Free Agent Focus: Starting Pitchers

Earlier this offseason, Sandy Alderson mentioned that the Mets would be looking to acquire arms for the bullpen and the starting rotation. Not necessarily big names, but more likely bargain-bin pitchers who could compete for spots and provide depth. Alderson acknowledged that an MLB staff needs about seven or so starting pitchers to begin a season; five in the rotation and then at least two others who usually are either stashed in AAA or used as long men in the bullpen.

As it stands right now, the Mets have as potential starters (in no particular order):

1. Mike Pelfrey
2. Jon Niese
3. R.A. Dickey
4. Dillon Gee
5. Pat Misch

I guess you put Oliver Perez in there, as well as Tobi Stoner and Boof Bonser, though they wouldn’t seem to be names you want in that mix. And you could put Jenrry Mejia in the mix as well, but all signs from the new front office is that they’re going to give Mejia a full year of development in the minors. Additionally, Alderson has suggested that D.J. Carrasco could be a starter, though that doesn’t seem prudent considering Carrasco’s poor history in the role. All that said, we can assume the Mets are in the market for at least one more starter. Whether that arm comes via trade or free agency, we’ll soon see, but in the meantime let’s look at a few of the pitchers still available on the free-agent market.

Kevin Millwood
It seems like he’s a free agent every winter. No longer a middle-of-the-rotation guy, Millwood is now a 36-year-old innings eater for the back end. He doesn’t have much left in terms of velocity, but he continues to take the ball 30+ times a year and grinds out 190 innings — and that’s nothing to sneeze at. In fact, it’s something the Mets desperately need in 2011: someone who can be counted on to take the ball every fifth day and get through 6-7 innings most of the time. Millwood’s numbers have been gradually deteriorating, but a return to the NL after 6 years in the junior circuit could help his performance.

Jeremy Bonderman
When he made his MLB debut as a 20-year-old, Bonderman looked like he might be a future All-Star, owning a rare arm that threw 97-MPH lightning bolts. Since then, Bonderman has struggled with a variety of ailments and surgeries, and now has difficulty breaking the low-90s. This wouldn’t be much of an issue except that he was more of a “thrower” — trying to overpower batters — rather than a “pitcher”. However, he took the ball 30 times in 2010 and showed signs of making the transition to finesse pitcher. He appears to be healthy enough to start 30 games again in 2011, and he still has enough mustard to be a decent #4 or #5 starter.

Bruce Chen

I still remember when Chen was a Met, and was going to be our “under the radar” surprise lefty starter. He never did fulfill his promise in Flushing, and has reinvented himself at least three times since. Last year he started 23 times with Kansas City, splitting the time between the rotation and the bullpen, and won 12 games. There are certainly worse options to consider than Chen, and he can probably be had on a one-year deal.

Aaron Heilman
We discussed Heilman in depth recently, but I doubt very highly he’ll return to the Mets.

Dave Bush
This 31-year-old righthander is not spectacular, but he’s a healthy arm and takes the ball regularly. He’s made 31 or more starts in four of the past five years, logging 185+ innings three times. Bush isn’t someone who is going to be the ace of the staff, but he could be someone who keeps Carrasco in the bullpen and Stoner in AAA. And, he should come fairly cheap.

Doug Davis
Davis was the lefthanded version of Bush until last year, when he went 1-4 with a 7.51 ERA before being shut down with elbow and heart issues. If he is healthy, he may be worth taking a look at for AAA depth.

Chris Young and Jeff Francis were discussed recently. I’m not so hot on either of them, considering their price tags, but I would take either or both of them IF the Mets also signed a pitcher with a clean bill of health.

Rodrigo Lopez
I can’t stand Rodrigo Lopez; I think he’s the starting-pitching version of Elmer Dessens. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and the Mets’ meager budget combined with a dearth of quality starters requires us to consider Lopez. He does have health going for him, and he rarely misses a start (though some may deem that unfortunate). Further, he is a fly ball pitcher who tends to get stung by the gopher ball, so pitching half his games in Citi Cavern could help his performance.

My goodness, this is what our offseason has become? A discussion about whether the Mets should sign Kevin Millwood or Rodrigo Lopez? Spring training can’t arrive soon enough.

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. Dan January 3, 2011 at 8:27 pm
    Lopez might be good if 6 innings/75 pitches will do the trick, frequently pushing him beyond that is the reason for his 5 ERA last year. Recovered from TJ surgery ( didn’t pitch in 2008),
    has had shoulder problems which may be the reason for the 6/75 above.
    From what I saw he did pretty well last year.
  2. kenny January 3, 2011 at 10:57 pm
    isnt toby stoner the kid that writes the matt cerrone jr. minor league blog? didn’t realize he also pitches! DOUBLE THREAT!
  3. wohjr January 4, 2011 at 5:58 am
    Is my memory going or did we have Bush on the roster and cut him at some point in the last few years??? We had some Brewer cast-off, I’m quite sure. Anyways, yikes. I’ll take Bonderman for $200, Alex…