The Mets went 26-34 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 MLB season, underachieving badly and missing the playoffs due in large part to a starting rotation whose members knocked New York out of games in the early innings with stunning regularity.
Returning pieces of that rotation will include Jacob deGrom -- who happens to be the best pitcher in baseball -- and David Peterson, whose stuff and guile impressed during his rookie campaign.
Almost certainly gone will be Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. Seth Lugo should be back in the bullpen, Steven Matz could be a candidate for the final spot in the rotation, Marcus Stroman could be back after receiving the qualifying offer, and it's unclear when Noah Syndergaard will return from Tommy John surgery rehab.
The above means that the Mets have a lot of work to do this offseason when it comes to fixing the rotation and bolstering it with pitchers who can be counted on to contribute a lot of quality innings.
When looking at the free agent market, the starting pitching options are more plentiful than the position player options, but there's one name that stands out above the rest.
Trevor Bauer, whose dominant 2020 season will lead to him winning the NL Cy Young award, seems to have turned into a true ace. And he's there for the taking.
Should the Mets pounce? Let's examine the pros and cons, starting with the cons...
Is this the real Bauer?
Bauer's numbers in 2020 were otherworldly. He had a 1.73 ERA (2.88 FIP) and 0.79 WHIP while striking out 12.33 batters per 9 in 73 IP (11 starts).
Additionally, Bauer's metrics were mostly great, suggesting that he's built to dominate for years to come.
But it's still scary to look at the seven years of Bauer's career, with two being dominant and five where his ERA was above 4.00.
Age might not be on his side
Bauer will turn 30 years old in January and has a lot of innings on his arm, having tossed 1,190 in the majors since debuting in 2012.
Contrast the above with late-arriving deGrom, who had thrown only 680.2 innings entering his age-30 season due in part to a late transition from shortstop to pitcher and the fact that he didn't make his big league debut until he was 26 years old.
Bauer could potentially remain healthy and productive for the next decade, but he has a lot of mileage.
Bauer has a huge presence on social media, especially Twitter. And while that shouldn't be disqualifying for any team considering signing him, it's definitely something that will be factored in.
If you believe that the 2020 version of Bauer is the one who can be expected for the next several seasons, signing him and slotting him behind deGrom in the rotation could mean the Mets having the best 1-2 punch in baseball.
As they were in 2015, the Mets would be a nightmare matchup for teams during the regular season and -- more importantly -- in the playoffs.
The market could stay sane
Bauer could receive a contract that pays him a huge average annual value -- perhaps upwards of $30 million. But in a market that's expected to be impacted in a negative way due to massive losses incurred by MLB teams this year, it's reasonable to believe that Bauer's deal might not reach into the seven or eight-year range.
If Bauer can be had for five or six years, it would be a much easier pill to swallow for teams that might be understandably wary of paying a premium for his age-35 and beyond seasons.
Bauer's big personality works both ways. While it can piss off some opposing players and perhaps lead to some headaches for the front office and public relations arms of a team, he has been generally well-liked by his teammates.
Bauer also has a competitive edge that does not seem contrived. And that's something that should be valued, not frowned upon.
Given the Mets' needs elsewhere, including in center field and behind the plate, reaching a verdict on how many years and dollars to potentially allocate to Bauer is a bit tough.
When you combine the above with the fact that lower-tier but still very good free agent options like Stroman, Masahiro Tanaka, and Charlie Morton are free agents, it's fair to think the Mets should be in on Bauer and try to sign him. But he should not be their top option.