On Tuesday, reports surfaced of the New York Mets planning to attend Corey Kluber‘s showcase on January 13 and viewed James Paxton throw a couple of weeks ago. Both pitchers come off disappointing 2020 seasons and hope to resurrect their careers this year. The Mets plan to be contenders in 2021, but are these the answers to their rotation problems?
James Paxton, 97mph Fastball and 81mph Knuckle Curve, Overlay (synced at release). pic.twitter.com/tMuVFbL8LV
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 19, 2019
Paxton came to the New York Yankees in 2019 as the left handed-starter they needed after C.C. Sabathia’s time in pinstripes was coming to an end. He started slow but pitched to a 2.25 ERA in his last 10 starts, all wins. Paxton continued that dominance into the postseason with two dominant starts against the Houston Astros.
He suffered from a lack of spring training in 2020 and had a 6.64 ERA in five starts. A flexor strain in his left forearm caused his season to end prematurely. It was Paxton’s first full season with an ERA over four, and it dramatically dropped his value. Paxton’s injury history and inability to pitch deep into games limit him as a front line starter, but he fits as a back end option.
Should they sign a more reliable starter, Paxton is a good choice for the fifth spot. Three healthy months from Paxton is a solid expectation. When Noah Syndergaard returns, the Mets can opt for a six-man rotation or put Paxton in the bullpen.
Two-Two-Time Former Cy Young Winners?
Corey Kluber has an imposing resume over his ten big league seasons. He is a two-time Cy Young winner, three-time All-Star, and an ERA champ. His downside of heading into his age-35 season and going two full years without pitching a full season is a red flag. Kluber’s last two seasons are injury-plagued, with a torn teres major muscle limiting him to one inning in 2020.
Unless the Mets scouts are 100 percent sure Kluber is at his Cy Young form, the Mets should not guarantee him a rotation spot. If they were too cheap to get better options, then Kluber would be fine. Kluber is an older pitcher who has logged plenty of innings in a short amount of time. The Mets do not have the minor league depth to replace another injury-plagued pitcher.
With either pitcher, I would be inclined to bring one of them in once the rotation is set. Using each pitcher as a fifth starter is plausible but using Kluber as a safety net is preferable. In the end, both pitchers will get better offers from teams most desperate than the Mets. Those offers make Paxton or Kluber signing with the Mets unlikely.