All the major media outlets expect the Mets to promote Jenrry Mejia to start one of the games Friday in the day/night doubleheader against the Nationals. Mejia has been slowed this year by an elbow injury but has made six appearances in the minors, with the last two being strong starts in Double-A. For Binghamton he has gone 11 innings, allowed 1 ER and notched 9 Ks.
Several years ago, Mejia was the club’s top prospect. However, the combination of being forced into a relief role by a manager and general manager trying to save their jobs, along with injury issues, have slowed his development and kept him from making any kind of impact in the majors. Yet Mejia is still only 23 years old and a long career is still a possibility.
So, let’s dream for a minute. Let’s say that Mejia pitches well in what is supposed to be a spot start. Just to throw some numbers out there for illustration, pretend that he delivers five scoreless innings, fans four and does not allow a walk. What do the Mets do then?
After getting pounded in back-to-back starts after the All-Star break, is Jeremy Hefner’s spot in the rotation in jeopardy? And if it is, is he still a candidate for the bullpen or do the Mets use up an option on him and send him to the minors?
Let’s say this is exactly what happens. And let’s also imagine that Mejia pitches well for the rest of the year. For grins and giggles, give Mejia a final record this year of 5-3 with a 3.60 ERA, with peripherals that generally support those numbers. Then where does Mejia stand in the overall scheme of things with the Mets?
Does the front office consider him a building block for the future? Before Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey were in the system, it seemed a given that a healthy Mejia would be a top of the rotation starter. But the current brain trust was not part of that hype and not responsible for bringing in Mejia in the first place. Would it be easier for Alderson to part with Mejia then a player he and his staff acquired and developed?
We all know Harvey (also an Omar Minaya pick) is not going anywhere. The overwhelmingly strong preference would be not to let Wheeler, Rafael Montero or Noah Syndergaard leave, either. But if the long-discussed trade for an impact bat is to happen, odds are that Cory Mazzoni is not going to get a deal done as the primary piece.
No, the Mets are going to have to include someone who could be a top-of-the-rotation guy in the deal. And that’s why Mejia’s ability to come back strong this year is a big thing for the Mets. Everyone loves how well Carlos Torres has pitched this year for New York but he’s also a 30 year old with not much previous in his record to support his fantastic start. It’s unlikely anyone wants to trade for him as a key piece and unlikely his presence makes dealing, say, Syndergaard a palatable idea.
But if Mejia comes back and pitches well for the Mets, that’s a whole different ball game. His youth, stuff – he gets lots of strikeouts and grounders – and contract status make him potentially a desirable piece for a bunch of teams. Or his presence makes parting with Montero to get a big bat no longer a deal breaker.
In the immediate sense, it’s wonderful that Mejia is getting the call so we do not have to watch another mediocre or worse effort from Chris Schwinden. But in the big picture, we get a chance to see how far along Mejia is in his road back from injury. A healthy, productive spot start on Friday could set the wheels in motion for a big move this offseason.