The Mets, with only three guarantees in the rotation as of now (and it's being generous to count David Peterson as a guarantee since the sample size is so small), remain in dire need of starting pitching help.
When it comes to Seth Lugo, while it's not out of the question that he one day becomes an above average starting pitcher, he belongs in the bullpen right now. The Mets have yet to say what Lugo's role will be in 2021.
And while Noah Syndergaard is making progress toward a return from Tommy John surgery and is either right on schedule or a bit ahead of schedule (per manager Luis Rojas), team president Sandy Alderson recently mentioned June as a potential return date for the big right-hander.
That leaves the Mets with a rotation consisting of Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, and Peterson.
With the exception of the San Diego Padres, who swung blockbuster trades for Tampa Bay Rays ace Blake Snell and Chicago Cubs ace Yu Darvish, the rest of the league has been at a standstill when it comes to big trades and signings.
That the Mets weren't able to acquire Snell (they simply didn't have the necessary prospect capital) or Darvish is frustrating, especially when you consider the fact that they badly need a second top of the rotation starter to complement deGrom.
While Trevor Bauer is available on the free agent market, his asking price is astronomical. And it seems that the Mets are much more focused on adding George Springer than Bauer.
If Bauer lands elsewhere, that means the Mets would have to choose from a solid but unspectacular crop of free agent and trade options.
Of the free agents, the ones who make the most sense are Jake Odorizzi and Masahiro Tanaka.
Odorizzi, 30, had a breakout year in 2019 with the Minnesota Twins (with help from Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, who was an assistant with Minnesota), when he had a 3.51 ERA and 1.20 WHIP while striking out 178 batters in 159 IP.
While the upside is there for Odorizzi, he profiles more as a mid-rotation starter than a true No. 2 behind deGrom.
The same goes for Tanaka, who remains a reliable rotation cog but who is likely not going to dominate. And while Tanaka would be a good fit for the Mets, there's a chance he leaves MLB to return to Japan to finish his career.
Beyond Odorizzi and Tanaka are high-risk upside plays such as James Paxton, but the Mets need someone more reliable than that as their main starting pitching acquisition.
The Cincinnati Reds, who have already dealt closer Raisel Iglesias and are all but certain to lose Bauer, are in the middle of a money crunch and open to dealing the 31-year-old Gray.
Gray, who had a 2.87 ERA for the Reds in 2019 and 3.70 ERA (3.05 FIP) in 2020, is under contract through 2022 at roughly $10 million annually. There is a team option on him for 2023 at $12 million.
The above should make Gray highly sought after, and it's unclear whether the Mets would be comfortable parting with what it could take to get him.
Then there's the 33-year-old Carrasco, who is owed $38 million through 2023 and could be available due to the Cleveland Indians' financial situation.
Carrasco, whose comeback after being diagnosed with leukemia in 2019 was inspirational, has been mostly excellent since 2014.
Like Gray, though, it's fair to wonder if the Mets would be willing to part with what it would take to trade for Carrasco.
No matter what the Mets do, though, something has to give. They simply do not have the necessary rotation pieces to compete. That will change between now and spring training, but the clock is starting to tick a bit louder.