Pedro Panic

Assuming the worst — that Pedro Martinez will be out for a significant period of time — what are the Mets options for the starting rotation?

Orlando Hernandez is already down until mid-April, and no one’s convinced he’ll be healthy or effective when (if?) he returns. Mike Pelfrey still hasn’t shown a second Major League pitch — and there’s some dispute that he has one.

When pressed for an alternative to Pedro, manager Willie Randolph spat out the name Figueroa first. We’re assuming he means Nelson Figueroa as opposed to his ex-teammate Ed Figueroa — though right now I’d take either.

We’ve been addressing the starting pitching depth all spring … and winter … and yet the best the Mets can come up with is Nelson Figueroa — with Brian Stokes next in line. Yikes!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Figgy and hope he can surprise some folks. But an overachieving Nelson Figueroa is not enough to get the Mets through a full season.

Here’s what’s left after Figueroa:

1. Brian Stokes (?)
2. Adam Bostick
3. Jonathan Niese
4. Bobby Parnell ?
5. um?

Jorge Sosa might be a consideration, had he and not Pelfrey been given the temporary #5 slot in the rotation and Steven Register kept in the bullpen (rather than returned to the Rockies). I suppose Sosa could still be a starter, with Ricardo Rincon or Stokes or Figgy brought up for bullpen depth — but it’s still a shell game, in that you slide one strength over by weakening another.

It’s time to sign someone — anyone. Jeff Weaver? Horacio Ramirez? Robinson Tejeda (for you, Mic)? Heck, let’s get the national anthem auditioners on the mound and see what they can do.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. sincekindergarten April 2, 2008 at 7:53 am
    I’m shocked that you didn’t include the name of Claudio Vargas. He’d probably do well in a pitcher’s park like Shea, as opposed to the oversized pinball machine that is Miller Park.
  2. isuzudude April 2, 2008 at 8:16 am
    I think the Mets first have to find out how long Pedro will be on the shelf before the determine what to do about their starting pitching. Best case scenario (although also farthest-fetched), is that Pedro is either only out a week or can at least avoid the DL, in which case we need not worry. However, realistically, Pedro is likely gone until May – at the earliest – so it doesn’t hurt to speculate.

    In the interim, what with Pelfrey now seemingly a lock in the rotation until Pedro comes back (or another starter is added from outside the organization), I think the bullpen needs the extra arm. A 5th starter isn’t needed until April 12 vs., Philly, so we can at least last until then with 4 starters and 8 relievers. With Sosa more suited for ROOGY duty than long relief, I’d prefer to call up a Figueroa or Stokes to be the long reliever/innings eater until the 5th starter is needed. If Figueroa does well in the role, let him be the #5. I’ve heard El Duque is eligible to come off the DL on the 13th, so if he’s ready let him slide into the rotation. Personally, I wouldn’t touch Parnell or Niese…it’s still to early to go to them, yet. I also don’t think Armas is much of an option, having not thrown at all this Spring because of the visa issues. And obviously we can’t go to Vargas because he’s hurt (again). If things get really desperate I’d even consider Joselo Diaz or Bostick.

    I think I’d only turn to an outside option if A) Pelfrey has shown no ability to record outs in the majors through 3 starts, B) El Duque proclaims he won’t be ready for another month, C) Figueroa is of no help whatsoever, and D) Pedro is out for the year. That being said, signing a guy for the minors to serve as depth is fine by me, I just wouldn’t go signing someone willy nilly because we need a warm body in the rotation. To me, there’s nothing Woody Williams or Horacio Ramirez provides to the Mets on the major league level that Pelfrey probably couldn’t already provide.

    Jeff Weaver is an interesting name, Joe. He bombed in his last tenure in NY with the Skankees, but maybe a return to the NL (where he succeeded greatly with the Cardinals) is just what he needs. You also mention Ramirez and Tejada, but who else is available?

    Via free agency: Woody Williams, Claudio Vargas, Freddy Garcia, Jorge De La Rosa, Jaret Wright

    Via trade: Josh Towers, Jason Marquis, Esteban Loaiza, Jason Hammel, Jeremy Sowers

    I’m sure I’m missing a few, but this seems to be the cream of the crop (lack of a better term).

  3. joe April 2, 2008 at 10:18 am
    ‘dude, have to disagree with you on your opening point — IMHO, the Mets are in desperate need of starting pitching depth regardless of the results of Pedro’s MRI.

    Pedro’s “pop” was a wake-up call, shaking everyone into the reality we’ve been whining about all winter — which is, the Mets have absolutely no depth backing up the rotation.

    In past years, we could joke about Brian Lawrence, Jose Lima, Jeremi Gonzalez, etc., but this year there isn’t even anyone to joke about — there’s a black hole. The closest thing we have is Tony Armas, who has been in the country for about two weeks.

    This hamstring scare won’t be the last one we have this season.

  4. isuzudude April 2, 2008 at 10:48 am
    ok, you want depth. so who do you sign out of the FA pool who will definitely give us 150 innings while keeping his ERA under 5? cause I don’t see any guarantees.
  5. joe April 2, 2008 at 10:59 am
    I don’t think we need someone who can give 150 IP — and finding a pitcher with an ERA under 5 simply isn’t going to happen; those guys have jobs as #3 starters.

    I simply think we need to find at least one or two guys who have pitched at the MLB level before, who can be stashed in AAA and come up and spot start here and there. Plus, at least another Figueroa type — a career tweener who might just offer something that a washed up veteran can’t.

    The lack of depth is frightening.

  6. Coop April 2, 2008 at 12:25 pm
    Hey Joe, I said this last year towards the end – throw ME out there, I can junk ball like the best of ’em.
  7. Micalpalyn April 2, 2008 at 12:33 pm
    This discussion BEGs for reference to previous debates. The Mets depth is thin. Not as thin as I thought it would be because I think Jon Niese and Bob Parnall based on spring showing are at least as capable as Mike Pelfrey. HECK, if the Spring had been (ala Dallas Green era) open auditions Parnall and possibly niese would have beaten out Pelfrey.

    While I agree that the Mets are committed to Pelfrey, Pedro and El Duque are FA and have injury baggage. If I had to give an estimate LAST week I would have said Pedro would miss time but most likely in mid May. As such I agree with joe’s last statement. That another arm is needed for insurance against a Pel implosion, as well as calf, thigh, toe and hamstring injuries to El Duque and Pedro.

    MLB.com had this quote: ‘Martinez is 36 years old, and he has a recent history of leg problems that probably is as long as his hamstring. In 2006 alone, he was undermined by the problematic large toe on his right foot, inflammation in his right hip that cost him a month of the season and torn muscles in each calf — the second of which led directly to the torn rotator cuff that ended his season prematurely and denied him all but a month last year”…

    Per quote, we have to question our Pedro expectations. With Santana, Maine and Ollie I am QUITE happy with the top of our rotation. If El Duque is healthy, that is as good a #4 as usually found anywhere in baseball. If Niese and Parnall audition as #5 for a start or 2 I would not be upset. The benefit to running out Niese or Parnall is that they can build on strong springs and both just pitched against the Braves (confidence booster?). BUT niether is on the 40-man. Stokes was also DFA ‘d. (why is Collazzo still there?)

    Me- I would call on Carlos Muniz before adding anyone to the 40 man. I’d also be happy if Sosa took a turn or two in the rotation. But ,I think this scare SHOULD at least have Omar asking about Tejada, Claudio Vargas and Ed Jackson. All 3 could be rotation candidates next yr too.

    On another note: Ryan Church’s situation bears watching. I think it is more than reasonable to give Marlon and Easley oppurtunities to start.

  8. joe April 2, 2008 at 12:42 pm
    Coop — what do you throw? A screwball? Maybe get down to Shea and give Omar and Willie a looksee at it.

    Mic — interesting points. I wonder if the Mets will wait on Niese and Parnell because of roster / option issues … plus the fact that Omar and Willie tend to prefer to give veterans a shot first.

    What’s your issue with Church, though? I think he’s swinging the bat pretty well so far.

  9. sincekindergarten April 2, 2008 at 5:53 pm
    ID, you mention having a pitcher that can keep his ERA under 5. Claudio Vargas just misses that cutoff–5.09 last year, but he was 11-6. Plus, let’s factor in the oversized pinball machine-like qualities of Miller Park. Vargas loses .4 runs on his ERA if he comes to Shea. That makes his ERA about 4.7, which isn’t that much higher than Tom Glavine’s last year–and, last September aside, Glavine did alright for us last year.

    I’d be willing to give Claudio Vargas a look.

  10. isuzudude April 2, 2008 at 6:59 pm
    SK –

    I agree that, with the exception of perhaps Jeff Weaver, Vargas is likely the best of the bunch available at the moment. But there are 2 obstacles…

    1. I wouldn’t feel safe giving Vargas anything more than a minor league contract, and who knows if he’s willing to except that;
    2. Though I think you’re right that Miller Park’s hitter-friendly dimensions helped contribute to Vargas’ lofty ERA in 2007, my qualm is with his WHIP. Only one season out of five under 1.41, which isn’t all that great. So not only is he surrendering too many hits, but he’s also walking too many. Over his career he’s walked a batter every 2.5 innings…or a little over 3 per 9 innings. His strikeout numbers are nice, but all this is a recipe for high pitch counts early in games, which means early exits and more work for the bullpen. Am I being too picky? Maybe, especially considering our current starting pitching depth (or lack thereof). I’ll give Vargas this: somehow, he’s won everywhere he’s been. He’s got a career record 5 games over five-hundred despite a career ERA of 4.95. To me, Vargas sounds too eerily similar to Steve Trachsel – who us Met fans have already had to endure too much of – so I think I’d still take a pass on him. But that’s just me, and I sure wouldn’t go jumping off any bridges if the Mets wind up giving him a look.