Why Hisanori Takahashi Won’t Be Missed
(NOTE: this is a post written by Matt Himelfarb)
Sayonara, Hisanori …
According to Jon Heyman of SI.com, Takahashi was seeking a three year deal worth approximately $4-5 million per year, but according to David Waldstein of the New York Times, the Mets were only willing to give him one year and an option, for a total value of around $3 million.
It seems to me as though most fans shared a similar opinion on the matter. They scoffed at giving Takahashi a guaranteed multi-year contract, but were willing to re-sign him on a shorter deal for a tidy, albeit reduced sum of about $3 million.
I am inclined to agree with this sentiment. Frankly, I am unconvinced that even if Takahashi would have taken less money, it was a slam-dunk call, either. In some respects, re-signing him would have struck me as eerily reminiscent of the Minaya era: overpaying millions of dollars for marginal talent that can just as easily be attained for a fraction of the cost (see Alex Cora, Gary Matthews Jr., and probably a whole lot of other names that escape me at the moment). Three million dollars is nothing to sneeze at, particularly in light of reports the Mets may not have much payroll flexibility this winter.
For one, Takahashi is not getting any younger. He will be 36 years-old next season. Not to mention, he will lack the element of surprise that aided him — to at least some extent — in his first year stateside. At best, you hope his performance remains constant.
Further, it’s foolish to justify paying a pitcher on the grounds that he is “versatile.” Any starting pitcher is capable of pitching out of the bullpen (and almost certainly will post better numbers), and if you flip-flop him between the rotation and the bullpen, suddenly you have created a “versatile” pitcher. It’s similar to how Billy Beane and other general managers earlier in the decade would take a failed starter with little to no market value, make him the closer for a season so he can rack up some saves, than dupe some other team into trading valuable young players for him.
Let’s take a look at some stats, though. On the surface, Takahashi’s numbers look very good. 122 innings pitched, 10-6, 3.61 ERA, 114 strikeouts, 43 walks. His overall performance, however, is distorted by the fact that nearly half his innings came out of the bullpen.
Here are his splits in both roles last year:
As you can see, Takahashi was far more successful as a reliever than a starter. His strikeout and walk rates were considerably better out of the pen, but there is also a ridiculous disparity in his home run rate.
Despite being a fly-ball pitcher, Takahashi’s combined HR/9 rate was 0.96, which is below the league average. Citi Field certainly helps suppress that (it was 1.19 on the road, and just 0.75 at home), but considering his otherwise above average peripherals, if Takahashi can maintain his performance from last season (that is a big if), he has the makings of a more or less average big league starter.
Thus, if the Mets envisioned Takahashi throwing 180+ innings as their fourth or fifth starter next season, then I could certainly advocate re-signing him, opting for some degree of certainty instead of relying on the likes of Dillon Gee or Pat Misch. Ok, maybe not for three years, but I could live for a one-two year deal for $4.5 million.
But it appears they just saw him as a spot starter or reliever, in which case I would rather they save the $3-5 million bucks. If they are simply looking for rotational depth or find themselves in a pinch, Gee, Misch, and eventually Jenrry Mejia would probably suffice.
On the other hand, he was absolutely dominant last year as a reliever capable of pitching to both righties and lefties. Darren Oliver has given the Angels, and most recently the Rangers, a good bang for their buck the last few years fulfilling a similar role for around $3-4 million.
At the same time, however, I oppose paying any significant amount of money or years for a middle reliever, period, given their volatility and potential alternatives available this winter. For instance, Nelson Figueroa will probably be hard pressed to garner even $1 million this winter, and I do not see what advantage Takahashi has over Figgy, aside from being left-handed. Of course, I doubt we will see Figgy returning either.
Not giving in to Takahashi’s demands was a shrewd move on Alderson’s part. It was the number of years, more than anything, that render re-signing Takahashi so unappealing. Yet, even if he was willing to talk different terms, I still would not have lost any sleep if the Mets let him walk. That being said, best of luck to wherever Takahashi and his awesome translator roam next season.