Let’s face it. TBA isn’t a member of a playoff-caliber rotation.
And yet he’s been scheduled to start for the Mets far too often, on a regular basis.
That’s not meant to be a slight against the Mets. After all, they are four games ahead of Washington and 4 1⁄2 games ahead of Philadelphia and Atlanta. They’ve been in first place since May 8 and atop the NL East for 75 days overall, the most of any team.
What this new front office has done to patch together a rotation for the season’s first half is remarkable. But leaning on the likes of Tylor Megill way ahead of schedule, as they did again Monday for his third major-league start, isn’t a sustainable strategy to get to October in a tightly packed NL East that could hinge on a couple of Ws.
No offense to Megill, who allowed only two hits in five innings — with the lone run coming on Omar Narvaez’s homer — to pave the way for the Mets’ stirring 4-2 victory at Citi Field. In three starts, Megill has struck out 19 in 14 1⁄3 innings and compiled a 3.77 ERA, a brilliant fill-in job for a team stricken with too many pitching holes this season.
"He’s doing for us exactly what we needed," Luis Rojas said. "Probably more than what we need."
We’ll disagree with Rojas on that latter point. You can never have enough pitching, and Megill’s emergence can make the Mets feel even better about a deadline pickup for the rotation that needs to happen.
They already have used 13 starting pitchers through 81 games, with only the top three surviving since Opening Day.
It helps to have the supernatural Jacob deGrom at the front, followed by two All-Star-worthy arms in Taijuan Walker and Marcus Stroman. Those three have been able to stabilize a rotation that leads the majors with a 2.97 ERA — deGrom’s 0.95 ERA shaves plenty off — but it’s unrealistic to think they can keep shouldering the load on their own.
The Mets simply can’t bank on the projected returns of Carlos Carrasco (torn hamstring) and Noah Syndergaard (Tommy John surgery) in mapping out the season’s second half. Sure, those are tantalizing pieces. But Carrasco, who was doing fielding drills before Monday’s game, has been delayed numerous times and is tentatively penciled in for the end of July. Syndergaard got pushed back all the way to September, and acting GM Zack Scott didn’t entirely dismiss the idea of using him as a reliever, based on his extended absence.
Until Carrasco or Syndergaard actually rejoins the rotation, neither can be considered part of its future. So Scott has to approach the July 30 trade deadline (it’s a day earlier this year) by exploring the best possible starter he can import to Flushing, regardless of the impact on who may be returning later this season.
"Given the timetables of those guys, I can’t make assumptions," Scott said. "There’s only one trade deadline. So you really have got to put your best foot forward in terms of building out the depth the rest of the way. So I go into it thinking, yeah, if we get those guys back, it’s a bonus. And if you have more guys, then we’ll figure it out."
The pressure is on. As well as the Mets have performed despite dozens of injuries and 17 players on the IL during one particular bad stretch, Scott knows he can’t come up empty in trying to bolster the rotation in the next three-plus weeks.
But it’s not all that deep a market, and for now, there seem to be more buyers looming than sellers.
Is someone like the Rangers’ Kyle Gibson or the Twins’ Michael Pineda going to be worth the asking prices? What about the Rockies’ duo of German Marquez and Jon Gray?
Scott refused to label any of his prospects as "untouchable," but you can bank on third baseman Brett Baty and Francisco Alvarez being in that category. With highly touted shortstop Ronny Mauricio blocked by $341 million man Francisco Lindor, his name is going to come up in conversations, but that’s still a sizable chip.
The Mets surprised everyone with the January blockbuster for Lindor and Carrasco, so don’t rule out Scott and president Sandy Alderson taking another big swing. Remember, Alderson is the GM who got Yoenis Cespedes to Flushing at the 2015 deadline, a move that launched the Mets’ eventual World Series trip. With the right trade this year, maybe history could repeat itself.
"If we look at ourselves in the whole picture of the National League, the goal is to win your division and get to the postseason," Scott said. "Given the top of our rotation and our bullpen, I think we’ve got as good a chance as anyone once we get there."
But the Mets aren’t there yet. And the looming arms race this month could be a determining factor.