For all that has happened to the Mets in recent weeks, their primary focus leading up to the 4 p.m. Friday trade deadline has not changed: They want — and feel they need — more starting pitching, acting general manager Zack Scott said Monday.
That remains true even after the acquisition of Rich Hill from the Rays last week and despite the progress of Carlos Carrasco and Jacob deGrom toward likely returns from injury this week or next. "Adding Rich definitely helps, but still think we need to improve and just have more depth there," Scott said. "We need to make sure we put our best foot forward in terms of getting the most pitching depth that we can."
During a 20-minute news conference, Scott — in a GM-speak sort of way — said the first-place Mets are open to virtually all possibilities: trading for relievers and/or position players in addition to starters, trying for an infielder who can play shortstop before Francisco Lindor returns and move elsewhere after that, looking at rentals in addition to team-controlled players — and maybe doing nothing at all.
Scott would not say with certainty that the Mets will make a trade this week. "We’re doing enough exploring, having enough dialogue that there will be good opportunities for us," he said. "But when you’re trying to acquire players from another team, it’s not quite in our control."
Would Scott be comfortable dealing with an NL East team (say, the Nationals) or for a player who has the right to refuse a trade (say, Max Scherzer, who reportedly is available)?
"I don’t have any problem dealing within our division. Some other teams may feel differently," he said.
"[No-trade protection] definitely affects the timeline because you have to build in time to deal with that. In some cases, we’ve already had conversations where you don’t have to go too deep, too far down the road before you know they’re just not going to waive it and so we don’t spend too much time on it.’’
After putting up 3.76 runs per game before the All-Star break — the second-lowest mark in the majors — the Mets were vastly improved through nine games since, averaging 5.67 runs per game. So they are not desperate to add a big bat, especially because they like the hitters they have.
"We’re mindful of if we add a player, it’s a zero-sum game," Scott said. "We’re taking away at-bats from someone else. We need to make sure that’s actually improving our club, depending on the acquisition cost."
The rotation, then, is the focus.
"The fastest way for things to fall apart is to have your starting rotation not pitch to their capabilities or to have a lot of injuries," Scott said. "We definitely want to shore things up so we feel like we have a chance to compete in every game."
Syndergaard to the pen?
Scott again did not dismiss the idea of Noah Syndergaard serving as a reliever in September/October.
"We’d be thrilled with just having him and having that arm available to get important outs," he said. "The game has evolved over the last several years into focusing on how many outs we can get, piecing things together to get through the 27 outs in a game, and he could definitely be a big part of that. It’s hard to say exactly what he will be."
Syndergaard had Tommy John surgery 16 months ago. Mets decision-makers have said they expect him back in early September.
Looking for Lindor
A timeline for Lindor’s recovery from a strained right oblique, via Scott: four to six weeks from when he got hurt. That would mean a return in the Aug. 14-28 range.
The Mets’ Tuesday starter: TBA. Scott said he doesn’t expect to make an external addition for that game . . . There is a "very much real" chance that Carrasco (torn right hamstring) will make his Mets debut Saturday or Sunday against the Reds, Luis Rojas said. Carrasco has made three rehab starts, topping out at three innings . . . DeGrom’s next step is another light bullpen session Tuesday or Wednesday . . . Scott declined to comment on first-round pick Kumar Rocker, saying he’ll wait until the Aug. 1 signing deadline to discuss draft picks.
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