The New York Mets had a tough weekend in Washington. The offense, which had been a strength for the team for the better part of a month, has struggled recently.
There is nothing to panic about. It’s not uncommon for teams to have ups and downs throughout the season. The Mets have a crucial stretch of games coming up. Also crucial is that in about 40 days the Major League Baseball trade deadline is approaching. There are a few spots that the Mets need to improve on before July 31 and unlike previous seasons, there are no waiver trades that can take place in August. July 31 is the hard deadline for any trades. That means the bulk of the work, as far as the trade deadline is concerned, will take place from now until then.
Team owner Steve Cohen addressed the media prior to Sunday’s game against the Nationals. Among the things he said was that the team is willing to go above the luxury tax. He also said that if the team goes above the tax, they’re going to go way above the tax because it doesn’t make sense to go over it by $1 million or two. It’s not the first time Cohen has said this and it allows the Mets to have a bit of flexibility coming up on the deadline.
It also gives the Mets the ability to get creative. They could take on a big contract and not give up too many young players in their system, something Mets President Sandy Alderson has said the team would rather not do.
So, what do the Mets need to do from now until the trade deadline? There are a few things I would consider.
One of the things I think the Mets are going to need to address is the depth in their starting rotation. Right now, the club has four starters who are solid options for the club. Jacob deGrom, Taijuan Walker, Marcus Stroman, and David Peterson. Joey Lucchesi had been pitching well for the team, but he went on the 10-day Injured List (IL) with shoulder inflammation on Saturday.
Lucchesi isn’t the only Mets starter that has had injury issues in 2021. deGrom and Walker have been on the IL at one point this season and deGrom has had other things pop up that have been well documented.
The team does have a couple of starters on the IL, including Jordan Yamamoto, Carlos Carrasco, and Noah Syndergaard. Yamamoto is on the 60-day IL and his status for the rest of the season remains in limbo. Both Syndergaard and Carrasco have had setbacks in their rehab assignments and their timetable for a return is looking like September if they pitch at all in 2021. You can’t bank on having any of those three guys as options in 2021.
To replace the injured Lucchesi the Mets called up right-handed pitcher Jerad Eickhoff. Eickhoff, the former Philadelphia Phillie, has made 76 starts in his big-league career and is 21-30 with a career 4.75 ERA. He last pitched in the big leagues in 2019 and had a 5.71 ERA in 12 games. He had a great year in 2016, winning 11 games for the Phillies, but has struggled since. He spent the first part of the 2021 season in AAA Syracuse and made eight starts with a 5.38 ERA.
Obviously, the Mets are hoping they can get a month or two of the Eickhoff that resembles the first part of his career rather than the latter part. However, thinking of Eickhoff as a long-term option is not ideal. Options past Eickhoff are grim. The Mets have a bunch of starters in AAA that are unproven including Corey Oswalt, Thomas Szapucki and Franklyn Kilome. The club needs to find a starter, or two to add depth to the back end of the rotation. That should be the top priority for Alderson and General Manager Zach Scott. If one of the big three goes down for an extended period of time, the team could be in trouble. They need some better options.
Another place I would look to add is the left-handed reliever market.
There’s no question that so far in 2021 Aaron Loup has filled this role well. I also fully understand that with the three-batter limit, the situational lefty does not hold as much relevance as they used to. However, late in games with big left-handed bats coming up, there should be another option other than Loup. He can’t pitch every night and if he does he will be burned out by the end of the year. I also think the Mets need a better plan for a situation where if Loup had to spend some time on the IL. They’d be in huge trouble in this spot if he were to go down.
Right now, the only options in the minors for a lefty in the bullpen is Stephen Tarpley, who appeared in one major league game this season, faced four batters and failed to record an out. His ERA in Syracuse is 14.63. The Mets need to get another option, even if it’s at AAA, for a lefty reliever. You could use left Thomas Szupecki here but he has never thrown a pitch in the big leagues. I would prefer someone with a bit more experience as an option.
Another place where the Mets could use an upgrade is at 3rd base.
The club currently has a ton of options at the position, including Jonathan Villar, Jose Peraza, J.D. Davis and Jeff McNeil, the latter of the two who are currently on the IL. When everyone is healthy, Davis would see the bulk of the time there, however he is still a few weeks away.
The Mets were rumored to be looking to add a third baseman in the off-season and I am not sure there is anything that would change that narrative.
If the Mets could get a bat like Josh Donaldson, who could be available, that would be a plus. It would not surprise me to see the Mets try and get creative and add a starter by taking on a big contract. Third base would be the ideal position to do it. Donaldson would fit that as he is due about $50 million over the next three seasons.
Other than that, the Mets are in pretty good shape. I could see them maybe add a bullpen arm or some deeper minor league depth but as far as the big-league club is concerned, I expect them to look at the rotation, lefty reliever and third base for their potential upgrades from now until the trade deadline on July 31.