Carlos Carrasco's surgery adds more uncertainty to Mets' already-tenuous rotation situation

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Carlos Carrasco delivering pitch home uniform night game 2021
Carlos Carrasco delivering pitch home uniform night game 2021

The news Wednesday that Carlos Carrasco underwent surgery to remove a bone fragment from his right elbow wasn't quite the last thing the Mets needed, but it was close.

Carrasco, who struggled badly in his first year in New York after missing the first half of the season due to a hamstring injury, is expected to resume baseball activity later this offseason.

The surgery Carrasco had is routine, but for a pitcher who will turn 35 years old before the 2022 season and is coming off a year where he had a 6.04 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, it adds an extra layer of uncertainty to the Mets' already-tenuous starting rotation situation.

To break it down beyond Carrasco:

Jacob deGrom did not pitch after July 7 due to an elbow injury that was eventually labeled a partially torn UCL -- something the Mets and deGrom say has resolved itself.

Taijuan Walker, perhaps due to the large innings increase he dealt with, had a dismal second half of the season after being named an All-Star for his first half performance.

Noah Syndergaard, who had a major setback while working his way back from Tommy John surgery, did not make his season debut until late September, and made two major league appearances all season (both being 1.0 inning stints). He is now about to be a free agent.

Marcus Stroman, who was the Mets' most reliable starting pitcher in 2021 while pitching to a 3.02 ERA, will also be a free agent.

New York Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (0) throws a pitch against the Cincinnati Reds in the first inning at Great American Ball Park.
New York Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (0) throws a pitch against the Cincinnati Reds in the first inning at Great American Ball Park.

For the Mets' rotation in 2021, there was also Joey Lucchesi (who will likely miss the entire 2022 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery), David Peterson (who struggled with injury and ineffectiveness and made his last start on June 30), Rich Hill (who will be a free agent), and Trevor Williams (who is a possible non-tender candidate).

Beyond the above pitchers on the 40-man roster are Jordan Yamamoto and Robert Stock.

So again, the Carrasco surgery news is not ideal.

And it makes even clearer something that was already clear when the season ended: The Mets' number one priority this offseason has to be shoring up the rotation.

So how do they do it?

The first thing the Mets should do -- if they haven't already -- is come to the realization that their rotation at the moment is pretty much devoid of certainties and needs serious reinforcements.

They should then make a strong effort to re-sign Stroman and make sure they retain Syndergaard (whether it's via the qualifying offer or a short-term deal for a lower average annual value).

Sep 28, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard (34) delivers against the Miami Marlins during the first inning of game two of a doubleheader at Citi Field.
Sep 28, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard (34) delivers against the Miami Marlins during the first inning of game two of a doubleheader at Citi Field.

Yes, Syndergaard is an unknown right now, but he has already made it past the toughest part of TJS recovery and has a chance to be an impact pitcher in 2022. The Mets need that kind of high-upside potential.

The Mets also need to be active in the external free agent starting pitcher market, ideally landing a pitcher who is not attached to a qualifying offer and would cost them the No. 14 pick in the 2022 MLB Draft (so not Robbie Ray or Carlos Rodon).

Ideally, the Mets would go into the 2022 season with deGrom, Stroman, Syndergaard, Carrasco, Walker, and a TBD free agent addition as their top six starters.

Could they wind up having more starting pitching than they know what to do with? Sure. But as we saw last season (and have seen in recent seasons prior), that is unlikely.

It's fair to point to the Mets' offensive failures as the main reason they fell apart in 2021, but the starting pitching in the second half was the main accomplice. And it needs to be fixed.