Still a Billion-Dollar Rotation? Who can the Mets Keep Long-Term?

During the 2015-2016 MLB offseason, 5 of 6 MLB executives pegged the value of the young Mets starting rotation as being worth at least a billion dollars.  However, this came after the young studs helped to lead the Mets to the World Series.  Since then, the value of some of these pitchers has likely diminished.  All of them dealt with injuries to some degree last season.  The real question the Mets need to ask themselves is who they want to sign to extensions in the near future, and who they will be willing to part with in trades or free agency.

Matt Harvey may be the least likely to land an extension with the Mets.  Despite the fact that he had a miserable 2016 due to the fact that he was pitching with thoracic outlet syndrome, he would still be likely to ask for a long and expensive contract.  Harvey will be the first of the young studs to be eligible for free agency, with his contract ending after the 2018 season.  Perhaps the biggest obstacle that the Mets would face if they were to try to re-sign him or give him an extension is Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras.  Boras is known to try to get his clients deals that would be considered by many to be valued much higher than what the player may deserve to get.  He also notoriously screwed the Mets over when he represented Oliver Perez and got him to re-sign with the Mets for a three-year, $36 million contract after the 2008 season.  Perez underperformed, showed less effort, and refused to be sent to the minors when he struggled in the majors.  The contract Boras got for Perez became a headache for the Mets organization.  Additionally, Boras is known to prefer that his clients opt to go for free agency rather than to sign extensions.  The few extensions signed by Boras clients include Jered Weaver’s 5-year, $85 million extension in 2011 (in which he went against the advice of Boras) and Stephen Strasburg’s 7-year, $175 million contract in 2016.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the Mets attempt to trade Harvey after the 2017 season in order to gain value back for a player they know they probably won’t be able to re-sign.

Zack Wheeler would become a free agent after the 2019 season.  He may be of the least value of the Mets starting rotation at the moment, mostly due to the fact that he hasn’t pitched in a major league game in September of 2014.  As a result of him being undervalued at the moment, the Mets may have a chance to lock him down long-term within the next few years.  Wheeler was at one point viewed by scouts to be better than Matt Harvey.  For him, he just has to be able to stay healthy and consistent.  2017 may be a very important season for Wheeler in order to prove himself as a talented major league pitcher.

Jacob DeGrom is scheduled to be a free agent following the 2020 season.  He, along with Noah Syndergaard , have been the most open to talking about contract extensions with the Mets.  Considering how many years DeGrom has left on his current contract, the Mets don’t seem to be in too much of a hurry to start talking extensions with him.  Injuries led to some poor performance for DeGrom in the 2016 season.  Despite this, DeGrom still had an ERA of 3.04, including tossing his first career complete game, a one-hit shutout against the Phillies.  It can be argued that DeGrom may have been the most affected by the World Series hangover, considering his velocity early in the season was lower than normal for him.  Regardless, he stands as the second ace of the talented rotation at this point, showing that he has been able to pitch well even when he doesn’t have his best stuff.  He has quietly become one of the best pitchers in baseball, and hopefully the Mets reward him soon with a long-term deal.

Noah Syndergaard, arguably the most talented of the rotation, is due to become a free agent following the 2021 season.  As it stands now, he is the guy that would likely get the ball on opening day.  Despite the health concern with him due to the fact that he is the only one in the rotation not to get Tommy John surgery, Syndergaard was the healthiest of the young starting pitchers in the 2016 season.  Despite being diagnosed with a small bone spur on his pitching arm, Syndergaard continued his stellar pitching, even earning the ball for the Wild Card game against the Giants.  Syndergaard showed in that game and in the 2015 postseason that he can be trusted to take the ball in big situations.  Despite the fact that the Mets lost the Wild Card game to the Giants, Syndergaard was able to match Madison Bumgarner, not allowing a hit until two outs in the 6th.  Syndergaard would end up allowing just two hits and three walks while striking out ten batters in seven shutout innings.  He has the potential to be the next Nolan Ryan.  The Mets hope that since Syndergaard is built like Ryan, maybe he can avoid needing Tommy John surgery like Ryan as well.  It’s no secret that Syndergaard enjoys being in New York.  Hopefully, the Mets can keep him in New York.  In my opinion, he is the one that the Mets can’t let get away from them more than anyone else.  There aren’t many pitchers with the talent and ability that Syndergaard has displayed.

Steven Matz, like Syndergaard, will be a free agent following the 2021 season.  Matz’s value has likely been lowered since the 2015 World Series, not due to his performance, but due to the fact that he has yet to be able to stay healthy.  Throughout his pitching career, Matz has dealt with several different injuries in his journey to the majors.  Matz started his 2016 season looking like he might take the Rookie of the Year award from Cory Seager.  Unfortunately, after a game in which he shut out the rival Nationals over 8 innings, Matz was  diagnosed with a large bone spur in his pitching arm that would require surgery at some point.  While Matz would try to pitch through the injury, he wasn’t as effective for the rest of the season.  After an August game in which he carried a no-hitter into the 8th inning against the Padres, Matz was unable to pitch for the rest of the season due to issues with his shoulder.  While the Mets still have plenty of time before they need to think about discussing a contract extension with Matz, one advantage that they may have is that Matz may be willing to take a slight home-town discount due to the fact that Matz was born and raised in Long Island and grew up a die-hard Mets fan.  He is living his boyhood dream right now as a stud pitcher for the Mets.  He just needs to stay healthy.

The Mets still have plenty of time before they need to worry about contract extension talks with most of these pitchers.  Unless they are willing to spend a lot of money, the odds are that the Mets won’t be able to keep one or two of these pitchers.  The Mets window to win is basically as long as these young starters are able to perform to what is expected of them while staying healthy.  The billion dollar rotation has the potential to win the Mets at least one World Series title.  We’ll see if they can prove their potential value come 2017.

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