As trade season heats up, it's hard to say what the Mets rotation will look like at the end of the season. But never one to back to back down from a challenge, let's take a look at what it will look like…in 2020.
With the Mets floundering for the second straight year, it's a wise move to cash in on their two current aces. But the team has historically balked at complete tear-downs and it's a safe bet that one of Noah Syndergaard or Jacob deGrom is still around.
But which one? DeGrom's dominance gives him a greater value in a trade, but his age makes him a good candidate for an extension. Working out long-term contracts with home grown players is no easy feat, but I think the team will end up moving Noah Syndergaard in the offseason while working out a deal that keeps deGrom at the front of this rotation.
The Number Two
With an impressive turnaround season so far, Zack Wheeler would be a candidate for this spot, but he's a free agent after the 2019 season and it's hard to see the Mets making a serious bid to keep one of their more volatile pitchers. Watch for Wheeler to get dangled for trades over the next year (and maybe even get moved before July 31). But however he departs the team, look for Steven Matz to step up and own the second-in-command role.
Matz's sub-4.00 career ERA and much-improved health will serve the team well over his remaining years of team control, which will take him through the 2021 season. That's a rebuilding team's dream.
The Mid-Rotation Guy
Here is where I expect the Mets to go outside the organization to bring in a free agent arm. Jason Vargas's unfortunate contract will have ended, but it's unlikely that any of their current minor leaguers, still very young, will have earned this spot. In a perfect world, you'd love to see the Mets in on Madison Bumgarner when he hits free agency after the 2019 season. But unless the team makes a quick turnaround, a smaller investment is more likely.
How small? Well, Michael Pineda is currently sitting out the season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but a strong 2019 would make him an interesting candidate -- younger than most free agent pitchers and bringing some New York City experience with him. Rick Porcello, who's had his ups and downs since joining the Red Sox, will also be on the radar as well as Tanner Roark.
The Number Four
The halcyon days of the Mets' seemingly endless supply of aces coming up from the minors are over, but David Peterson, the 2017 first-rounder, flat-out dominated Low-A Columbia earlier this season (1.82 ERA) before his promotion to High-A St. Lucie. He has shot up the prospect rankings, coming in at number 3 for the team on MLB.com, and will see plenty of Top 100 placements if he continues to put up ace-like numbers.
A 2020 arrival is a little aggressive, but the towering lefty is already moving quickly through the minors and showing command well above average for a 22-year-old. He's on track to be a big leaguer sooner rather than later, and potentially a very good one.
Like all teams, the 2020 Mets will see a variety of players fill this role throughout the season, whether it's via in-house prospects or the 2020 version of Bartolo Colon (who, at this point, may actually turn out to be Bartolo Colon). But to start out the year, watch for young Justin Dunn, the Mets' first-round pick from 2016, to establish himself.
After struggling in 2017, the right-handed Dunn has made huge strides this season and pitched his way to Double A, where he has a 3.03 ERA in six starts. There are some concerns about his slim build, and durability and don't be surprised if his late-2019 debut involves some relief work. But the team believes he will be a starter, and 2020 will be his shot to prove them right.