So far this offseason, rookie GM Brodie Van Wagenen has been wheeling and dealing players as much or more than any Mets GM ever. By signing Wilson Ramos and shipping out Kevin Plawecki, he’s remade the catching corps. He’s tinkered with the outfield, banishing Jay Bruce and acquiring Keon Broxton. The bullpen has been recast and upgraded by obtaining old friend Jeurys Familia and trading for lights out closer Edwin Diaz. The infield has been blown up with perhaps different starters at first, second and third bases, and Amed Rosario had best watch his back. The starting rotation, however, as of today would likely be the very same rotation that ended 2018.
That would mean Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz and Jason Vargas all slotted in as SPs. If this group pitches to the level they pitched at toward the latter part of 2018, this rotation would among the best, if not the best of MLB staffs.
deGrom was the NL Cy Young Award winner last year, and even if he doesn’t quite match last year’s production, he is still likely to be an elite pitcher, barring injury. He’s got the velocity, the control and the smarts to dominate batters. HIs 2018 ERA was a microscopic 1.70.
Syndergaard had a few hiccups in 2018, including a finger injury and a case of hand, foot and mouth disease, of all things. He still had a good year with an ERA of 3.03, and, as he has shown throughout his career, his velocity is off the charts. He flashes an upper 90’s fastball, and also almost unheard of average velocities of low 90s for his slider and a changeup that averaged 90.1 MPH, according to FanGraphs. He’s still young but he’s been in the Majors since 2015, so he’s got some experience under his belt. He too should be pitching like an ace in 2019.
Wheeler has shown great promise but has floundered at times. His 2018 was a down and up season. His ERA for the year was 3.31, but for the second half he pitched to a 1.68 ERA and held opponents to a .174 BA. His first half struggles were perhaps due to slow recovery from a previous injury. Having an arm like his as the number three starter is a luxury few teams have.
Matz was inconsistent in 2018, and he ended up with 3.97 ERA. He too finished strong, with a 2.51 ERA from September on, and batters hit only .168 against him in that time frame. If he stays healthy and focused he will make for a fine number four starter.
As to the fifth presumed starter, Vargas, he ended the year with 5.77 ERA. He was injured at the start of the season, and then pitched poorly. But from September on it was a different story with Vargas posting 3.27 ERA with opponents batting .181 against him.
There are several reasons to be optimistic for an aggregate improvement for this already good starting staff. First of all, the manager/pitching coach combination of Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland helped bring a new approach to the pitchers. A second year of absorbing this as well as further tweaking should be a positive. In addition, the enhancement to the bullpen will help in that there is a good chance the relievers will do a better job of disposing of inherited runners than the 2018 crew. Also, if one of the starters gets hurt or falters, it would be easier with the additional bullpen depth to slide a Seth Lugo from a reliever to a starter, as he has shown proficiency in both roles.
With the exception of the soon to be 36 year old Vargas, all the projected starters are around their prime pitching ages. If their health holds up, this could well be a starting rotation for the ages, and Mets fans will be happy Van Wagenen took a hands-off approach to the starters.