For all intents and purposes, the 2021 season for the New York Mets is over. The team has 38 games to complete their schedule, but any hope at a playoff run has pretty much vanished.
Barring a major collapse by the Braves, the Mets will miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.

The Mets’ poor play has been discussed at nausea over the past couple of weeks and with their playoff hopes pretty much dashed, it’s time to change perspective and look ahead towards 2022.

The Mets need to answer some questions in their final 38 games that are essential for their 2022 plans, particularly in the starting rotation.

While there are several position players with a lot to prove in the final 38 games of the season, the starting rotation looks murky for 2022. It may be a bit more clear after the Mets’ last stretch of the season.

The Mets ace Jacob deGrom was just placed on the 60-day IL, which means he cannot come off the IL until September 13. deGrom has been experiencing discomfort in his forearm pretty much all season. With at least two weeks left until he is eligible to come off the IL, the question remains about his health and whether not he will pitch again in not only 2021 but in 2022 as well.

Photo: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

A few other pitchers initially thought to be options in the rotation in 2022 had injuries in 2021 and added to the questions in that area. One is left-hander Joey Lucchesi who had to have Tommy John surgery in July and won’t pitch again until 2023. Another left-hander David Peterson had not one but two injuries that cost him most of his season.

Will Peterson recover from his injuries by the time 2022 comes around? That is a big question. Not only that, but Peterson wasn’t that effective in his starts when he was on the mound. The 25-year-old had a 5.54 ERA in 15 starts in 2021 and was extremely inconsistent. Whether or not Peterson will be healthy or effective enough for the Mets rotation in 2022 remains to be seen, but either way, that’s another question mark for the rotation heading into the 2022 season.

deGrom and Peterson’s question marks most likely won’t be answered by the time Spring Training comes around next February, but there are a few starters who can answer some questions about their futures with a solid finish to the 2021 season. That is the most important thing to watch in these next 38 games.

The number one question is the future of Marcus Stroman in a Mets uniform.

Stroman has been arguably the Mets’ most consistent pitcher in 2021, going 9-12 with a 2.85 ERA so far. He should have at least four more starts this season. He will head into this off-season as a free agent. Last winter, he signed a 1-year qualifying offer with the Mets worth $18.9 million. It was a bet on himself after he sat out the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

His bet has paid off, and Stroman is going to be searching for a long-term contract entering the winter. How much he is worth can be determined in these next four starts. If Stroman continues to perform as he has so far, he’ll make it hard for the Mets not to re-sign him on a long-term deal for a substantial amount of money.

Stroman’s 2.85 ERA in 2021 is just under a run better than he’s averaged for his entire career. If he throws well the rest of the season, he will go a long way into proving that his 2021 season was no fluke and that he can be a consistent top of the rotation starter for the long term, which is something the Mets will be looking for going into the off-season.

Another question that can be answered in the next 38 games is the effectiveness of Carlos Carrasco.

He came over with Francisco Lindor in a trade with the Cleveland Indians in the off-season and was thought to be a solid addition to the Mets rotation in 2021. In his career with Cleveland, he had a 3.77 ERA in 12 seasons.

This year, he spent the first four months of the season on the IL, making his first start on July 31. He has also been extremely ineffective in his first five starts of the season with an ERA of 8.82. Like Stroman, Carrasco should have about four starts left in his season. His contract runs through the 2022 season, so that it will be an option next season, but his age is a concern.

Next March, he will be 35 years old, which makes you wonder if 2021 is just an off year or a sign of decline for an aging pitcher. The rest of this season is crucial for Carrasco and the Mets to see if he can return to anywhere near the pitcher he was with Cleveland. If he can, the Mets have a solid rotation piece for 2022. If he can’t, the team has yet another question mark in the rotation heading into 2022.

Tylor Megill is another starter that has to answer some questions in the remaining games in 2021.

Since making his Major League debut in June, Megill came out of nowhere to be a key part of the Mets rotation. He has thrown the ball well in his 11 starts, recording a 3.21 ERA. He has shown flashes of brilliance but still has some things to improve on as the season winds down. One of those things is his efficiency. He has thrown six innings in just three of his 11 starts.

The rest of this season is crucial for Megill to prove that he is not a flash in the pan and that he can go deeper into games. If he can prove that, the Mets would feel solid about him heading into 2022. If he struggles or continues the inefficiency, the Mets will have another question mark regarding their starting rotation heading into 2022.

Oh, and who could forget about Noah Syndergaard? Syndergaard hasn’t thrown on a big-league mound in a regular-season game since September 29, 2019.

He is currently recovering from Tommy John’s surgery, but there is some hope from the organization that Syndergaard will be able to pitch in the big leagues by the time the 2021 season ends. It may not be in a starting capacity, but if Syndergaard makes a few appearances in 2021 and comes out healthy, that is a big step for him, as he is also a pending free agent heading into the off-season.

What the Mets do with Syndergaard will have a lot to do with what they see in the next 38 games. If he comes back and is effective and healthy, that would help the club decide. However, if he is ineffective or can’t pitch in 2021, the Mets will have a tough decision to make.

In the end, Taijuan Walker is the only Mets starter that you can feel confident about being in the rotation in 2022. The rest of the Mets rotation is up in the air, whether that’s due to injury, free agency, or ineffectiveness.
A lot of questions can be answered in the final 38 games of the season. That will be the most important thing to watch for the Mets in the final stretch of their season.

Featured Image: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports
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