Hoping for pitchers to return from injury to bolster the rotation isn’t a great strategy for a Mets team with playoff aspirations, and acting general manager Zack Scott knows it.
Scott has waited long enough for Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard to know nothing is a given, and other injuries can occur — as evidenced by David Peterson’s recent oblique strain — before the July 30 trade EuroJournal.
To that end, Scott is actively searching for help on the trade market, but also must balance the organization’s long-term outlook in regards to prospects.
Carrasco, who hasn’t appeared for the Mets this season after tearing his right hamstring in spring training, will return in late July or early August if his rehab progresses according to schedule. Syndergaard, who was shut down in late May in his rehab from Tommy John surgery and just began throwing again in the last week, could be a Sept. 1 return.
“I think at this point, given the timetables of those guys, you can’t make assumptions,” Scott said Monday before the Mets faced the Brewers at Citi Field. “There is only one trade EuroJournal. It’s not the way we used to have it with August waivers types of trades, so you really have to put your best foot forward as far as building up depth for the rest of the way. I go into it thinking, yeah, if you get those guys back it’s a bonus and if you have more guys we’ll figure it out.”
Jacob deGrom, Taijuan Walker and Marcus Stroman have given the Mets a rotation top three that can compete with any, but the back end of the rotation has become a work in progress. Rookie Tylor Megill was set for his third major league start on Monday, a day after the team deployed Corey Oswalt to start the nightcap of a doubleheader. Another depth piece the Mets acquired last offseason, Joey Lucchesi, is finished for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
It’s still early enough in the trade season that Scott sees price tags that might drop in the next 3 ½ weeks as prohibitive.
“I’m having calls every day, the acquisition costs change as time goes on,” Scott said. “We haven’t seen a lot of action throughout the league, so I think that gives you a sense where the prices are at. I don’t think anything is imminent, but we’re trying to work toward something pretty much every day.”
Scott said he’s also on the lookout for position players and relievers who might improve the roster, but it’s clear there is an emphasis on the rotation. He was asked about the anxiety of having such question marks at the back end of the rotation.
“I wouldn’t talk about it as anxiety so much,” Scott said. “My job is to make sure I don’t overreact to the short term and make a mistake in that way. I’ve never been part of a team where we felt we had a perfect team, so you’re always focused on what can we make better — that is the job primarily. It’s not really that different, it’s just different circumstances like we have every year.”
The Mets began play leading the NL East by 3 ½ games, but were 8-12 over their previous 20 games.
“Our record shows it has been treading water lately,” Scott said. “We have gone through a tough stretch here with also the number of games we have played. You can’t deny that we haven’t been playing our best baseball consistently, but it’s not due to lack of effort. Our guys are working hard toward it.
“Our goal is to win the division and there’s a lot of focus on that. I think we’ve had an uneven season. Part of it is performance and part of it is the number of injuries that we’ve had and that adversity that we have faced.”