Loss of Marcus Stroman Exposes Mets’ Thinning Rotation

The Mets were fortunate when it came to Jacob deGrom’s back, but they weren’t so lucky regarding Marcus Stroman’s left calf. The 29-year-old righty will start the season on the Injured List due to what’s been described as “a torn muscle in his left calf” — meaning that he has at least a Grade 1 strain. He won’t require surgery, but manager Luis Rojas described him as “week to week.” In a season that’s just over nine weeks long, that’s not good news.

Per Newsday’s Anthony Rieber, Stroman was hit in the calf by a line drive during an intrasquad game last Friday, though he kept pitching. On Monday, he felt tightness in his calf during a 50-pitch bullpen session. On Tuesday night, he underwent an MRI that revealed the tear.

The loss of Stroman is particularly ominous given the Mets’ reduced depth in the wake of Noah Syndergaard’s Tommy John surgery, a matter I highlighted earlier this week. As I discovered, the 2.1 WAR deGrom is projected to produce this year accounts for 38.2% of his rotation’s WAR, the highest share of any pitcher with any team. What’s more, the 1.0 WAR drop-off from deGrom to the number two starter, Stroman, was the largest in the majors, and where the team’s total of 5.5 WAR ranked ninth among the 30 teams, the 3.4 WAR projected for the starters besides their ace is tied for 14th.

Stroman, who was acquired from the Blue Jays last July 28, turned in a rather promising season, posting a 3.22 ERA and 3.72 FIP in 184.1 innings, en route to a career-high 3.9 WAR; meanwhile, his 82 FIP- was his best mark relative to the league since his 2014 rookie campaign. Our depth chart projections forecast him for a 3.89 ERA and 3.94 FIP, though his innings total has been dialed back from 66 as of Monday to 56, a number that still seems rather optimistic. While we don’t know the severity of Stroman’s strain (a tear is a strain, after all), even a Grade 1 strain generally means at least one to three weeks before a return to activity, which in this case would probably be a simulated game or two in order for Stroman to rebuild his pitch count before rejoining the rotation. If it’s a Grade 2 strain, he could miss at least half the season. Injuries, alas, aren’t prorated.

The loss of Stroman leaves Steven Matz, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha accompanying deGrom in the rotation, though the last two, both added as low-cost free agents in the wake of Zack Wheeler’s departure, are coming off subpar seasons. As to who joins the group as the fifth starter, Rojas cited 24-year-old lefty David Peterson, a 2017 first-round pick who has never pitched above Double-A; Cory Oswalt, a 26-year-old righty who hasn’t had much success at the big league level; and Erasmo Ramírez, a 30-year-old righty who’s had a rough time in the past couple of seasons, as the immediate candidates. Of that group, only Oswalt is on the 40-man roster, while Peterson almost certainly wouldn’t be added until at least July 29 in order to prevent him from reaching a full year of service time this year. I’ve got more details on the trio, and the other starters in their 60-man pool, in the aforementioned deGrom piece.

Rojas has ruled out Seth Lugo from rejoining the rotation. Lugo made 31 starts for the Mets from 2016-18 but last year emerged as the team’s most reliable reliever while Edwin Díaz and Jeurys Familia crumbled. Given his ability to throw multiple innings, he could still figure into a short-term solution, particularly with teams having the benefit of 30-man rosters for the first two weeks of the season, and 28-man rosters for the next two weeks. The Mets could use an opener or all-bullpen strategy to get through Stroman’s slot at least once or twice. Their relief ranks have been thinned a bit lately, however, as Robert Gsellman and Walker Lockett will both start the year on the IL, the former due to triceps discomfort, the latter due to lower back discomfort.

While obviously not as bad as losing deGrom, the loss of Stroman leaves the Mets exposed. For however long he’s out, they’ll either need to call upon a starter who may no big league experience at all or no recent history of success, and nothing less than a playoff berth may depend upon it.

Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011, and a Hall of Fame voter since 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and BlueSky @jayjaffe.bsky.social.

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David Klein
3 years ago

They should go with Peterson since Lugo isn’t stretched out but watch them go with a tomato can like Corey Oswalt or Erasmo Ramirez. I guess it’s possible Brodie makes a trade and likely gets fleeced again. I would feel more comfortable with a bullpen game if Brach, Hughes and Gsellman would be available but they’re not. Brodie traded most of the minor league pitching depth away in a couple trades and is now paying for it.

3 years ago
Reply to  David Klein

It would be great to have Dunn or Kay back at this point, but it’s not like they represent the entirety of our minor league starting depth. Guys that BVW has brought in, like Gonsalves and Lockett (who, granted, is also ailing now) may not ultimately represent a significant step down from Kay and Dunn. And with Peterson, Kilome, Smith, and Szapucki, there are other guys who should be ready very soon. Missing Stroman for even a few starts will absolutely hurt in a shortened season; but if the team isn’t resilient enough to overcome that, they probably aren’t going to go far this year anyway.

3 years ago

They just DFA’d Gonsalves, which tells you everything you need to know about that

3 years ago
Reply to  Dmjn53

I guess it tells me they’re comfortable enough with the other backup starters they have, even without Kay and Dunn. Is there something else I should have learned from it?