by Paul West
The New York Mets are one of the most dangerous, balanced teams in baseball. They have an American League-level lineup that gives opposing pitchers no breathing room; they’ve upgraded their infield defense, and even with Matt Harvey struggling, they sport the best top-to-bottom starting rotation in the game. Closer Jeurys Familia is still closing games as effectively as anyone, and after a slow start, the Mets have heated up. But there are warning signs, mainly related to the health of their Big Four of powerful young arms. Harvey hasn’t seemed like himself, and until further notice, seems to only be able to pitch at a high level until the 6th inning or so; speculation is widespread and varied as to the cause, but until they get to the heart of the problem, Harvey starts will require a few innings of relief help. Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom both seem to be relatively issue-free in terms of health, but their tendency to pile up strikeouts means their day is often over as of the 7th inning or so. Bartolo Colon is an innings-crunching machine, but righties are batting over .300 against him this season and he’s not the ace he once was, despite occasional gems. Steven Matz recently approached complete-game territory, but the Mets would be wise not to overuse him. All things considered, the Mets’ 2016 success will largely depend on their ability to keep their starters healthy and fresh for what they hope will be a long postseason. Logan Verrett has been solid as a spot starter and occasional long reliever, and the Mets’ bullpen has been solid for most of the season; but overuse and inevitable hiccups suggest that further strengthening couldn’t hurt.
It just so happens that a two-time Cy Young Award winner, still just 31 years of age, was reportedly sharp in a 41-pitch showcase on Friday afternoon. With a small multitude of scouts in attendance, Tim Lincecum took another step toward re-establishing himself in the major leagues; he was consistently around 90 miles per hour, and described himself as “happy” after the outing.
Lincecum came to be known as “the Freak” early in his career, thanks to his unorthodox mechanics, the velocity he generated with a relatively slight frame, and the array of wiffleball-esque stuff he often used on the mound. Many point to his unorthodox, contorted delivery as a root cause of the injury problems that began to plague him several years ago, leading him to plummet from stardom as his ERA rose. He remained with the San Francisco Giants throughout, though his role diminished from championship-winning centerpiece to spot-starter and long reliever as the Giants spent five years winning championships in alternating seasons. His 2015 season was over as of the end of June, and in September, he underwent hip surgery and found himself out of the game. While he was loath to openly lament his injury woes for a long time, now that he’s post-surgery, he’s begun speaking more freely about the effect his ailing hip had on his pitching.
Lincecum has expressed a desire to return to a starting rotation role, but he’d also surely prefer to sign with a contender. He’s reportedly only in search of a one-year deal, which means he’s a perfect low-risk gamble for the Mets. Should Harvey continue to falter, and perhaps need time off, Lincecum would increase the Mets’ flexibility of response–and if he does return to even a reasonable approximation of his former self, he’d give an already strong pitching staff an enviable boost. It’s with good reason that so many teams are showing interest in the former Cy Young Award winner; the Mets would be well advised to consider him as a low-risk, high-reward roster boost.