Mets’ GM: Starting Pitching “Top Priority” Before Trade Deadline

Arizona Diamondbacks, Edwin Diaz, Francisco Lindor, Jacob deGrom, Merrill Kelly, New York Mets

Bolstering the starting rotation is the “top priority” for the Mets in advance of the July 30 trade deadline, acting general manager Zack Scott told Jon Heyman and Cody Decker on today’s Big Time Baseball podcast. Scott also suggested the Mets — like almost all contenders — will be on the lookout for bullpen help over the next week and a half.

New York’s rotation has been one of the league’s better units, but that’s largely thanks to the top three of Jacob deGromMarcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker. Bolstering the back end was likely a priority even before deGrom landed on the injured list with forearm tightness over the weekend. Scott noted there’s no structural damage and the team is optimistic about deGrom’s prognosis, but the star hurler’s timetable remains uncertain so long as he continues to feel discomfort.

Fourth starter David Peterson is also on the IL, as are depth options Joey Lucchesi and Jordan Yamamoto. Carlos Carrasco hasn’t pitched all season on account of various injuries. Carrasco is currently on a rehab assignment and nearing his team debut, but it might be difficult to count on him to shoulder too significant a workload down the stretch given his recent series of health problems.

Those injuries have led the Mets to turn to Tylor Megill (who’s performed well over his first five starts) and a revolving door of depth players at the back of the rotation. Adding a steadying, innings-eating presence to that group makes plenty of sense for president Sandy Alderson, Scott, and the rest of the front office.

Unsurprisingly, Scott didn’t tip his hand as to which specific targets the Mets were interested in acquiring. Merrill Kelly (Diamondbacks), Michael Pineda (Twins), Jon Gray (Rockies) and Tyler Anderson (Pirates) are among the mid-tier starting pitchers who could be on the move before the deadline. The Mets sent scouts to see Kelly’s last start before the All-Star Break, writes Andy Martino of SNY, although it’s not clear whether that was anything more than standard diligence. (The Mets have been linked to Kelly’s teammate Asdrúbal Cabrera, and it’s certainly possible New York has interest in other veteran players on the Arizona roster). A non-Mets source tells Martino the D-Backs’ current asking price on Kelly is “high.”

As for the bullpen, it seems New York’s open to acquiring help in any possible form. Scott pushed back against the idea the team needed a pitcher with closing experience. Edwin Díaz has struggled recently, but Scott pointed to Díaz’s track record in expressing confidence in his ability to bounce back. Díaz’s peripherals are more impressive than his 4.30 ERA, so it’s hardly unreasonable to maintain faith in the righty’s ability to hold down leads moving forward.

Scott didn’t rule out the possibility of making an addition on the position player side, but it seems pitching’s at the forefront of attention. The acting GM pointed to the returns of a few key position players from the IL and expressed comfort with the general state of the offense. New York has been linked to Kris Bryant and Josh Donaldson in recent weeks, but the Mets did welcome back third baseman J.D. Davis from the injured list over the weekend.

At the same time, the Mets lost star shortstop Francisco Lindor to the IL and they’ve been leaning on Luis Guillorme at the position. Asked whether the club could explore a shortstop upgrade, Scott said that course of action was possible but would require any incoming player to be willing to move elsewhere around the diamond once Lindor returns. As for when that might happen, Scott noted that injuries similar to Lindor’s typically come with a four-to-six week timetable. If Lindor follows that schedule, he’d be looking at a late August return date.

The Mets lost tonight’s contest against the Reds, dropping them to 49-43. They hold a two-game lead over the Phillies in an increasingly jam-packed NL East.

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