Mets plan to change how pitchers are used in 2018, sources say

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson  introduces  MIckey Callaway as the club's manager during a news conference on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017 at Citi Field. / Joseph D. Sullivan

The Mets intend to rethink the way they use a pitching staff that disintegrated during a 92-loss season, sources have told Newsday. It’s a philosophical shift that will shape their decisions as general manager Sandy Alderson begins a critical offseason reboot.

With the exception of Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, Mets starters may be shielded from facing lineups more than twice in a game, mirroring an industry-wide trend, according to a source. The adjustment comes after a season in which team officials watched many of the Mets’ starters fade badly as they pitched deeper into games.

Fewer innings on a nightly basis from the starters means a greater emphasis on the bullpen, and sources said the Mets will look to establish a norm of carrying eight relief pitchers, one more than the standard seven.

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Pitching will be the focus as the Mets begin retooling a team they believe will compete next season. A strong presence for the bullpen and a sturdy innings-eater for the rotation are among the items on the to-do list, according to sources.

Last season, the Mets posted a 5.01 team ERA, second worst in the National League behind only the Reds. Now the Mets again may have to deal with innings limits, as every starter except for deGrom had his season workload impacted by injury.

Positional versatility also will be highly valued as the Mets look to fill holes in the lineup, a source said. An extra reliever means one fewer roster spot for the bench, which places even more importance on the ability to play multiple positions.

A source said versatility will be a key factor as the Mets sort through their options to fill holes in the field. For instance, with expectations of contending, team officials remain wary about leaning on Dominic Smith at first base. With the possibility that Smith will be sent to the minors for more seasoning, they intend to seriously explore upgrades. But rather than targeting those limited to first base, they want a player capable of being part of a mix to help fill holes elsewhere.

The Mets already have some of those players. Asdrubal Cabrera figures to see much of his action at third base, though he has played second. Wilmer Flores also has bounced around the infield. Reunions with free agents Neil Walker and Jay Bruce also could make sense, as both have show a willingness to play spots other than their natural positions.

Price also will play a factor. With the Mets expected to come down from an Opening Day payroll of $155 million, they may be left with about $30 million to spend on new players, a modest amount given the scope of their Mets’ needs. It essentially prices them out of top-tier free agents.

Trades also could prove problematic. The farm system has slipped and has become one of the thinnest in baseball, leaving the Mets with few chips to dangle in potential deals.

The Mets could move controllable pieces from their major-league roster. Rival executives say the likes of Flores, Juan Lagares, Robert Gsellman, Steven Matz and Brandon Nimmo could bring back help in other areas. Moving that type of player, however, would eat into the Mets’ depth, which already is an issue.