Mets must be aggressive in order to withstand avalanche of injuries

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Sandy Alderson treated orange background with orange flash
Sandy Alderson treated orange background with orange flash

The good news for the Mets is that they are in first place in the NL East and appear to be the best team in the division.

The bad news is that the Mets, who have lost two players to injury in each of their last two games to go on top of the 10 players they were already without, are now dealing with an avalanche of injuries that is unlike anything they have experienced in recent memory.

That the Mets entered the regular season with the deepest bench they've had in years has helped them stay afloat thus far. And their starting rotation injuries (more on those below) seem minor enough. "Seem" is the operative word there.

But after losing Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, and Kevin Pillar over the last few days -- and with Brandon Nimmo and J.D. Davis already out -- the Mets are going to have to be aggressive when it comes to adding external pieces to their roster to help them weather the storm.

Before figuring out what the Mets should do, here is a look at all of their injured players...

Jacob deGrom
Taijuan Walker
Kevin Pillar

Michael Conforto

Jeff McNeil

Brandon Nimmo

J.D. Davis

Albert Almora Jr.

Luis Guillorme

Noah Syndergaard
Seth Lugo

Carlos Carrasco

Dellin Betances

Jose Martinez

With deGrom possibly back as early as Friday, Walker's issue hopefully not serious, Davis starting a rehab assignment Tuesday (and potentially back by the weekend), and both Lugo and Syndergaard also starting rehab assignments this week, help is on the way.

New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) pitches in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field.
New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) pitches in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field.

The biggest issue for the Mets, though, is how depleted their offense is when it comes to both their regular players and their bench.

The depth is gone

Entering the season, the Mets were set up incredibly well to deal with injuries to their starting position players.

But they weren't prepared to deal with injuries to literally half of their regular position players and nearly all of their bench players. No team would be.

That the Mets are without Pillar, Almora, and Guillorme in addition to Conforto, McNeil, Nimmo, and Davis has put them in an almost impossible spot.

May 16, 2021; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; New York Mets right fielder Michael Conforto (30) leaves the game against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first inning with an injury at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
May 16, 2021; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; New York Mets right fielder Michael Conforto (30) leaves the game against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first inning with an injury at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The return of Davis should help, but the Mets need more than that. And they can't rely on any of their other injured offensive players returning soon.

Outfield help is needed badly

As things currently stand, the Mets will be using Johneshwy Fargas and Khalil Lee as two thirds of their outfield most nights. Both players made their big league debut on Monday.

The 26-year-old Fargas has a career .343 slugging percentage in eight minor league seasons.

The 22-year-old Lee is simply not big league ready.

Mar 4, 2021; Port St. Lucie, Florida, USA; New York Mets center fielder Khalil Lee (77) watches game action against the Washington Nationals during a spring training game at Clover Park.
Mar 4, 2021; Port St. Lucie, Florida, USA; New York Mets center fielder Khalil Lee (77) watches game action against the Washington Nationals during a spring training game at Clover Park.

Beyond Fargas and Lee, the Mets don't have any other outfielders on their 40-man roster.

It's clear that the Mets cannot roll with Fargas and Lee as one quarter of their starting lineup for a prolonged period of time, so Sandy Alderson, Zack Scott, and the front office are going to have to put their heads together and find a solution.

That solution likely won't be a trade for a big name player or even an above average player -- not with it being the middle of May. But the Mets need to scour the benches and upper minors of other organizations to find some help. Specifically, they need an outfielder or two who entered play this week with more than zero big league at-bats.

On the pitching front

The Mets' bullpen has so far been largely unscathed when it comes to injuries, so they're fine there for now.

But the starting rotation is currently without deGrom, Walker's status is up in the air, and both Carrasco and Syndergaard are still a ways away.

Translation?

The Mets will need to continue to cobble together at least one rotation spot for a little while longer.

Solution?

Stop using Joey Lucchesi as the "bulk inning" guy.

May 15, 2021; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Joey Lucchesi (47) delivers a pitch during the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports
May 15, 2021; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Joey Lucchesi (47) delivers a pitch during the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

Lucchesi has proven to be unreliable as both a starter and bulk inning pitcher who enters after an opener, and his outings have already led to a few losses in games where the Mets had sizable early leads.

The Mets should continue to use an opener (Drew Smith, Tommy Hunter, Miguel Castro) in games when the No. 5 spot in the rotation comes up, and should turn to Sean Reid-Foley or Robert Gsellman as their bulk inning option. For the next turn through the rotation, the option would be Gsellman due to Reid-Foley's recent heavy workload.

***

The Mets did everything right this winter while adding quality depth to their roster. And it has to be incredibly frustrating for the front office to watch all of that hard work come undone during what has been an almost unfathomable rash of injuries.

But more frustrating would be watching what should still be a special season start to slip away because of those injuries.

It won't be easy to find external replacements, but the Mets need to figure out a way to glue this thing together and keep themselves afloat before the reinforcements start to come.