You never know how to respond to any GM’s comments before the trade deadline. In the case of Sandy Alderson’s recent statements, they could range from a bargaining tactic, to managing the expectations of fans, to spin control, to pure BS, to all of the above. In any event, what you hear is rarely the full frontal, so to speak. This is what he said about the Mets surplus of starting pitching and the possibility of a trade, which he (supposedly) does not consider prudent:
“We have a number both here and at the minor-league level that we like. But it’s easy to run through that number in a hurry with injuries and poor performance. So I’m always hesitant to trade starting pitching. Now, I’m cognizant that an issue for us is offense and run production. So I’m not writing off that possibility. At the same time, what’s getting us to a higher level of performance, hopefully, and success is our pitching — both our starting pitching and the bullpen.”
We keep getting the same message: Sandy is hesitant to trade starting pitching. When you consider the way injuries can quickly decimate a rotation, it’s a valid argument. But I suspect the real issue here is that the Mets may not be so pitching-rich as we’ve been led to believe. I mean, sure, it’s everywhere you read; the “pitching-rich Mets organization” has become a standard (if unexamined) phrase in most every blog or article you come across. It has become, that is, an article of faith. But look at what happened this past season. Yes, Jake deGrom has come out of nowhere and impressed us all. Yet Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero have been stalled in Las Vegas during their meteoric climb to stardom. It may be some time before either of them dominates at the major league level, if ever.
In a terrific piece by one of my favorite Mets observers, Mack Ade (Mack’s Mets) confirmed some of my nagging suspicions. In the July 1st post, Mack provides a quick statistical update on the starting rotations of all seven of the Mets farm teams. Outside of a few names, it’s not a list that will blow you away with its quality, evidenced by the disappointing results many have achieved (if that’s the right word) thus far.
Mack begins with this comment:
The Mets have been known over the past three years to have dominant minor league rotational pitching. They’ve either led or ranked high at every level in the lowest team ERA and WHIP
The first thing I notice on this list is that this doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
Sure, there are exceptions, and the Savannah rotation in particular is doing just fine, but the upper three levels (Las Vegas, Binghamton, St. Lucie) are not punching out the kind of numbers we grew to be used to in the past.
Again, take a look for yourself, and then bookmark Mack’s site and give it a regular read, since I can’t begin to paraphrase his nuanced point of view here. I don’t agree with everything Mack writes, but it always comes from an informed perspective.
My personal belief is that while pitching is still a relative strength in the organization, the starting pitching may not be all that it’s been cracked up to be.
Maybe that’s the true source of the caution we hear in Sandy Alderson’s voice, and maybe Sandy’s right. That, well, you know, though this is Year Four of the retooled minor league organization, there’s not really all that much frontline material in the system. Maybe you’d bet on Matz and Syndergaard, but on whom else would you count on as a sure thing?
The Mets just don’t have much pitching to spare.
I still think you trade somebody, because the team must be upgraded somehow. And because smart teams can always pick up veteran filler if push comes to shove. But I agree with Sandy: There’s risk involved.
It’s not a job for the meek.