Mets Sign a Lefthanded Pitcher

Unfortunately, it’s not Barry Zito, but you already knew that.

However, it’s also not Mark Mulder, who should be deciding between the Cardinals, Rangers, and Indians shortly. And it’s not David Wells, whose belly has grown so large he cannot get out of his front door. Thankfully, it’s not Bruce Chen, either.

It’s Scott Schoeneweis.


Sorry, I only stated it louder because your lack of a reaction made me think you didn’t hear it the first time.

According to Buster Olney’s sources, the Mets and Schoeneweis are on the verge of completing a three-year deal to bring the little lefty to Flushing. No report on the dollar amount, nor is there a shred of logic attached to the rumor.

Hmmm …. the mind races ….

The 33-year-old Schoeneweis was once a mediocre starter for the California / Anaheim / Los Angeles Angels whose career was about to end before the Angels moved him to the bullpen. He wasn’t much better there, but since he only threw an inning or two, the damage seemed less impactful. The Chicago White Sox acquired him and put him back in the rotation for almost 20 starts in 2004, and he responded with a 6-9 record and 5.59 ERA (and that was back when an ERA that high was considered awful). He has not started a game since then, instead being used strictly as a LOOGY, compiling a 3.32 ERA in 80 games, then 4.88 ERA in 71 for the White Sox and Blue Jays. Last year, Toronto released him after 55 games and a 6.51 ERA.

However, the Cincinnati Reds were desperate to put warm bodies in their bullpen, and picked him after checking for, and confirming, a heartbeat. In 16 games he pitched 14 innings and gave up one run — on a homer — while also picking up 4 saves. Somehow, this 16-game renaissance made him a very sought-after pitcher.

If Schoeneweis can continue to give up only one run every 14 innings, then this deal makes great sense. However, looking at his career history, there is nothing to indicate that he will go an entire year with a 0.64 ERA.

Strangely, the Mets are reportedly giving Schoeneweis a three-year deal just a few months after refusing to go to a third year for Chad Bradford — a guy who had an outstanding season over 70 games and showed no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

So why would the Mets let the great ChadBrad walk away after such a great year, yet give three years to someone who is certain to be a mediocre LOOGY — on a team that already has a mediocre LOOGY in Pedro Feliciano?

It boggles the mind.

Let’s get something straight: I like the idea of getting another arm. What I don’t like is letting ChadBrad walk because three years was too much, then turning around and giving three years to a guy who in any other year would be lucky to receive a spring training invite.

My guess is that the Mets have realized that they made a huge “oopsy” in not giving Bradford that third year. It was fairly early in the free-agent market — the end of November — and Omar Minaya’s crystal ball could not have possibly seen the Orioles’ overexuberance as a trend-setting indicator for the remainder of the offseason. However, when you look at who made the offer — Jim Duquette — you realize that this isn’t the first time a GM grossly overextended for a pitcher and in turn radically changed the market (um, anyone remember the Kris Benson deal?).

Omar is desperate for experienced arms, even if they are mediocre, and has come to understand that he will not have a choice in giving too much for too little when it comes to a veteran pitcher. No doubt his recent discussions with the agents for Jeff Weaver, Tomo Ohka, and Tony Armas, jr., has greatly changed the mindset since late November. Looking at the bottom-feeding options available at this point, it’s understandable why Omar will overpay for Schoeneweis: he’s healthy. No matter what he does, if he’s going to sign a free-agent, veteran pitcher, he’s going to have to give a 3- or 4-year contract. He may as well get someone like Schoeneweis, who is likely to stay off the disabled list, then commit to glass joes such as Ohka, Armas, or Mark Mulder.

Where Scott Schoeneweis fits in, however, is another matter. If indeed he can continue the brief dominance displayed in Cincinnati, he may well be anointed as more than just a LOOGY, and be put into situations previously extinguished by Bradford. It’s also possible that the Mets aren’t counting on another strong year from Pedro Feliciano (personally, I thought Feliciano stunk last year, but I’m in the minority). Also likely is that he’ll be the backup plan to replace Darren Oliver’s role in the event that Dave Williams wins a spot in the rotation. Less likely, but nonetheless possible, is that Schoeneweis will provide extra depth to enable the Mets to consider moving Aaron Heilman back to the rotation.

That last idea is pure wishing well stuff conjured by me, the self-appointed President of the Aaron Heilman Should Start Institution. But hey, a guy can dream.

Most likely, the Mets are seeing Schoeneweis as another healthy, stable, veteran arm that will provide flexibility in the ‘pen. They know the rotation is full of question marks and bound to suffer at least a few injuries and other setbacks. That said, it’s a good bet that Dave Williams will start at least a few games — probably a dozen or more — before the year is out. With Schoeneweis on hand, it will be very easy to swing Williams, Heilman, Jason Vargas, or whomever else is in the bullpen, into the rotation as needed. Heck, there’s even a chance that Schoeneweis himself is used as a spot starter — he’s done it before. Furthermore, Schoeneweis has been a career AL pitcher — and since the track record of pitchers moving from AL to NL has been pretty good, Schoeneweis’ mediocrity in the American League could well translate into dependability in the Senior Circuit.

A Higher Reason?

There is one other interesting tidbit … Schoeneweis would represent the second signing of a Jewish baseball player by the Mets in a week (following David Newhan), and their third acquisition in six months. The Mets had gone some 25 years without a Jew, before Shawn Green came to town. Perhaps Minaya is forming a minyan to surround Green, in hopes of lifting his spirits and batting average. Maybe he’s trying to reverse the bad karma of the longtime omission … though the Mets certainly weren’t much even with Elliott Maddox and Dave Roberts. Or he realizes the fanbase has a high percentage of Jewish peoples, and is seeking to give those fans more players to identify with — much in the way he’s added a number of Latinos to the team. And didn’t he add Paul LoDuca last year because of all the fans from Little Italy? OK, maybe not, but these player pickups certainly don’t hurt the promotion of the various “Heritage Nights” — and they’ve been quality players to boot.

Nah, I think Omar sees it as a good idea to add another lefty to the squad.

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.
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