As a lifelong, diehard Mets fan, this article absolutely pains me to write. As the 2022 regular season kicks off, I would love to be able to tell you that I believe the team is going to dominate the league and ride the backs of Max Scherzer and Jacob DeGrom to its third World Series title, but that’s not what I’m going to say. Instead, I’m going to talk about how the Mets need to face the reality that DeGrom just might not be around forever.
Two years ago, it seemed as if DeGrom was incredibly healthy for his age, with a long career ahead of him. From 2017 to 2019, the Mets ace started a minimum of 31 games a year, picking up back-to-back Cy Young awards in the latter two seasons. At the beginning of last season, the pitcher himself told ESPN’s Jeff Passan that his goal for the rest of his career was to be an “inner-circle Hall of Famer.” Well, it’s been almost exactly a year since that interview, and after what started out as a fantastic 2021 campaign, DeGrom has been dealing with injury ever since. He finished the season with less than 100 innings pitched, and on April 1, the Mets announced that their ace would be shut down for at least the next four weeks due to a right scapula injury.
No one is arguing that DeGrom might be losing a step skill-wise. The starts that he did make in 2021 were stellar, putting him squarely in the conversation for another Cy Young. However, his questionable longevity could make it very hard for the Mets to build around him, especially in a time when they are trying to be a playoff contender. The same goes for Max Scherzer, as he pitched fantastically last season, but how many more years will he be able to remain healthy is the important question. While he will be starting the Mets second game of the season, he did have some hamstring issues recently.
While the possibility that the Mets seemingly legendary one-two punch might not be the ticket to the promised land after all, right now is certainly not a time for the Mets to give up and go home. The team has an exciting and young core of players that probably would be way easier to build around for the future. Players like Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Dominic Smith, whose average age is 27, could definitely form the foundation of a competitive roster that lasts for years to come. Foundation, however, is the keyword.
The Angels are currently the best example of why a great foundation needs to be supplemented, as Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani are two of the best players on the planet, and the team’s playoff hopes have not been high for a considerable amount of time. What did the Angels do this offseason to deal with that problem? They went and got as many pitchers as possible, specifically young ones from the draft.
The Mets should be doing this as well. While there is a world where DeGrom comes back and pitches phenomenally, and where Scherzer gives the Mets three very productive years, there needs to be a contingency plan. Luckily for the team, it is not hard to think one up. Investing in the growth of pitchers like Tylor Megill, who was just announced to be the opening day starter, and David Peterson, who has shown flashes of promise over the past two years, is very important. These two should only be the beginning, as the team should continue to look for young pitching talent.
The Mets competitive window is coming soon if not already upon us, and if a championship is going to come from it, the team will have to be multifaceted. Veteran leadership is invaluable, but health and youth are also integral to the perfect team. To end with a positive DeGrom take, it’s important to look at the Dodgers’ recent World Series title. Clayton Kershaw, who at the peak of his career was as dominant as a pitcher can be, won his ring in 2020, six years after he had last won the Cy Young. He won it alongside players like Walker Buehler, a member of a newer generation of Dodgers pitching, but both were integral to the process. Ideally, that would be an archetype for a Mets World Series-caliber pitching staff, but the question mark of health looms large.