The Mets offense has a very good core, with top players at multiple positions. Filling a few holes with good hitters (and fielders) meant the Mets would still be in contention for an 85-88 win season with the expected pitching staff.

Then last week Kodai Senga came up with a shoulder capsule injury that is going to result in months of time on the injured list. Senga was in position for 5-6 WAR for 2024, and his replacement is not going to generate half that, and could be close to none of that.

A team that is on the edge of the playoffs like the Mets cannot afford to lose 4 WAR before the first pitch is thrown in the season. The Mets GM David Stearns needs to decide quickly what the path will be  – replace the WAR, or muddle through, perhaps catching lightning in a bottle should any of the temporary arms turn in that magical season.

This is not about the sky falling – mathematically Senga was far and away the Mets ace and this should be viewed as devastating as losing Edwin Diaz for 2023.

The available class is not strong at this juncture. Trevor Bauer is toxic, and signing him is a bad look, and he hasn’t pitched in MLB in a while. There are good, if not inexpensive, options. Blake Snell has not signed. Jordan Montgomery is available. Zach Greinke could be the next Bartolo Colon.

The talent to make up for Senga’s loss is there, and so Stearns should decide as soon as possible whether or not he wants to compete. The Mets may wait until the end of April to see how the rotation is holding up, but these free agents won’t be around then so he would have to look elsewhere.

The Mets have the third-best offensive WAR projections in the National League. The Mets front office should be looking at that and noting where they need to improve. Counter to that, the Mets have the fourth-worst NL pitching WAR forecasted. That’s not going to change without adding one or two starters to push the forecast up by 3-5 WAR.

Some front offices wishcast for their signings to bounce back to fantasy levels. Some take a pragmatic view and build for depth in case things do not work out, and trade from strength. It is too early to tell how this Mets front office will do, but historically, since Joe McIlvaine left, the Mets have not done it very well.

I got an email from a lifelong Mets fan after the first spring training game against the Cardinals. It already included how bad the Mets were and 80-wins would be lucky. I shook my head. A fatalist approach is never any fun. The loss of Senga is disheartening, but there is available talent to compete. The offense is good, and could easily improve, given the expected lack of production from the Designated Hitter slot. Should any of the kids catch up to major league pitching and perform like their MLEs, then the offense can carry a good portion for the pitching. Not losing close games, thanks to Diaz’ return could be a big factor. Proper management of the pitching staff – namely avoiding slow hooks – could prevent some close losses.

There is plenty of reason for optimism at the end of February, and with significant talent still in the free agent pool, no reason to think the Mets are sunk. Let’s go Mets!


4 comments on “The impact of Kodai Senga’s loss

  • T.J.

    At this point, it’s really impossible to measure the loss of Senga mathematically. The biggest factor is not who replaces him in the rotation, it’s how long he’ll be out. The second biggest factor is at what level he’ll pitch when he returns.

    Stearns has made his decision, he’s going in house. Even if their price drops, the Snells and Montgomerys are prohibitively expensive due to the 110% tax as well as the impact a contract like that would have on resetting the future tax risks.

    The Senga injury is a bummer for sure, but the feeling isn’t as bad as when Diaz went down. His injury was a season ender in a year that was all in with the 40 something mercenaries. While remaining realistic, as noted above, there are reasons for optimism that they can still compete for a wild card spot. Other pitchers will need to step up, and some will get the chance.

  • Footballhead

    Chris, I tend to agree with T.J. that the loss of Senga no way compares to last years loss of Diaz. Even if Senga is shut down for a longer period and/or is diminished when he does return (hopefully before June), his loss won’t affect the SP as much as the bullpen was exposed last year.

    It wouldn’t surprise me though, if in the next 10-14 days, that Montgomery is given a 1 year contract offer……with enough incentives, who knows, he might sign.

    I didn’t know; by the way, about the favorable WAR projections for the offense. Seems like article after article is espousing how the Mets “need another big bat” in their lineup. Stearns will have a month to sort it all out.

  • Nym 6986

    Nice piece but I also agree the Senga loss in no way compares to Diaz going down as that injury exposed the inexperience of the pen that could not be overcome even with Robertson having a strong year as the substitute closer. Grateful the Mets did not do a full reboot like the Astros did 7-8 years ago, even if that reboot created a perennial winner for the Houston fans. While I am hopeful, something Met fans say every year, that one of the young pitcher will seize this opportunity, I would not shy away from a 1-2 year deal with Montgomery. The problem is that another team will blink and sign him to the five years at $30 per that he wants, much like Bellinger got $80 million for three years to return to Wrigley. The dollars are absurd but clearly the owners are making enough money to carry the load. I’ll take Senga back in May and hope for an uncharacteristic June from the Mets where they actually win more than they lose.

  • Mike W

    Senga is a loss, but even with his good sub 3.00 ERA last season, he was 12-7.

    Butto pitched well in his first spring outing. The Mets have enough depth to see who the hot hand is and can plug them in.

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