The Mets Offseason – The Rotation

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

2 Responses to “The Mets Offseason – The Rotation”

  1. tjv101 says:

    I couldn’t disagree with you more on just about everything in this article. First, I think if either Martinez or Perez had a better chance of returning, it won’t be Martinez. He was awful this year. I think Perez will almost have to be re-signed even at $10-$12 million a year because he is still relatively young and the Mets know what to expect even at a 4 year deal. I don’t feel all that good with Santana, Maine, and Pelfrey as my three starters going into the season alone. You need to fill a 4th and 5th starter role. Where else are they gonna get that? They certainly won’t be going after Sabathia since he will be asking for too much money and after locking up Santana for so many years and at his cost, they won’t be going after another pricey free agent pitcher two years in a row.

    Now to Heilman. Granted Heilman was awful this year but in my opinion, he is nearly in the same boat as Castillo…meaning he has virtually no chance of returning next season…let alone as a starter. Mets fans hate him. Have you forgotten that? He’s been boo’d for years! He will surely be gone. Maybe he will be shipped off…maybe to KC in a deal for Soria if we are lucky. I am not against picking up Lowe or taking a chance on Burnett. He strikes out a ton of guys and won’t have to be facing the AL East beasts (Yanks, Sox, and Rays) anymore.

  2. Chris Wilcox says:

    I’m not saying that the team should bring back Pedro or Ollie. I am saying that they are more likely to take a chance on Pedro than Ollie, because Ollie will likely be priced out of what they would like to pay for him, but Pedro will likely be available at a discount. A long-term, big money contract for Oliver Perez would be a mistake. In my opinion, they are more likely to sign a more consistent player like a Derek Lowe rather than bring back Ollie because Ollie tends to fluctuate so much from start to start, plus Ollie will be a Type A free agent, so the team is likely to get good compensation to let him go.

    As far as Burnett, the problem with him isn’t necessarily talent, but injuries; he never stays on the field. The only two seasons he hasn’t missed time for injuries were his two walk years. I’d much rather see him waste somebody else’s money than the Wilpon’s, especially for the dollars he is going to command as a Boras client.

    Then there’s Heilman. I don’t think he’s going anywhere, as much as Mets fans might want him gone. At this point, he’s too talented to just give away, but based on performance, he has no value right now. It’s not a bad idea to bring him back for one more season and see what they can do with him, because unlike Castillo, he’s not completely over the hill – he still has a chance at being a contributor to a good Mets team. Fans who refuse to acknowledge that he can and potentially will be a strong part of a good team, in spite of his flaws, are being short-sighted.

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