Back in late January, before the Mets had finished assembling their 25-man roster, there was a discussion in the comments section of one of our articles, where MattyMets said: “On paper we have 7 starters, but who’s next in line – Ynoa and Montero. Yikes.” My reply to him was, “I do expect a guy capable of starting will be brought in on an NRI. Hopefully the start of ST will light a fire under this and other decisions that need to be made.”
The guy capable of starting that was signed was Adam Wilk and we saw how well that went on Sunday. Rafael Montero and Wilk, the two guys the Mets have used for starts that were not in the Opening Day rotation, have identical 3.2 IP, 5 ER lines in their starts. With Noah Syndergaard on the 60-day DL and the rosiest forecasts for a return by Steven Matz being late May, the Mets will have to use someone for additional starts at least three more turns through the rotation. And likely longer than that.
Wilk was DFAd, meaning Montero has the inside track for the next one. The club just acquired Tommy Milone, who put up a 6.43 ERA in six games with the Brewers here in 2017. If/when Montero falters, Milone would appear to be next in line.
In 2015, Milone had a solid season with the Twins, posting a 3.92 ERA in 128.2 IP. Last season he was not nearly as good, as he recorded a 5.71 ERA in 69.1 IP. Still, the fact that he was good as recently as 2015, plus the fact that he throws with his left hand, led the Brewers to give him a one-year, $1.25 million deal in December.
A guy with a 5.71 ERA is a solid depth starter. By contrast, Wilk only managed nine games in the majors before being picked up by the Mets. Only three of those were starts and they all came back in 2012 with the Tigers, when he recorded an 8.18 ERA. But again, we’re talking about a guy who got a contract in December compared to a guy who got an NRI in January.
The question remains: Is there someone that Sandy Alderson should have signed as a depth starter, given how many of his pitchers were coming off injuries in 2016? The Mets have had bad luck, with two of the guys counted for starts being unavailable right from the beginning of the season. It was easily predictable that Matz would miss time; however, you might have thought the injury would have waited until June to arrive.
Regardless, we see a bunch of guys out there who are still unsigned. Doug Fister gets most of the attention but there are others like Colby Lewis, Jake Peavy and Alfredo Simon still available. Perhaps there are injury concerns with these pitchers. Perhaps they simply no longer wish to play. Perhaps they all had dreams of a bigger dollar deal.
The latter one seems most likely to me. Say that you’re Lewis, a guy who won 17 games in 2015 and had a 3.71 ERA last year. You see someone like Milone get a $1.25 million deal and you think you should get something similar, if not better. This seems like a reasonable position to take in December. But when April rolls around and no one’s given that to you, maybe you need to change your tune.
Last year, Tim Lincecum got $2.5 million once he signed with the Angels in May. But not many pitchers get a deal for substantially more than minimum wage once the year starts. Lincecum was a two-time CY Award winner and had put up a respectable 4.13 ERA the previous season. The guys available right now don’t have quite the same resume.
Given how the Mets suffered injuries to two starting pitcher candidates before the season even began, it’s very disappointing that Sandy Alderson didn’t add another depth option in April before finally getting Milone here in May. Ideally, he would have signed a Fister or a Lewis in April, given them time to tune up in the minors and had them ready to go in May. Fister recently held a workout where multiple teams, including the Mets, watched him throw. It will be interesting to see how much he gets if/when he finally inks a deal.
We have no idea how discussions went with these guys during the offseason and if any were even had once the season started. But when an injury to Wilfredo Boscan, the guy who allowed 7 ER in 3 IP in his only start in the majors, eliminates your best option at Triple-A, adding a depth starter should have become the top priority. Let’s hope Milone works out better than Montero and Wilk.