season went along à the Mets pitching collapsed in the last 2-3 weeks of the season and limped into the playoffs.

Personally, I thought the Mets fixed the depth concerns with the additions in the offseason. I was hopeful that Verlander and Quintana would provide reliable innings, Senga would ghost fork his way through, and Carrasco would be an elite, luxury 5th starter. Now, the Mets are back to relying on Peterson, Megill, and even more worryingly, Lucchesi and Butto, to pitch quality innings.

There’s not even a glimmer of hope on the horizon, especially since Verlander still hasn’t started throwing any bullpen sessions, Scherzer will get suspended, and who knows what the timetable is for Quintana or Carrasco. Also, the rash of injuries to starting pitching means it is highly unlikely for any MLB team to part with rotation help without an extremely exorbitant cost. While the Mariners or Guardians might be willing to part with a Chris Flexen or Zach Plesac, trading Mark Vientos or Ronny Mauricio isn’t really going to help the Mets compete.

It’s just going to take time, and the Mets are going to take some lumps. While we are waiting for Verlander and Scherzer, come on in Tommy Hunter, Denyi Reyes, and Jimmy Yacabonis! There are plenty of innings waiting for you to eat. 

About Thomas Trovato

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