Getting no-hit by San Francisco Giants’ rookie Chris Heston last night was another low point to the New York Mets’ season. Despite the morale blow, the Mets are still, somehow, in first place in the NL East.
But not for long.
For you see, the Mets have the ability to improve — without even making a trade — but for reasons unknown, they refuse to. Simply put, promoting Steven Matz, and sticking both Dillon Gee and Jon Niese in the bullpen, would improve their chances of winning.
While Niese’s 3.81 xFIP suggests his 4.43 ERA isn’t telling the full story, the left-hander has surrendered 23 earned runs over his past five starts. That’s 4.6 earned runs on average, per start. And the Mets’ lowly offense has only scored 219 runs this season — which is about 3.71 runs per game.
Gee has been even worse than his disgruntled counterpart, sporting a 4.50 ERA (versus a 4.26 xFIP). Needless to say, the right-hander has little-to-no trade value.
Do both of these pitchers have a track record of being productive starting pitchers? Yes.
But could Matz and his 1.91 ERA at Triple-A conceivably outperform both of them right now? Yes.
With a cellar offense and elite rotation, the Mets’ road to the playoffs is contingent on out-pitching their opponents. So why isn’t Matz, a potential ace, on the major-league roster?
Perhaps the cost-conscious Mets are worried about Matz’s Super Two status. But according to FanGraphs‘ Dave Cameron, “If they wait another week or two […] the probability of Matz obtaining Super Two status will have moved from something like 0.1% down to 0.0%.”
Essentially, it’s a non-issue now, and will be even more of a non-issue in a few weeks.
And since the Mets didn’t seem concerned with Noah Syndergaard‘s Super Two status when they promoted him in May, the Mets’ motive for not calling up Matz now is perplexing.
Given the way Niese has pitched, the Mets’ expectation (or so it seems) of netting an impact bat or top prospect is a bit delusional. Niese is owed $4.45 million for the remainder of 2015 — and another $10 million next season (including buyouts for 2017 and 2018). Why would a team — even a pitching-starved one, like the Boston Red Sox or Toronto Blue Jays — buy high on Niese? Heck, even the Philadelphia Phillies are willing to eat salary in a potential Cole Hamels trade.
Per usual, there are too many unanswered questions:
- If the Mets’ intention was always to swap Niese for a hitter, why didn’t they just trade him before the season (when he had more value)?
- If the Mets have another potential ace on their hands in Steven Matz, why are they so concerned about the fate of two fifth starters?
But, as always, it boils down to: Why aren’t the Mets prioritizing winning?
Statistics and salaries sourced from FanGraphs and Cot’s, respectively.