The Mets need and are looking to add more starting pitching. However, the team's path to the postseason in 2020 may rest more on what they get from Steven Matz and Marcus Stroman than what the Mets get from the hot stove market this winter.
Zack Wheeler is officially gone, having signed a five-year deal to join the Phillies. The pitcher replacing him will either be Seth Lugo or someone specifically acquired to be their fifth starter. In all likelihood, whomever it is will almost certainly not translate into 15-16 team wins like Wheeler did the past two seasons.
Sure, the Mets could score more and/or not allow as many runs late in games so they're more successful when Jacob deGrom is regularly brilliant. For instance, despite winning his second straight Cy Young Award with a 2.53 ERA, the Mets were 14-18 in games that he started in 2019. That stat is painful every time I see it.
The point is, it's unfair to expect deGrom to be any better than he has the past two seasons. And, while we know Noah Syndergaard can be better than he's been the past two seasons, he has still been among the best 20 pitchers in the National League during that time.
Stroman, 28, will theoretically replace Wheeler and enter next season as the rotation's third starter. However, it was less than a year ago that he was considered Toronto's ace. To be fair, even at his best, he was a 3-4 WAR pitcher, which at that time would have put him in back-of-the-rotation status on the Mets anyway.
He is more skilled than these statistics have shown and a lot of his production is dependent on his infield.
In other words, with a more settled and experienced group of infielders behind him, and a quicker, more accurate arm in center field, there's no reason his ability to get ground balls will not result in more double plays and more winning.
In the view of one front office source with an NL East team that had interest in Stroman last July, it was clear the pitcher was at first a bit overwhelmed returning to his roots on Long Island.
"I don't think people realize how difficult that can be," he added. "It's chaotic enough to get traded midseason, but in a situation like that you have to manage local family and friends, their expectations, your expectations, everyone wants tickets, there's a sudden barrage of media requests, and it's a lot to take on out of the blue."
"That will be mostly behind him next year," he continued. "We've always liked that he's a smart, competitive kid and I think you'll see that and see him perform better because of it."
Meanwhile, the key to Matz taking another step in his career will be pitching deeper into games.
The same can be said for Stroman, but for Marcus this is another area that will be helped by pitching in front of more consistent fielders that can get him out of innings earlier than later.
It's my contention that former manager and left-handed starting pitcher Mickey Callaway was even more delicate with his handling of Matz than Terry Collins. It remains to be seen how Carlos Beltran, Jeremy Hefner and their team of pitching analysts and consultants will land on Matz's innings and pitch count limits, but it would have to be more aggressive than Callaway because it would be criminal to have him throw less.
Most pitchers crave routine, but for Matz it has been vital. He's best when throwing every five days. He struggles when the Mets veer from his schedule. More important, though, they need to get him through the sixth inning. The sixth inning has been his big hurdle as it often is for starting pitchers.
In Matz's case, he pitches well enough when facing a lineup the fourth time in a game, he just needs to get to actually facing them a fourth time during a game. If he can fight through, be it by getting help from his coaches or simply figuring it out himself, it will raise his game, confidence and results, plus limit the need to turn so soon to the bullpen.
The reality is that by simply being consistent, healthy and keeping a chance for a winning streak between Syndergaard's and deGrom's starts, Matz and Stroman will be doing their job.
However, by getting Matz over the sixth-inning hump and getting Stroman better defense behind him, the Long island duo can make it almost impossible for the Mets to fall out of a pennant race.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is a senior writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. His book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime.