ATLANTA — Let’s keep the Jacob deGrom alert at the non-worrisome DEFCON 5 for now.
Common sense dictated that the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner couldn’t duplicate his legendary 2018, and common sense prevailed on Sunday night right alongside the Braves, who nicked deGrom for three runs in five innings, leading to an eventual 7-3 Mets loss at SunTrust Park.
Nevertheless, if you wanted yet another motivation for the Mets to go get Dallas Keuchel, you saw one: The Mets need increased pitching depth because they can’t reasonably expect a historic performance from their top pitcher.
The obvious call for the Mets, who announced their rededication to terrible fifth starter Jason Vargas on Sunday, is to just write a nice-sized check to Dallas Keuchel on a one-year deal, use the veteran left-hander as their fifth starting pitcher as soon as he’s ready and wish Vargas well in his future endeavors, none of which will include pitching for them. Rarely does it turn out that elementary with the Mets, right? Hence this unpalatable, yet better than the status quo, alternative: Turn Vargas or Todd Frazier into their version of Bronson Arroyo.
Trade a prospect — say, shortstop Ronny Mauricio or left-hander David Peterson — to a club willing to assume the remaining contract of the awful Vargas (a little more than $9 million) or the rehabilitating Frazier (a little more than $8 million). Then use that newfound financial flexibility to sign Keuchel.
Follow the model established by the 2015 Diamondbacks, another aggressive team with an agent-turned-general manager in Dave Stewart, when they dealt pitching prospect Touki Toussant and the injured veteran pitcher Arroyo to the Braves, who had about $9.5 million coming to him, in return for reserve Philip Gosselin. The Braves essentially purchased Toussant, who picked up the win in the Braves’ 11-7 victory over Vargas and the Mets Saturday night, for the price of funding Arroyo’s sunk cost.
Sunday marked deGrom’s second straight non-quality start after a record-tying 26 consecutive such efforts, and really, it’s a tribute to deGrom’s resilience he kept the contest so close despite allowing four walks and five hits, two of those homers — meaning he has permitted five homers in his last two starts after surrendering 10 in 32 starts last year. The Braves did enough against deGrom that on ESPN — as per SNY’s John Harper, on Twitter — Alex Rodriguez wondered whether the lanky right-hander was tipping his pitches.
By losing two straight and settling for a series split, the Mets (9-6) fell into a second-place tie with the Braves (9-6) in the killer NL East, as the Phillies (9-5) crept into the penthouse. The season series opener against Bryce Harper’s new team comes Monday night at Citizens Bank Park. The NL as a whole offers little room for respite.
The Mets will need more help. They don’t need Vargas and probably not the rehabilitating Frazier, either; young third baseman J.D. Davis ripped his third homer on Sunday.
The Mets have come too far, starting with rookie GM Brodie Van Wagenen’s career-opening trade for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, to let up now on their nearly all-in approach to 2019. Their offense is too intriguing to abandon and their pitching corps is too thin to do this internally. That the Keuchel signing also would cost the Mets’ second-round draft pick and $500,000 from their international bonus pool should be regarded as the incidental cost of doing business.
Asked about his payroll flexibility, Van Wagenen said, “We’ve never spoken about it. I think [Mets COO] Jeff [Wilpon] and I have always been on the same page with what our financial parameters are. So far, we’ve been able to create the roster that we’ve wanted to regardless of dollars.”
They should speak about it. Wilpon should authorize a Keuchel signing. If he won’t, then Van Wagenen should get to work on his own “Arroyo trade” to finish the organization’s dramatic reconstruction under his watch — and to provide cover for deGrom’s market correction.
Published at Mon, 15 Apr 2019 00:15:31 +0000