Third in a series about how the Mets will reassemble a team for 2009
The Mets rotation in 2009 will likely feature some big changes when compared to previous years. Pedro Martinez and Oliver Perez are both free agents and unlikely to be back. Mike Pelfrey, for the first time, would appear to have a guaranteed spot in the rotation heading into next year. John Maine will hopefully be recovered from whatever injury issues have ailed him over the past year by spring training. And of course, the ace himself, Johan Santana, figures to play a prominent role on next year’s staff.
Between Ollie and Petey, I think Pedro is the most likely to return. Ollie will likely command more than this team has shown they are willing to spend on a mid-level rotation filler. With Ollie likely to break the $12 million threshold, he will likely be priced out of the Mets’ reach. Pedro, on the other hand, may be a vailable for a discount in light of how the last three seasons have gone. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think either of these guys are coming back. But if I had to guess on one or the other, I’d bet on Pedro.
So how will the team fill the two spots? Well, first, they should think of it as more like three spots; it would likely behoove the team to bring six starters to spring training, with two guys competing with maybe Jon Niese for one rotation spot. In this day and age, you really can’t have too nany starting pitchers, especially with the way injuries break. It would probably be in the team’s best interests to spend some mone on a decent #2/3 starter, hedging their bets that Maine will be able to return at full health, and signing 2 other starters who maybe have been down on their luck of late and hope that playing in a pitcher’s park behind a good defense will help them bounce back. Low guarantees, even minor league deals, for pitchers who have been good in the past but had a down 2008 would be a good way to fill out a rotation, and whomever doesn’t win out here can be thrown into the bullpen. Believe it or not, a Carl Pavano type here may not be a bad idea; low risk, potentially high reward.
There is another possible starting pitcher solution that can be found right on the 25 man roster, a pitcher who isn’t currently a starter – Aaron Heilman. It’s true, Heilman did not have much success as a reliever in 2008, but sometimes good pitchers have bad years. Trading Heilman now will mean that the Mets are unlikely to get good value for him – they are probably stuck with him, and they have a rotation opening for him, so he could be a good person to compete for a rotation spot.
As far as free agent pitchers, several names have been linked to the Mets. One of the more surprising names, to me, has been CC Sabathia. Considering the dollars he will command, the dollars this team has already committed to one ace, and considering that he is more of a luxury than anything else, I am not sure this one makes sense. Would it be nice to throw out a rotation with Santana and Sabathia in the 1-2 spots? Absolutely. Is it realistic to expect this? Not at all.
I do think that looking at a Derek Lowe-type here would be a good idea, even if the team doesn’t like his groundball tendencies. He is more consistant than an Oliver Perez, and he should command similar dollars, and is more likely to keep the ball in the park. AJ Burnett will be available, but I think signing Burnett would be a huge mistake; he’s rarely healthy, and this year, even when he was healthy, he wasn’t particularly good. For the money he wants, he won’t be remotely close to worth it. Let him sign with the Yankees.
There are no easy answers here, but I’d like to see the team splurge a little on a good #2/3 type, and try to spend a bit more money on a #5-6 type than by scouring for Nelson Figueroas who have little upside and who weren’t good pitchers in their prime. Keep an eye out for trade talks here, as that is how Omar has built his rotation for the most part since taking over the Mets (Pedro Martinez is the only Mets starter acquired by free agency since Minaya arrived in New York). With two spots to fill and few internal options, watching how the Mets build this area of the team is something to watch this offseason.
Next: The Bullpen