One thing that people fret about that doesn’t concern me in the slightest is the worry about how future free agents will react to how you handle the most-recent players you signed as free agents. You hear some variant of, “Future free agents won’t sign with a team that doesn’t bend over backwards to give them every chance and more to succeed.” If we gave them truth serum, the overwhelming number of free agents would say – show me the money.

Two years ago, the Mets signed Jose Quintana as a free agent, a move that got a thumbs up from me. He missed more than half of 2023 but when he pitched, he was good. This year it’s been the opposite. He’s been healthy and he hasn’t pitched good. Quintana’s been so bad that the Mets would be justified if they outright released him, although there’s no reason to do that before trying him in the bullpen. We can debate about how to handle Quintana moving forward. But anyone who suggests that they need to keep starting him or else other free agents won’t sign with the Mets – well, that seems crazy to me.

This past year, the Mets signed Sean Manaea, another move that was endorsed by me. Manaea started off strong but lately he hasn’t delivered. In his last two starts, Manaea has allowed 11 ER in 9.1 IP. He’s been victimized by the gopher ball, surrendering three homers in that span. Manaea has seen his ERA go up from 3.16 to 4.30, a pretty massive jump. Should he still be in the rotation? It’s not as clear to me as it is with Quintana. Perhaps you could make a case either way. Whichever side of the fence you come down, my hope is that it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact he joined the club as a free agent.

And it’s not just free agents.

It shouldn’t make a tiny bit of difference if you were a top draft pick, a high-bonus international signing or a guy picked up off the scrap heap. The only thing that should matter is who does the most to push the team forward. And that’s simply not the way the Mets run their rotation. Arguably, two of their best three options for the rotation right now are in the minors. And my opinion is that’s ludicrous.

Possibly the most bearish person about Christian Scott coming into the season, my opinion now is that it’s a mistake to have him in the minors. When the Mets sent him down, they gave two sort of contradictory statement. They were worried about all of the days off due to the London series and they wanted to be able to limit his workload, which they felt they could do better in the minors. So, they were worried he wouldn’t pitch enough and also worried that he would pitch too much. Maybe that made sense to you?

Since being sent down, Scott has pitched twice, likely what he would have done if he was in the majors. He certainly wouldn’t have pitched more. And in those two outings, Scott threw 8.2 IP, compared to the 11 IP he made in his last two starts in the majors before the demotion. No doubt those 2.1 IP will be the difference between him staying healthy and coming down with a season-ending injury..

There’s a lot of concern with the innings pitched of Scott, who was primarily a reliever in college. Last year he had 87.2 IP, the most he’s thrown in a year since high school. It’s a very reasonable question to ask how many innings he should throw this year. We have to be careful with young arms. The thing is, Scott’s not young, as this is his age-25 season. That doesn’t mean he should throw 250 innings this season. It just means there’s no reason to limit him to 100, either.

Last year, we saw prospect Blade Tidwell have a big jump in innings. A shoulder injury in college limited his innings. Between college and the minors, Tidwell threw 48.1 IP in 2022. Last year he threw 116 IP at age 22. If a 22 year old, one coming off an injury, can have a 67.2-inning jump, why can’t a healthy 25 year old player do the same? Why can’t Scott throw in the neighborhood of 150 innings this year?

The other pitcher in the minors that makes me wonder is Jose Butto. It was my opinion that Butto should have made the Opening Day rotation over Adrian Houser. It was also my opinion that Butto should have been recalled when Tylor Megill went on the IL, which would have avoided the Julio Teheran debacle. Finally, when he had a 3.08 ERA after seven starts, it didn’t make sense to me that he should be sent to the minors.

Meanwhile, Megill seemingly has friends in high places who desperately want him to succeed, as he seems to enjoy favored-nation status among Mets pitchers who aren’t established MLB veterans. He’s made five starts this year and one of them was terrific – 7 IP, 3 H 0 R, 1 BB and 9 Ks. But his other four starts were average or worse. That start, combined with four unearned runs in his other games, are making Megill’s overall numbers look good. While his 3.16 ERA is slightly worse than Butto’s – does anyone think he’ll finish with an ERA in the 3s if he makes 20+ starts in the majors?

Former first-round pick David Peterson has made three starts in the majors since returning from his hip injury and he has a 4.32 ERA and a 4.47 FIP in 16.2 IP. It’s not bad yet it’s not good, either. It would be fine if he was your fifth starter. But with Quintana doing what he’s done, Manaea being lousy in his last two starts and Megill being … well … Megill – is this type of output acceptable?

Scott was optioned on May 31 and can return to the majors in a couple of days. Butto is eligible to return to the majors immediately. Some will point to his numbers in Syracuse and say that Butto hasn’t been good enough to return to the Mets. But since his demotion, he’s had three starts with 2 ER in 17 IP and one start with 7 ER in 3.2 IP. Just like we shouldn’t let one start in the majors by Megill cloud our overall judgment of his pitching, we shouldn’t let one start in the minors by Butto do the same.

Quintana should be moved to the pen, one of Megill/Peterson sent to the minors and both Butto and Scott moved into the Mets’ rotation. That would leave the following staff:

SP – Severino, Manaea, Butto, Scott, Peterson
RP – Diaz, Ottavino, Smith, Houser, Quintana, Reed, Reid-Foley, Young

It would be nice to see Megill draw the short stick for a change, which is why Peterson stays in the above rotation. Quintana in the pen is another lefty, freeing up Jake Diekman and his LOOGY self to be shown the door, regardless of the fact that he joined the club as a free agent. Dedniel Nunez is the odd man out here but with few sure things in the pen, the expectation is he’ll be back before the trade deadline.

The upcoming question is what happens once Kodai Senga returns. The latest news is that won’t happen before the All-Star break. But it’s likely the Mets will again look to give Senga additional rest. So, do they go to a 5.5 or 6-man rotation? A 5.5 makes more sense to me and it might be a way to salvage more value from Quintana if he’s given spot starts when necessary.

6 comments on “Applying common sense to determine the Mets’ rotation

  • Brian Joura

    Two lefty relievers for your consideration:

    Lefty 1: 3.68 ERA, 5.59 road ERA, .814 OPS vs RHB
    Lefty 2: 1.00 ERA, 0.00 road ERA, .631 OPS vs RHB

    The Mets just kept Lefty 1, as they optioned Danny Young to make room for the return of Diaz. Yeah, Young’s numbers this year were in limited action. But essentially they picked the LOOGY over the guy who could be a reliever. And the reason they did it was because Young could be sent to the minors without being lost. But is it really a great loss if someone else picks up Diekman?

    Last year we had a debate – or I tried to have a debate – if it was worse to play a below-average defensive player in the field, one who actively hurt you with a glove on his hand or if it was worse to use a guy as a DH who was so bad in the field that you wouldn’t give him a glove?

    Now we have to ask if it’s better to keep a guy in the majors who is likely inferior because you’re worried about losing him at the expense of utilizing a better pitcher in his place. It just seems penny wise and pound foolish to me.

    • Metsense

      Your point is well taken. Young is maybe a better pitcher but there are many extenuating circumstances. Diekman, when used properly, is slighty above an average relief pitcher. He is performing just as the Mets expected when they signed him. The Mets control him until 2028. If he appears in 58 games then his contract is vested for 2025, with or without being on the Mets and the Mets would foot the bill. When pending free agents Ottavino, Houser, Quintana or Smith are traded , Young, a known quantity, would then be promoted. If they DFA Diekman and kept Young then an unknown would likely be promoted after the free agent trade. Young pitched good and deserves to be on the active roster. He is better ( short sample) than the pending free agents but it is better , in the short term, for the Mets.

  • NYM6986

    Just saw where Severino is coveted by other teams to bolster their rotations. I’d suggest selling off Quintana and Severino and letting Scott and Butto take their spots. Might as well see what they can do over an extended period. Lucchesi is another who appears over his knee injury. Can’t keep the kids down on the farm with nothing left to prove. Houser made the rotation because he’s a Stearns guy and because of his contract. If Senga comes back soon it will be a huge shot in the arm for this rotation giving them their only ace. Time to move this team forward.

  • José Hunter

    Brian, a randomly generated question

    Right off the top of your head, can you think of any Mets pitching staff – season ending stats exclusively – which is less inspiring than the current?

    I will look at BR for a few to see if I can come up with an answer, but I bet you can do better/faster. After all, you remembered Dylan Bundy

  • Metsense

    The rotation of the Mets consist of one front end starter, Severino, and the others that are just “average”. Apparently Stearns, Mendoza, Heffner and the stats department have determined then to get the optimum production of these “average” starters they have to limit them under 6 innings, pitch count of under 100 pitches and limit the exposure facing the third time in the batting order. Check their game logs. It’s rare that they deviate this premise. With four “average” starting pitchers then and bullpen, based upon the Mets handling of them, should have 3-4 multi inning relievers.
    SP – Severino, Manaea, Butto, Megill , Scott
    Short Relief: Diaz, Ottavino, Smith, Diekman
    Multi Relief: Nunez, Garrett, SRF , Houser

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