GM Brodie Van Wagenen said Monday that he considers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman possible options next year to join the team's starting rotation.
Technically, this is true. Van Wagenen is simply stating reality. However, I find it hard to believe this is the preferred outcome given how well Lugo pitched in relief this past season.
Similarly, because of his limited repertoire, Gsellman has long proven he's much more effective pitching in relief than in the starting rotation. In either case, as Van Wagenen said, they are options.
Here are four potential scenarios for how things could shake out with the starting rotation in 2020...
No. 1) Re-sign Zack Wheeler, keep Noah Syndergaard
Wheeler's first choice is to re-sign with the Mets, according to sources familiar with his thinking. His second choice, they say, is the Braves, who play roughly one mile from where Wheeler was raised in Georgia.
The MLB sources I've talked with still feel Wheeler will be offered close to a $100 million, five-year deal, which will be less than Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole, and on par with Madison Bumgarner.
If re-signed, though, the Mets pick up where they left off last season. Jacob deGrom would be the undisputed ace, followed by Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Wheeler and Steven Matz.
The above would be the best -- or at least one of the best -- rotations in baseball.
Wheeler in the rotation also means Lugo and Gsellman remain in the bullpen, which is an area of the roster Van Wagenen cannot weaken if he wants to reach the postseason.
2) Goodbye Wheeler, hello other free agent
If he isn't re-signing Wheeler, Van Wagenen isn't signing Cole or Bumgarner. However, he could add a pitcher making less money than the above options.
For instance, 32-year-old Hyun-jin Ryu is predicted by MLBTradeRumors to get a three-year, $54 million deal. Ryu has experience pitching in a big market and during the postseason, plus -- as a lefty throwing 91 mph and often inducing weak contact -- he would give the rotation a different look.
Van Wagenen could also replace Wheeler with free-agent Jake Odorizzi, 30, who MLBTradeRumors predicts will sign a deal similar to Ryu. Odorizzi made his first All-Star team this past season, he strikes guys out and has made at least 28 starts each of the past six years.
The Mets could save more money and take a bigger risk by signing free-agents Dallas Keuchel, Wade Miley or Rick Porcello, all of whom will likely cost no more than a two-year, $15-20 million deal.
In either case, for less than it will cost to keep Wheeler, the Mets could still enter next year with a top rotation with deGrom, Stroman, Syndergaard, Matz and Odorizzi or Ryu. It would be less strong when swapping Odorizzi or Ryu with Keuchel, Miley or Porcello, but it would still be among the best in the NL.
3) Weaken bullpen, cross fingers
The other option, as Van Wagenen alluded to Monday, is to put Lugo or Gsellman in the rotation. However, in doing so, he would be weakening a bullpen that is already in need of an upgrade.
It will cost more money to replace Lugo's talent in the bullpen than it will cost to replace Wheeler in the rotation, which I'll explain in more detail below.
It's true that Lugo, 29, started five games in 2018 and made 18 starts in 2017. He did fine, but has been significantly better in relief, particularly this past season when he was one of the best in baseball.
There are teams that would kill to have a reliever like him in their bullpen. The Mets have him. They would be making a mistake to take him out of this role.
The same can kind of be said about Gsellman, though not to the same extent.
4) Open competition
If spending is tight, and he doesn't want to weaken the bullpen, Van Wagenen could keep Lugo and Gsellman in their current roles, while signing a handful of veterans to compete for the rotation.
More and more free agent dollars in baseball are shifting from being spent on the rotation to the bullpen, all while the middle of the entire market continues to get squeezed. If the same trend continues this winter, it's quite possible high-risk, veteran starting pitchers, such as Michael Wacha, Drew Smyly, Iván Nova and Alex Wood could end up signing for one year and less than $5 million.
In an effort to barley increase payroll, or make it possible to spend on another aspect of the roster, Van Wagenen could round out his rotation with a veteran like someone mentioned above.
The more likely scenario here would be trying to sign a few pitchers willing to take a minor-league deal, such as Edwin Jackson -- or dare I say Matt Harvey -- and go with whomever performs best in spring training.
Smyly, Nova, Wood or someone else off the scrap heap -- plus Matz, Syndergaard, Stroman and deGrom -- might be far off from last year's rotation, but it would still be fine.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!