Mets picks to replace Jose Quintana

The Mets entered spring training with a deep but refreshed rotation. Longtime ace gone Jacob deGrom and consistently right-handed Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker. In their place, the Mets signed the future Hall of Famer Justin VerlanderNPB star Kodai Senga and veteran leftist Jose Quintanawho had a resurgent campaign between the Pirates and Cardinals last season.

That the first injury of the season for manager Buck Showalter’s club came from the typically durable Quintana is both unexpected and unwelcome news. The 34-year-old southpaw logged 32 starts between Pittsburgh and St. Louis in 2022, posting an outstanding 2.93 ERA with a 20.6% strikeout rate, 6.9% walk rate and 46.4% ground ball rate. It was a vintage Quintana look, hearkening back to his peak years in Chicago — and it was impressive enough to earn him a two-year, $26 million contract (13 times the one-year, $2 million guaranteed he received from Pittsburgh. winter before).

However, Quintana will be out for an unspecified amount of time with a stress fracture in his ribs. There’s no point in running wild with speculation about whether that will be weeks or months away at this point, but at the very least, Opening Day doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Quintana left after just one inning in his most recent Grapefruit League start due to strain, so it’s not likely to be an injury he can deal with.

If there’s an understatement for the Mets, it’s that even with all the turnover in the rotation, they’ve managed to maintain solid depth beyond their projected Opening Day quintet. Max SchercherVerlander, Senga, Quintana and Carlos Carrasco. There were times when the team seemed open to moving Carrasco, but the early setback for Quintana underscores the importance of keeping him and so much of the other depth they could have dealt with.

To that end, with what appears to be at least a short-term vacancy in the rotation, let’s look at the Mets’ options to fill the position.

The two favorites

David PetersonLHP, 27 years old

About as well-rounded a sixth baseman as you’ll find in the league, Peterson was the 20th overall pick in the 2017 draft and has spent three seasons in the big leagues with the Mets: two of them good and the middle one (2021) relatively bad . The lefty sandwiched an ugly 5.54 ERA between a pair of sub-4.00 efforts, the end result being a solid 4.26 ERA (4.18 FIP, 4.14 SIERA) in 222 innings at the major league level.

Peterson leaned more heavily on the four-seam and more slippery than ever in 2022, dropping his sinker/two-seam usage from 26.3% in 2021 to 12.3% last season. Posted career-best totals in swinging-strike rate (12.8%), strikeout rate (31.2%) and strikeout rate (71.2%). It’s tempting to think that some of those gains might come from working out of the bullpen for a spell, but while Peterson had similar ERAs as a starter and reliever, he had better strikeout and walk rates while working out of the rotation.

Fresh off a season that saw him throw 105 2/3 innings of 3.83 ERA ball with a 27.8% strikeout rate, 10.6% walk rate and 49.4% groundout rate, Peterson is the seemingly frontrunner to makes whatever early starts Quintana might miss . Other clubs certainly had interest in him this winter — particularly when the Mets had signed all three of Verlander, Senga and Quintana — but the decision to keep him is already paying off.

Taylor McGillRHP, 27

If Peterson is the favorite, McGill might not be that far behind. He made 18 notable starts in 2021, posting a 4.52 ERA with more impressive strikeout and walk rates (26.1% and 7.1%, respectively). In 2022, when the Mets needed a starter, McGill stepped up and took the ball six times from April 7 to May 4, pitching to a sterling 2.43 ERA with a flashy 36-to-8 RB/BB ratio in 33 1/3 innings. work. His fastball, which averaged 94.7 mph in 2021, averaged nearly 96 mph in 2022, and Megill suddenly looked like a lot more than a band-aid in an injury-plagued starting staff — at least until it bit him. the injury. very.

The Mets placed McGill on the 15-day disabled list with biceps inflammation on May 12, days after he was tattooed for eight runs in 1 1/3 innings against the Nationals. He returned on June 10, made a pair of starts that lasted 3 1/3 frames each (scoring a total of six runs in the process) and returned to IL just seven days after being activated — this time with a shoulder strain. The absence proved much more substantial this time. Megill was placed on the 60-day IL just 10 days after his initial placement and remained out of action until September 19th.

In his career, McGill has crushed right-handed opponents with a powerful fastball/slider combination, but his changeup has generally been ineffective, leaving him vulnerable to left-handed hitters. This is evidenced in the alarming splits of his platoon. The righties have been spoiled by him, hitting just .202/.247/.331. Lefty bats, however, have absolutely blown McGill to a .307/.368/.568 clip. He’ll have a chance to win the job, but if he’s going to find long-term success, he’ll need to find a better offering to wear down opponents in platoon settings.

Longer shots that could begin sometime in 2023

Joey LucchesiLHP, 29

Acquired by the Padres in the three-team deal he sent Joe Musgrove from Pittsburgh to San Diego, Lucchesi made 11 good appearances for the Mets in 2021, serving in exactly the type of sixth-stringer now resurfacing in Queens. Eight of those appearances were starts, and the former fourth-round pick worked to a decent 4.46 ERA with a more impressive 3.40 FIP and 3.79 SIERA. Lucchesi struck out a strong 26.1% of his opponents against an equally strong 7.1% walk rate. He could have held that role until the end — and into 2022 — if he had stayed healthy, but a diagnosis in late June of a torn ulnar collateral ligament led to Tommy John surgery. Lucchesi missed the rest of the 2021 season and the entire 2022 campaign.

Early in his career with the Friars, Lucchesi looked like a solid fourth baseman, posting a 4.14 ERA in 56 starts and 293 2/3 innings through 2018-19. He has thrown just 44 innings since then, mostly due to injury, but has a 4.24 ERA in 337 2/3 major league appearances. He still has a pair of minor league options, so the Mets can send him to Triple-A Syracuse to stay stretched and monitor his workload if they go another route in the rotation. Since he missed the entire 2022 season, Lucchesi is likely to have his innings capped this season, which likely works against him — especially in the early stages.

Eliezer HernandezRHP, 27

An offseason acquisition made with an eye toward bolstering pitching depth, Hernandez came alongside the reliever Jeff Brigham in a deal that sends minor leaguers Franklin Sanchez and Jake Magum in Miami. He’s fresh off a rough 2022 season, but the former Rule 5 pick — the Marlins drafted him out of the Astros organization in 2017 — was once a promising member of the Marlins’ young core of arms. Since 2020-21, he has pitched 77 1/3 innings of 3.84 ERA ball plus strikeouts (26.3%) and walks (5.7%).

However, home runs and injuries have been a problem for Hernandez throughout his career. His 2020 campaign was cut short by a lat strain, and his 2021 season was cut short by both a quad strain and right biceps inflammation. He’s only shown glimpses of his potential in the Majors, but Hernandez also has a strong 2.86 ERA, 32.4% strikeout rate and 6.5% walk rate in 129 Triple-A frames spanning four seasons. He has a minor league option, but could also make the club as a long reliever.

Jose BhuttoRHP, 25

Butto, who will turn 26 in less than two weeks, made his big league debut last year when he threw four innings, but was hammered by the Phillies, who scored seven runs against him at Citizens Bank Park. It wasn’t a good first impression, but Butto nonetheless had a strong year in the minors, posting a combined 3.56 ERA in 129 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

Scouting reports at each of Baseball America, and FanGraphs praise Butto’s changeup and above-average heater, but he lacks a third pitch, leading to much speculation that he will eventually settle in as a long reliever or swingman. There’s more upside here if he can improve either his curveball or his slider, but it would be hard for him to surpass the names in front of him early in the season. However, he’s already gotten his feet wet in the Majors and had success in the majors, so with some improvements in his secondary pitches and/or a big showing in Syracuse, Butto could start at some point this year. as they require injuries to the major league roster.

As far as off-roster options go, the Mets are generally soft on MLB-ready starters in the upper levels of their system (beyond the 40-man names already covered above). Recent trades have reduced some of that depth, with both JT Ginn and Adam Oller going to A for Chris Bassitt, while Thomas Szapucki went to the Giants as part of it Darrin Roof exchange. Most of the Mets’ best prospects are position players, and the top pitchers in their system are generally years away from MLB readiness.

The presence of Peterson, Megill, Lucchesi, Hernandez and Butto gives the Mets plenty of depth to draw from, especially given how solid both Peterson and Megill looked at times last year. However, the pitcher’s performance is erratic and injuries are inevitable. If the Mets want to further cultivate some depth, there are some recognizable veteran names yet to sign — Michael Pineda, Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy between them. Whether that trio, or any of the other players left on the market, are willing to make a minor league deal remains to be seen.

Otherwise, the Mets can perhaps pursue other veterans around the league who are currently on minor league/non-roster deals. Many of these pitchers have opt-out opportunities if they don’t make their current club’s roster, or upward mobility clauses that allow them to leave their current organization if another team is willing to immediately offer a 40-man roster spot.

At this point, it doesn’t seem particularly critical for the Mets to make another addition, but a second injury to the rotation would start to leave an otherwise strong staff looking vulnerable, and there’s little damage to the bullpen depth as far as it goes.

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