How the Mets could rebuild their rotation without Jacob deGrom

The term “Panic City” is part satire and part truth. Mets fans have been conditioned to have the highest of hopes at the start of every season only to see those hopes come crashing down by April when the team is down by 20 runs to the Washington Nationals and two starting pitchers are on the injured list.

When Jacob deGrom announced that he would be opting out of his contract to become a free agent this winter, fans approached the news with cautious optimism. Nearly a year later we’re a month into the offseason and deGrom has not decided where he will pitch next season. Naturally, fans are panicking. Those who aren’t are doing some mental gymnastics to convince themselves that the Mets would be better off without the two-time Cy Young Award winner.

Between his age (34) and his injury history (Tommy John surgery, ulnar nerve transposition surgery, flexor strains and stress reactions), there are reasons to be hesitant about giving deGrom a multi-year contract with an AAV in the $40 million range. But when healthy, deGrom is still one of the best pitchers in the world and he is crucial to the Mets’ identity and their end goal of winning a World Series.

General manager Billy Eppler has emphasized the club’s desire to build a rotation that can pitch them deep into the postseason. So if that’s the case, then the Mets need a backup plan in case deGrom goes elsewhere next season. Even if the Mets are still the frontrunners, they have to be prepared to pivot.

So let’s look at a few options for plan B. Losing deGrom wouldn’t change the timeline for the Mets. Steve Cohen’s goal of winning a World Series within the first five seasons of his ownership isn’t likely to change based on one player. With so much starting pitching already needed he would be a tough one to replace, but the Mets do have options.

The Mets currently have Max Scherzer and Carlos Carrasco signed through next season, as well as right-hander Tylor Megill and left-handers David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi who will contribute on the back end. The Mets probably shouldn’t promise more than one starting spot to that trio just yet and it’s unclear if they’re ready to pencil in any of the three.

THE BLOCKBUSTER

This option features the free agent signings of left-hander Carlos Rodon and right-hander Kodai Senga, and a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for right-hander Tyler Glasnow.

The tricky part here is that the Mets would be required to give up a draft pick to sign Rodon and probably have to part with some top prospects and maybe even a player on the big league roster to get Glasnow. The club’s desire to win sustainably hinges on the ability to draft, sign and develop talent. That prospect pipeline is not quite flowing yet and Eppler seems intent to keep the top 20 prospects in the organization.

Rodon is probably going to get a five-year contract in the $140 million range after coming off of a dominant season with the San Francisco Giants. Senga, who will be 30 next season, is probably looking at a four-year, $60 million deal. Glasnow is signed with the Rays through 2024 so this deal would set the Mets up for the next two seasons, at least. A rotation of Scherzer, Rodon, Glasnow, Senga and Carrasco is certainly enticing.

THE TWO ACES

If the Mets want to go big in free agency then they could sign right-hander Justin Verlander, Rodon and Senga. The 40-year-old Verlander is looking at a contract similar to the one the Mets awarded Scherzer last year. If the Mets really feel that they have no choice but to hang on to those top prospects, then they could go a free agency-only route. It would be costly and might prevent them from making further roster upgrades, but a formidable rotation doesn’t come cheap.

THE COST-CONSCIOUS ROTATION

Let’s say the Mets want to sign one of the big aces, like Verlander and Rodon, and save some money with the 3-4 starters. They could do that by signing someone like 28-year-old righty Zach Eflin, who will cost less than $20 million per year, and trading for Miami Marlins righty Pablo Lopez. Adding two pitchers and using some combination of Megill, Peterson and Lucchesi would mean they could use the money saved to bring back outfielder Brandon Nimmo. Scherzer, Verlander, Eflin, Carrasco and Peterson wouldn’t be a super-rotation but it would still be very good. If not Eflin, maybe Nathan Eovaldi, Kyle Gibson or a reunion with Chris Bassitt. It might not hurt to see if Seth Lugo wants to come back as a starter either.

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