With Max Scherzer’s injury sidelining the right-hander for 6-8 weeks, the New York Mets ventured into familiar territory. When Jacob deGrom missed the second half of the 2021 season, the Mets found themselves scrambling to find quality MLB starters to fill the void. Without Scherzer, deGrom still rehabbing, and Tylor Megill wrapping up his injured list stint, this team may be in an even more tenuous position than the one that preceded it.
The Mets’ first turn around the rotation without Scherzer went swimmingly. Trevor Williams tossed a serviceable 4 innings, surrendering 4 runs in the high altitude of Coors Field. Taijuan Walker had perhaps his best start as a Met, throwing 8 scoreless innings to clinch a series win vs Colorado. And David Peterson followed with arguably the best start of his career, limiting a lethal San Francisco Giants lineup to just 2 runs over 6 innings.
But what’s transpired since has been anything but operable. The Mets lost a back and forth see-saw game Tuesday long after Chris Bassitt exited, giving up 8 runs in the process. With the Mets searching for answers from their farm or the waiver wire, Thomas Szapucki made his first big league start on Wednesday. It didn’t last long. Szapucki gave up 8 earned runs in just 2 innings pitched. It was the first time Mets starters gave up 8 runs or more in back-to-back outings since 2014.
While Bassitt still remains one of the few sure things in the current rotation, the results from Szapucki warrant concern. Szapucki, seen as the last line of defense, could be tabbed for at least one more start until the Mets aces get healthy. While the Mets are now reportedly targeting a late June return for deGrom, the team will certainly be careful as they ramp up the two-time Cy Young Winner. With that, here are three starting pitchers the Mets should target to fill in for the time being.
- New York Mets have a few top prospects in MLB Pipeline Top 100
- Mets sign 2 players to minor league deals
- Mets’ Starling Marte’s status for Spring Training up in the air
1. Tyler Mahle, Cincinnati Reds
Tyler Mahle debuted with the Reds in 2017 and has enjoyed varying degrees of success throughout his big league career. In his first two full seasons, Mahle made 48 starts but pitched to a 5.06 ERA. His 1.44 WHIP, in part due to a high walk rate, was one of his downfalls during that time.
But from 2020 to 2021, Mahle lowered his WHIP to 1.27, and in turn his ERA to 3.72 over 227.2 innings pitched. This year, however, Mahle has once again struggled with free passes and watched as his ERA has ballooned to 6.32 over his first 47 innings in 2022.
Despite some ugly traditional numbers, could Mahle simply be the victim of a hitter-friendly ballpark and a team on pace to be one of the worst in league history?
Mahle’s FIP, which eliminates the defensive standouts or shortcomings of a pitcher’s team, sits at 3.84. In other words, pitching in a more neutral ballpark instead of Great American Ballpark, and without one of the worst defensive teams in baseball behind him, Mahle could, in fact, have a much better-earned run average.
According to Jon Heyman, the Mets reportedly have already scouted Mahle along with Oakland Athletics starter Frankie Montas. Montas is the superior pitcher, though, and will likely command a stronger group of prospects in a trade. For those reasons, the Mets may be better served to target Mahle, who should come at a more affordable price tag.
2. Michael Pineda, Detroit Tigers
Michael Pineda is far removed from his once-promising tenure with the New York Yankees. At the time, it appeared Pineda may be the Yankee’s future ace. After three average years with the Bombers from 2015 to 2017, the veteran right-hander has flown under the radar while quietly putting together three consecutive solid seasons with the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers.
From 2018 to 2021, Pineda pitched to a 3.80 ERA over 282 innings. His ERA+ 113 during that time suggests he was 13% better than the league average pitcher. Last year, Pineda made 21 starts for the Twins and had a 3.62 ERA. So far this year, Pineda has a 3.22 ERA over his first 5 starts.
Unfortunately, Pineda is currently on the Injured List after taking a comebacker off his finger. Tigers manager AJ Hinch has said that Pineda will not require surgery but may miss up to a month. With the Mets pressing need for starting pitching, Pineda may not be the solution they are in need of unless his timetable for return is sooner than currently reported.
3. Jose Quintana, Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates are 7 games under .500, looking to finally emerge from the doldrums of their rebuild. Unfortunately for fans of the Black and Gold, it just won’t be this year. The Pirates looking for any veteran presence to help carry the load in their rotation, signed Quintana to a one-year deal worth a minuscule $2MM dollars.
Quintana, who spent the beginning of his career in Chicago, first with the south siders and then with the Cubs, was traded mid-season last year from the Los Angeles Angeles to the Giants. He worked exclusively out of the bullpen for San Francisco down the stretch but has made eight starts with the Pirates this year.
In that time, Quintana earned a 2.43 ERA for Pittsburgh over his first 40.2 innings. The left-hander has 34 strikeouts compared to just 15 walks issued during that time. And his ERA+ 168 is among the top 10 in the NL if he were qualified based on innings pitched.
With the Pirates still a ways away from competing for a playoff spot in the National League, the team should be ripe for the picking. Quintana should be one of the more talked about names as the deadline draws closer. With a minimal amount of financial responsibility owed in his walk year, Quintana could be a perfect solution for the Mets rotation in the interim and could even be used out of the bullpen later in the season.