With the news coming Friday that New York Mets ace Matt Harvey will go ahead with Tommy John surgery, the team can officially prepare to be without him for the 2014 season. Specifically, they can start to put together their starting rotation, knowing they will have a massive Harvey-shaped hole to fill right at the top.
The good news for the Mets, if you can call it that, is that they have no fewer than three reliable starters they can depend on heading into the 2014 season. Jon Niese, who was the team’s opening day starter in 2013, will once again be asked to lead the rotation, which he should be able to do after a strong finish to the season.
Zack Wheeler, the other half of the Mets’ young power-pitching duo along with Harvey, will be forced to take on a big role next year after a promising rookie season. The Mets also have Dillon Gee, who shook off injury trouble from 2012 to make 32 starts this season, including a great second half.
Of course, that leaves two empty spots in the Mets’ rotation for next season, not including depth that they’ll need to prepare for additional injuries that are bound to come up during the season. General manager Sandy Alderson will certainly go after a veteran starter to anchor what will otherwise be a young rotation, but Alderson needs to find the right veteran starter; he can’t afford to make another mistake like he did with Shaun Marcum last offseason.
The Mets do have several talented pitching prospects, some of who may be ready to step into the rotation at the start of next season, namely Rafael Montero. However, Alderson has insinuated that he would prefer to have his top prospects begin the season in the minors and act as depth for the major league club.
That would mean that the Mets would have to sign at least two veteran starters to not just compete for spots, but to be virtual locks for the starting rotation next year, which could be quite a challenge considering all of the Mets’ other needs.
The X-factor could be Jenrry Mejia, who reminded Mets’ fans of his incredible talent and promise in a handful of starts towards the end of the season before needing elbow surgery. If Mejia can come back healthy and continue to pitch the way he did in 2013, while also proving he can handle the rigors of being a starter, the Mets could have a fourth starter to rely on in their young rotation.
In any event, the Mets will need to scour the free agent and trade markets in order to fill out their rotation, and find multiple pitchers that can help make up for the absence of Harvey in 2014.