Mets Can Close Gap to Diaz By Signing These Two Arms

Watching Wide Right for the 21st century disappoint Buffalo Bills fans reminded me that I’m of a dwindling group that watched the original Wide Right featuring Scott Norwood live. It’s yet another reminder of my age; one that has preached patience from this soapbox before.

But my patience since the end of September has been rewarded now that New York Mets players are scheduled to report to Port St. Lucie much sooner than it feels like they should be.

Back in my day, after Abe Simpson got back the word ‘Twenty’ from the Kaiser, there was a slight break between the end of the NFL season and the start of Spring Training. We used that time to watch the NBA All-Star game and maybe start reviewing college basketball rosters to ensure a winning NCAA tournament bracket. That break allowed for reintroductions to family members lost in the shuffle and soon to be lost again, this time to Gary, Keith and Ron. But that break, that time is gone and like Hall and Oates said, "I think...I got the strength to carry on" because pitchers and catchers will be reporting to MLB Spring Training right around Valentine's Day.

Speaking of pitchers, the failure to sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto means the Mets' starting rotation appears on paper to be serviceable at best. Last year, starting pitcher, Kodai Senga was great down the stretch, but he’s not a traditional ace for a Major League pitching staff. On the other hand, Luis Severino has pitched like a staff ace, but that was in 2018 and Adrain Houser just hopes to replicate his numbers from 2021.

Jose Quintana and Sean Manaea should provide quality innings from the southpaw side, but neither would be stamped to start a big series. The reasonable reaction to this rotation is hoping all five can stay healthy and keep Tylor Megill and Jose Butto in the minor leagues.

Mets President of Baseball Operations David Stearns added three starters with potential upside and a similar selection of random unknown arms to the bullpen. Kyle Crick and Cole Susler are two guys I’ve never heard of, but each has options to bounce freely between Citi Field and Syracuse; something that wasn't too successful last year. Additional relievers were signed to major league contracts, but their name quality didn’t improve. I’m rooting for Michael Tonkin and Jorge Lopez to make me remember their names with positive feelings, like Turk Wendell in 1999 or Trevor Williams just two seasons ago.

The 2022 season seems like it happened decades ago, but it was one of the best in franchise history. The core of that 101-win team is still in place and it’s easy to forget about all the positives. The biggest positive was the emergence of Edwin Diaz as a top-flight closer with live intro music and everything. We never really were able to appreciate his loss because the entire 2023 season was played without him throwing a pitch in a Mets uniform. So much so, the Met fan base started the season believing David Robertson was the answer in the 9th inning.

The aging right-handed reliever was a great answer, finishing 26 games with a 2.05 ERA before being moved to the Florida Marlins. Roberton's failures in south Florida came from overworking his old arm, but they shouldn’t stop Stearns from giving the 38-year-old a call. This is where Steve Cohen’s checkbook should come into play. He signed for $10 million last year and was moved for two minor leaguers because he was intended to fortify the bridge from starters to Sugar. There’s no reason why he can’t do it again.

Aroldis Chapman was an All-Star in New York before so there’s no reason why he can’t do it again, only as part of the bridge to Diaz. The power-throwing lefty joined Texas last June and finished with four saves. He wouldn’t be asked to do that in Queens; just serve as another option for new manager Carlos Mendoza to make it to the 9th inning. Kansas City signed the 35-year-old for $3.75 million last season, then traded him at the deadline. Uncle Stevie has enough to ensure both old arms come to Queens for this season, even if it’s just to move them this summer for prospects.

The prospects for the 2024 season have been diminished by the lack of a big name signing. It doesn’t matter that the majority of this year’s free agents didn’t line up with the team’s needs. It doesn’t matter that the team’s minor league system wasn’t good enough to trade for Juan Soto. It doesn’t matter what you say to the contrary – without a flashy free agent addition. Mets fans will find this offseason a failure.

This could appease some of these pundits since both Robertson and Chapman have pitched in the Big Apple before. Both have championship jewelry, and both fill a need that isn’t being mentioned loudly right now.

When Atlanta and Philadelphia visit Citi Field in early May and Severino guts his way through six innings, the current plan seemingly calls for Tonkin or Crick to pitch the 7th inning. I’m certain Mets fans would rather see Chapman or Robertson warming up for the 8th inning and that’s the truth.

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