For all the hype over the years about the Mets' starting pitching, it's worth noting that Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler have never pitched a rotation turn together. Not just this year. Ever.
Will it ever happen? And, as importantly, can the Mets really count on that quintet to live up to its promise before the rotation begins to break up?
The clock certainly is ticking. Syndergaard and Harvey have now resumed throwing, at least on flat ground, although their eventual returns will come too late to salvage this season.
But even if the Mets do not try to pull off a Jose Quintana-type deal for deGrom, there is an expiration date on how long this group will remain intact.
Harvey is the first to become eligible for free agency -- after the 2018 season. He will be followed by Wheeler after the 2019 season and deGrom after the 2020 season.
At one point, Harvey and Bryce Harper figured to headline the free-agent class during the 2018-19 offseason. It seemed like Harvey would be able to pick a destination like the Yankees or Red Sox for possibly $300 million. Now, it seems equally as likely that Harvey's final season in Flushing will be 2018. But it's unclear what type of market there actually will be for Harvey once he reaches free agency.
Some fans may be tempted to advocate trading Harvey before he reaches free agency. But at this point, it's probably too late. The return the Mets would get figures to be modest. After all, Harvey has undergone serious elbow and shoulder procedures, and he has an ERA of 5.02 over the last two seasons.
So the Mets should just roll the dice and see what Harvey can give them in 2018. They undoubtedly will get max effort from Harvey since he needs to reestablish himself in order to maximize his potential earnings as a free agent.
Harvey may be the biggest question mark among the Mets starting pitchers in terms of 2018 performance, but there clearly are others with uncertainty, too.
After missing two full seasons with a prolonged rehab from Tommy John surgery, Wheeler started this season solidly, producing a 3.45 ERA in his first 11 starts. However, he has wilted badly. Wheeler has since produced a 10.13 ERA and opponents are hitting .360 in his five starts.
The positive spin: We may be tempted to forget it since Harvey returned so strongly from Tommy John surgery, but Year 2 performance typically is better than the first year back from the elbow procedure for most pitchers. So with time off this winter to regroup, Wheeler conceivably will come back stronger in 2018.
Adam Wainwright is a prime example. After missing the 2011 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, Wainwright posted a 3.94 ERA his first season back. The ERA then dipped to 2.94 the following season, then 2.38 in 2014 and 1.61 in 2015.
Meanwhile, Matz has logged only 207 1/3 innings in the majors since debuting with the club on June 28, 2015. So there's no certainty he will be able to stay on the mound uninterrupted.
Even Syndergaard is a mild question mark. He no doubt will return from his lat strain throwing 100 mph. But in a recent interview, the flamethrower offered no indication he will back off his heavy-lifting workout regimen that makes old-school pitchers cringe.
About the only certainty seems like deGrom. And with pitchers, you never know what can happen.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson will have to remake his lineup and bullpen this upcoming offseason, given all the free agents in those two areas. As for the once-hyped starting pitching, he more than likely simply will hold his breath. So will everyone else.
Adam Rubin (Facebook | Twitter | Contact) has covered the Mets since 2002. He previously worked for the Daily News and ESPN. He also serves as assistant athletic director for strategic communications at NYIT. He is a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the University of Pennsylvania.