The Mets’ hunt for starting pitching has intensified in the few days since Billy Eppler became the team’s new general manager, with the anticipated MLB lockout on Dec. 2 only increasing the sense of urgency to strike a deal.
Eppler and his staff seek rotation arms first and foremost, but are also keeping eyes open in what has been a slower moving market for position players and relievers.
The status of one target should be known by Wednesday, when left-hander Steven Matz is expected to decide among a handful of teams, the Mets included, pursuing his services on a multiyear deal. Matz, who spent last season with the Blue Jays, is said to have received offers from at least eight teams.
Though a lefty in the Mets rotation isn’t paramount, it’s a preferred option for a team that acquired veteran Rich Hill before the trade deadline to fill that void, after Joey Lucchesi and David Peterson were lost to season-ending injuries.
The Orioles are dangling John Means for interested suitors, but as a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility, the cost in terms of prospects for any team acquiring him would likely be steep. Another left-hander who could be available through trade is the Dodgers’ David Price, but at 36 years old and coming off a health-compromised season, the Mets see plenty of downside.
The 30-year-old Matz went 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA in 29 starts for the Blue Jays last season to rebound from a dreadful 2020. The Mets traded the Long Island native to Toronto last winter in a deal that netted Sean Reid-Foley, Yennsy Diaz and Josh Winckowski.
Matz’s tenure with the Mets was a roller-coaster ride, marked by injuries and ineffective stretches, but the team is banking that he can at least provide a back-of-the-rotation veteran arm with a respectable upside.
As it stands, the Mets have Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker slotted for next season’s rotation. Of that group, only Walker — who faded dramatically in the second half — managed to stay healthy for the entire season. DeGrom didn’t pitch after July 7 because of discomfort that was later diagnosed as a low-grade tear of the ulnar collateral ligament, and Carrasco’s debut didn’t occur until July 30, after three months on the injured list with a hamstring tear. The right-hander has since undergone offseason surgery to remove a bone fragment from his pitching elbow but is expected to be ready for spring training.
Long Island’s Kevin Gausman is a free-agent possibility remaining on the board who wouldn’t cost the Mets a compensatory draft pick. The Mets could also look to re-sign Marcus Stroman (another Long Islander), who helped carry the rotation in deGrom’s absence last season. The Mets could also look to the Reds, who have been dangling Sonny Gray as part of their overhaul.
The need for a second infusion into the starting rotation became evident last week when Noah Syndergaard rejected the Mets’ qualifying offer to accept a one-year deal with the Angels worth $21 million.