Friday night Dillon Gee made a rehab start with the Brooklyn Cyclones and he allowed three hits and one walk in six innings and also fanned 10 batters. If he’s not ready for a return to the majors, he’ll need just one more tune-up in the minors. So the question becomes: Who do the Mets cut to make room for Gee? Will it be a straight starter-for-starter swap or will the Mets choose to move a starter to the bullpen and cut a reliever when Gee returns to the active roster?
While certain fans are frustrated with Zack Wheeler, there seems to be virtually no chance he’ll be removed from the starting rotation – either sent to the bullpen or Triple-A – to make room for Gee. So, it’s likely to come down to Gee taking a rotation slot from Jacob deGrom or Daisuke Matsuzaka. Earlier it seemed like deGrom might move to the bullpen but after posting his worst game in the majors on June 16 against the Cardinals (6 ER in 4.1 IP), deGrom has bounced back with three solid outings. In those three games, he’s gone 18.2 IP, allowed 5 ER and notched a 2.4 K/BB ratio with 19 Ks.
While deGrom has shown some resolve, Matsuzaka has gone in the opposite direction, as he’s allowed 11 ER in his last 16.1 IP. Overall, he has a 5.90 BB/9 and his ERA (3.72) has nearly caught up with his FIP (3.97). But his xFIP is still worse, at a 4.71 clip, meaning Matsuzaka might not be done regressing.
So, while it seems a simple case that Gee will replace Matsuzaka in the rotation, it still leaves the question if Matsuzaka should be cut or sent to the bullpen. After all, he did a fine job for the Mets as a reliever, as he recorded a 2.22 ERA and a 1.274 WHIP in 24.1 innings before moving back to the rotation. With his ability to go multiple innings, Matsuzaka could provide a nice complement to Carlos Torres, giving Terry Collins another option as a long man when he takes his SP out early.
But then who from the bullpen would go to make way for Matsuzaka?
As you’ve probably noticed recently, the bullpen has done a pretty good job since cutting some of the dead weight. Since Scott Rice’s last appearance on June 8, the seven relievers in the pen have thrown 74 IP and allowed just 17 ER. That’s a sparkling 2.07 ERA and that’s with nights were the relievers had to do a ton of work, including Friday night when they covered 8.2 IP after Terry Collins removed Jon Niese against his will. Collins still does some maddening matchup maneuvers but nowhere near as many as when Rice was on the club and the results have been, well, the exact opposite of the past three-plus years of LOOGY silliness.
It would seem to come down to a question of the Mets keeping Gonzalez Germen or Matsuzaka. Germen is the only reliever not to pitch well here recently, as he’s allowed 4 ER in 8 IP. He’s also surrendered six walks and a homer in that stretch. The choice appears to be between a hard-throwing 26 year old or a crafty veteran. Someone in the Mets’ organization seems to like veterans in the bullpen, which would seem to give Matsuzaka a leg up. And while he’s older than Germen, he’s not exactly ancient at age 33.
Meanwhile, Germen has options remaining and can be sent to the minors without fear of losing him. Matsuzaka also has options remaining but as a veteran with five-plus years of MLB-service time, he can refuse an assignment to the minors, forcing the Mets to either keep him or pay the remainder of his contract. In a case where neither choice is a slam dunk, it’s easy to imagine this being the deciding factor for the Mets.