5 Mets storylines to watch as their season winds down

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Luis Rojas Jacob deGrom Javier Baez METS TREATED ART
Luis Rojas Jacob deGrom Javier Baez METS TREATED ART

With just a week and change remaining in the season, the Mets' are playing out the string.

But that doesn't mean there aren't lots of intriguing things to watch the rest of the way.

Here are five of them...

Can Jacob deGrom make it back?

DeGrom has not pitched since July 7, and he's running out of time to get back before the season ends.

But the latest update from deGrom was that he remained confident he'd be able to return.

Along the way during deGrom's shutdown, it was revealed that he had dealt with a partially torn UCL in his pitching elbow, with Mets president Sandy Alderson saying the issue had resolved itself.

Similarly, deGrom said he wouldn't be throwing if his partially torn UCL was still an issue.

There are two big things at play here.

Jun 26, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) pitches in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field.
Jun 26, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) pitches in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field.

The first is concern from some fans that deGrom is working his way back to pitch in what would almost certainly be a meaningless situation. But pitchers want to pitch, and if he has gotten the all-clear medically, it makes all the sense in the world for him to try to make it back before the end of the season to see how his elbow responds.

The second is that even if deGrom makes it back and looks like himself, there will be lingering concern about him until he is healthy and dominant in 2022. And it will be interesting to see how that concern shapes the Mets' offseason.

How will Noah Syndergaard look when he returns?

Syndergaard, who is in the midst of a rehab assignment with Triple-A Syracuse, is closer to a return than deGrom.

If/when Syndergaard does return, how will he look?

Syndergaard said a few weeks ago, before his rehab was paused due to testing positive for COVID-19, that he would avoid throwing sliders and curveballs this season after getting advice from doctors.

Noah Syndergaard pitching with Brooklyn Cyclones
Noah Syndergaard pitching with Brooklyn Cyclones

During his recent bullpen sessions and in his latest rehab appearance, Syndergaard has been throwing a fastball/changeup combination, with his fastball reaching the mid-90s.

The expectation remains that Syndergaard will return in a bullpen role this season, where his two-pitch repertoire could play up.

But Syndergaard will almost certainly be a starting pitcher again in 2022. And how he looks upon his return in 2021 could play a big role in determining whether the Mets make him a Qualifying Offer, which seems likely.

Can Javier Baez stay disciplined at the plate?

Baez came to the Mets at the trade deadline with the well-earned reputation of being a free swinger.

And while Baez will still expand the zone at times and remains strikeout-prone, his plate discipline has improved since joining the Mets as he has become more selective.

Sep 17, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets second baseman Javier Baez (23) follows through on an RBI single against the Philadelphia Phillies during the fourth inning at Citi Field.
Sep 17, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets second baseman Javier Baez (23) follows through on an RBI single against the Philadelphia Phillies during the fourth inning at Citi Field.

Baez has drawn 12 walks in 39 games as a Met after drawing 15 walks in 91 games with the Chicago Cubs earlier this season.

He has also struck out less -- a rate of once per 3.6 plate appearances with the Mets after fanning once every 2.6 plate appearances with the Cubs.

It certainly appears that Baez's selectivity has been by design. And if Baez reducing his swing-and-miss while becoming more picky at the plate is something that appears to be sustainable, his value -- to the Mets and any other team that might be interested him as a free agent -- will go up.

Are these Jeff McNeil's last days as a Met?

They certainly shouldn't be.

McNeil, like most of his position player teammates, has had a down 2021 season, slashing just .255/.320/.369 with seven homers and 19 doubles in 112 games.

Sep 19, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets left fielder Jeff McNeil (6) rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field.
Sep 19, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets left fielder Jeff McNeil (6) rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field.

But while McNeil has had a frustrating 2021, there's every reason to believe it's a blip on the radar after he hit .319/.383/.501 in 1,024 plate appearances between 2018 (his rookie season) and 2020.

Bringing back the versatile McNeil, who is entering his first year of arbitration this offseason, should be an absolute no-brainer.

What about Luis Rojas?

Rojas, in his second season at the helm, is in the second and final year of his contract.

And the calls to move on from Rojas after the season have grown louder over the last few weeks, with many fans irked by some puzzling in-game moves that backfired as the Mets' playoff hopes faded.

Aug 24, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets manager Luis Rojas (19) walks to the mound to make a pitching change during the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field.
Aug 24, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets manager Luis Rojas (19) walks to the mound to make a pitching change during the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field.

While it's fair to call Rojas' moves (especially some he has made lately) into question, it needs to be pointed out that the job of a field manager in 2021 is much more than what goes on between the lines -- and Rojas had been pretty solid all season until lately.

Rojas has been a plus when it comes to being the daily face of the Mets in front of reporters, has been communicative with his players, has been a steady hand most of the time but also shown fire on the field when needed, and has been a constant for the Mets over two seasons of turmoil around him and above him.

Perhaps Rojas' fate is already sealed. But if it isn't, how the Mets play over their last 12 games could help determine it.