Risk – Reward Free Agent Pitchers

As Sandy Alderson has told us, the Mets are not concerned with making the postseason in 2011. Further, they may have only $5M to play with on this winter’s free agents.

Considering those two factors, do ANY free agents make sense?

This is a difficult question, because it is hard to figure what exactly is the motivation for signing free agents for the 2011 season. Considering that nearly every free agent is over the age of 30, signing one with the idea of keeping him for 2012 / 2013 doesn’t seem likely. I’m guessing that the team will sign short-term deals with a small handful of players who can fill holes and help the team stay out of last place. Additionally, they may look to sign some risk / reward types who can a) possibly give the Mets enough performance to push them toward a postseason berth; or b) become trading chips to deal to pennant chasers in return for younger talent in July.

These are pitchers coming off injury who likely will need to take incentive-laden contracts with minimal dollars guaranteed (i.e., far less than the six million it took to rebuild Steve Austin, astronaut).

Brandon Webb
Webb was one of the top 5 pitchers in the NL before blowing out his shoulder on Opening Day 2009. He’s missed two full seasons and no one is sure if he’ll come anywhere close to being the pitcher he was before the injury; he topped out at 83 MPH in an October instructional league. Webb turns 32 in early May.

Jeremy Bonderman
Like Webb, Bonderman has been stifled by major injuries — to his elbow and shoulder. He came back to start 29 games in 2010 but was so uninspiring that he considered retiring before the season ended. The former triple-digit-flirting flamethrower struggled to break 90 MPH last year, but he’s only 28 and might still return to health.

Chris Capuano
This soft-tossing lefty once won 18 games for the Brewers, but missed all of 2008 and 2009 after his second Tommy John surgery. He came back in ’10 by posting a 3.95 ERA and striking out 54 in 66 IP — and showing more hop on his fastball than people remembered. He turned 32 in August but if healthy, could be one of those lefties who can hang around for a long time getting by on location and changing speeds.

Jeff Francis
Similar to Capuano in that he didn’t have great stuff, but somehow won 17 games in 2007. Shoulder surgery knocked him out of 2009, and he returned in 2010 looking similar to the sore-shouldered pitcher who went 4-10 in ’08. It’s doubtful he can be a mid-rotation starter again, but maybe he can turn into an effective reliever.

Aaron Harang
Remember when people thought this guy was good? He’s not anymore, and he suffers from chronic back issues. He’ll be 33 next May and it appears his best days are behind him. But he’ll be really cheap, and still has a 90+ hard sinker (though his slider has lost some bite), and is generally around the plate. Like Francis, I’m thinking he can reinvent himself as a middle reliever — particularly with the help of a big park like Citi Field.

Chris Young
He’s really tall, really smart, and used to be really good. However, he suffered from shoulder problems beginning in early 2009 and made only 4 appearances in 2010, tossing 20 innings. He did strike out 15 and allow only 10 hits in those 20 IP, so there is a modicum of optimism that he can return to his old form.

Justin Duchscherer
When healthy, Duchscherer has been effective, but his past problems have included his shoulder, elbow, back, and hips — as well as clinical depression. He threw 28 innings in April before ending his 2010 season to have hip surgery. There isn’t much left of his body to be rebuilt — he’s the modern-day version of the Bionic Man. He may cost only $1M, which is less than what Omar Minaya gave Kelvim Escobar, and Duchscherer offers both less risk and higher reward.

Erik Bedard
Missed all of 2010 and most of 2009 (and most of 2008) with shoulder problems. If he can stay healthy for three months and pitch effectively, the Mets would have a fantastic trading chip. Unfortunately, that seems like a stretch; his most recent shoulder operation occurred this past August.

Ben Sheets
Forget it — he’s out all of 2011 after Tommy John surgery.

What do you think? Should the Mets roll the dice on any of these risky arms — if the price is right?

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. Paul November 27, 2010 at 11:30 am
    I might roll the dice with Chris Capuano & see who else is available in January.
  2. Nick November 27, 2010 at 12:10 pm
    Speculate on the rotation as of now: Pelfrey, Dickey, Niese, Gee/Mejia. So yeah, we need another starter at least, maybe two.

    Since we’re not going to compete most of the other holes can be filled with youth. We’ve got plenty of 2b prospects (Turner, Tejada) and we have 4th OF options and bench bats as well (Duda, Evans). The bullpen is weak, but bullpens are the concern of the contending.

    So, what about 2 of these guys? We’re going to need to identify 2 other options anyway, and this will allow us to start Mejia in the minors where he belongs.

    I like the Capuano idea, I hadn’t thought about him. I like Ducherserererererer on the cheap.

    I know I shouldn’t like Brandon Webb, he’s this years Ben Sheets. I would definitely wait and see if he can get the velocity up. Bill James has him projected at 12-8 with a 3.48 ERA in 179 IP. Even if he went 10-10/4.20/150IP he would help us this year. If he blows his shoulder out it won’t hurt us in 2012, and if he’s better than expected we have an inside track on the 2-3 year deal that he’s going to want after this year.

  3. metsie November 27, 2010 at 1:32 pm
    While I agree we do not have enough pitching to compete,

    Don’t we have enough players on the roster already who have been injured and are trying to get back to what they were before they got hurt?

    I just don’t know if it is a wise expenditure of the limited funds.

  4. Joe A. November 30, 2010 at 10:57 am
    1. Young
    2. Capuano
    3. Bedard