If the Mets are going to exceed expectations and contend for a playoff spot in what’s shaping up to be a reset year, their starting rotation will have to play a large role — and several key members will have to be able to provide more production than they have in recent seasons.
Two newcomers, Luis Severino and Sean Manaea, as well as a holdover from last season, Jose Quintana, fit into that category.
And with Mets pitchers and catchers required to report in Port St. Lucie Monday, with the first workout scheduled for two days later, the team will soon get a peek at what their rotation will look like.
New president of baseball operations David Stearns, scheduled to address the media Monday, made his biggest gamble of his first offseason by giving Severino a one-year, $13 million contract coming off a brutal final year with the Yankees, when he had the worst season of his career.
Of 140 starting pitchers to throw at least 80 innings last season, only six had a higher ERA than Severino.
But it was just two seasons ago that Severino had a solid year in The Bronx, when he pitched to a 3.18 ERA, with a four-seam fastball and slider that were more than solid.
Last year, those pitches were almost completely ineffective for the right-hander, who turns 30 this month.
Severino hasn’t come close to a full season in which he’s pitched well and stayed healthy since 2018, the second of his back-to-back All-Star seasons with the Yankees.
Then there’s Stearns’ other significant addition to the rotation in free agency, Manaea, who inked a two-year, $28 million deal with a player opt out following this year.
The 32-year-old lefty had an odd 2023 in his lone season with the Giants.
After making some mechanical changes last offseason that led to increased velocity, Manaea got off to a horrid start to the year.
In his first 23 appearances, he had a 5.86 ERA and opposing hitters had a .779 OPS.
But starting with a terrific appearance in long relief on July 29, when Manaea tossed 4 ²/₃ scoreless innings, he closed ’23 in strong fashion.
Over his final 14 appearances, Manaea pitched to a 2.61 ERA and held hitters to an OPS of .596.
It was all part of a season in which Manaea made just 10 starts in 37 appearances.
As the rotation is constructed now in Queens, Manaea figures to get more starts — although he was slightly more effective as a reliever in ’23.
One of last year’s free-agent misfires for the Mets, Quintana, should give the team more in 2024 than he did a year ago, when the left-hander was sidelined until July after a stress fracture in his rib cage was discovered during the spring.
Quintana pitched fairly well when he returned, but the season was already in turmoil.
Combined with his injury and the departures of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer at the trade deadline, the Mets’ rotation ended up being decidedly average last year, finishing 13th in ERA (4.20) and 18th in WAR, according to Fangraphs.
A similar performance won’t get the Mets to the playoffs this year.
Perhaps Severino shows last year was an aberration and at least approaches the form — and durability — he displayed earlier in his career.
Manaea’s second-half surge could be an encouraging sign, but he also pitched much better at the Giants’ spacious Oracle Park (3.45 ERA) than he did on the road (5.37).
And the concern surrounding Quintana is that he is 35 and has thrown more than 103 innings just once since 2019.
The Mets announced RHP Austin Adams cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Syracuse. He had been designated for assignment to open a roster spot for left-handed reliever Jake Diekman.