Major League Baseball released the framework for the 2019 postseason yesterday, with the National League Wild Card game slated for October 1st. While the Mets are two games back from a claim to the playoffs, it is interesting to consider who would be part of such a game for the club. There are already reports that Jacob deGrom is on a schedule to pitch in the potential Wild Card game, as his current trajectory has his last start on September 25th, with the Mets last game on the 29th. Of course, a tiebreaker game would throw a wrench into this plan but for all intents and purposes it would behoove the team to have the former Cy Young pitcher start a single elimination game. It’s important to note that the roster can change after the Wild Card game, which lends itself to a bit of strategy.
Looking back to their 2016 Wild Card game, the Mets lost 3-0 to the San Francisco Giants and carried nine pitchers and 16 position players. Only three Mets remain from that roster which, along with MIckey Callaway now in charge, suggests that this year’s roster would be constructed much differently. Roster construction is a bit of an art form in situations like this as game strategy begins to take form. Traditional lineups and case uses are thrown out the door for what often becomes a battle of situational matchups. A more recent example of this would be the 2018 Wild Card game between the Cubs and the Rockies which went 13 innings (the third extra inning game since the inception of the single elimination Wild Card game in 2012.
In this game, the Cubs carried eleven pitchers, including three starters, and used nine of them including current Mets’ reliever Justin Wilson. All 14 of their position players appeared in the game as pinch hitters, pinch runners, defensive replacements, etc. The extra inning possibility is an added variable which supports carrying at least another starter who could eat up innings (along with the chance that the game’s starter does not perform well). All of this information doesn’t necessarily translate directly to the Mets, but it is tactful to consider the real possibility of an extra inning game amidst the micromanaging of matchup warfare.
Using last year’s wild card game as a template, it seems as though eleven pitchers and fourteen position players is the sweet spot for this year’s Mets’ team. With forward thinking, one can identify that the club can work with a four man rotation of deGrom, Syndergaard, Stroman and Wheeler for the rest of the postseason. The Met’s would benefit by having Matz in the bullpen as an arm that can give two-plus quality innings. Since Syndergaard has previous experience as a postseason reliever, one would think that he would make the cut for this game as well.
(As of this writing, Robert Gsellman is injured with an unclear timetable for his return)
With the need for another two arms, the Mets should consider bringing Zack Wheeler (R) and Daniel Zamora (L) into the mix. Wheeler is one of the more talented arms on the roster and in a winner-take-all game the Mets should pull out all the stops and worry about starting pitchers at a later date (this leaves Marcus Stroman, who has playoff experience, to start Game 1 of the NLDS). Zamora is another left-handed arm who had a cup of tea in the majors; his numbers in Syracuse are nothing extraordinary but he has limited the long ball over 26 appearances this year.
Turning over to the position players, the obvious starting point is with:
Mickey Callaway has time to decide on the logistics of who should start with deGrom on the mound, although in all likelihood Ramos gets the call.
With Jed Lowrie only just taking swings as a DH in A ball and Dominic Smith and Robinson Cano with no timetables to their injuries, it is impossible to count on them play in this meaningful game. Jeff McNeil however, is eligible to return from the IL on August 24th and is not expected to miss considerable time thereafter. That leaves a reasonable group around the diamond of:
Luis Guillorme (L) makes the team for his plus glove and versatility and Joe Panik (L) should follow suit as it seems that the team is particularly fond of their new investment. Panik has postseason experience and is a left handed bat on the bench. The seventh infield spot, figuratively up for grabs, would presumably go to Ruben Tejeda (R).
In the outfield, the Mets can not rely on the likes of Brandon Nimmo returning from a neck injury. Nimmo was already set back after starting a rehab assignment in June and has no timetable for a major league return. The starting outfield at that point would consist of:
While working through this exercise, it becomes abundantly clear that the Mets are weak in their bench depth and do not offer as much roster flexibility as other contenders. The idea of Tejeda or Altherr having important plate appearances does not give much comfort. The Mets should continue to monitor the waiver wire in the event that a more established player becomes available (Curtis Granderson, where are you?) A lot can change in a month and time will tell if the Mets will be even be vying for a playoff spot.