Mets Need Starting Pitching Depth

We looked at the projected Mets lineup, now let’s look at the projected starting rotation. In no particular order:

1. R.A. Dickey
2. Jonathon Niese
3. Mike Pelfrey
4. Dillon Gee
5. ?

There are two problems to address. First, who is the #5 starter? Who is competing for that role?

Some might even argue that Gee isn’t a #4, and so he projects as the #5, but until someone else is brought in we can’t see things that way — we have to work with the cards we’re dealt at the moment.

Second, beyond the first five, who do the Mets have in reserve, as a backup plan? Most MLB teams have at least two additional arms of AAA / AAAA level for depth.

I’m guessing that Chris Schwinden will get some consideration. Josh Stinson seems to project as more of a reliever, but he did start 15 games in the minors last year. Perhaps Jeurys Familia and/or Matt Harvey will be given a quick look — though, I would imagine that both of those youngsters will be kept in the minors for more seasoning.

Before you say “hey, you forgot Johan Santana!” — no, I didn’t; I’m just not counting on him being healthy enough to pitch MLB games come April. It’s irresponsible to pencil in Santana when he barely made it through a five innings of A-ball and a few bullpen sessions in September. If Santana does prove to be healthy by April, he will be a pleasant surprise, but in the meantime, the Mets have to plan as though he’ll be unavailable. If you can provide a logical reason to disagree with that strategy please express it in the comments.

So if we agree that the Mets have only four legit MLB starters and two question marks (Schwinden and Santana) as of now, we likely also agree that the Mets need to acquire at least one if not two or three starting pitchers before February. Here is a list of selected available free agents:

Miguel Batista
He was a feel-good story in September, but do we really want to go there?

Andrew Brackman
Intriguing, but the big righthander has yet to figure out AAA, much less make it to MLB. At 26 years old, he’s quickly running out of time but not too old to be worth giving a flyer and sticking in Buffalo to see what happens.

Bartolo Colon
That drink he took from the Fountain of Youth worked until July, and then it was all downhill. Was it because he wasn’t ready for a full MLB season? Was it because the bionics were temporary? Or was his pact with the devil a short-term lease? Regardless, I don’t see the Mets taking the chance of offering him anything more than a minor-league deal and invite to spring training.

Aaron Cook
I like the idea of Cook, who pitches to contact but whose heavy sinker leads to quick innings. In the old dimensions of Citi Field, Cook might have gone an entire season without allowing a homerun at home. He had a terrible 2011, so he should come cheap. I don’t see penciling him as the #5, but I like him as part of the backup plan.

Jeff Francis
Francis came back in 2011 to prove he is still a soft-tossing, mediocre starting pitcher who can fill out the back-end of the rotation for a last-place team. In other words, he should be cheap. Think of him as a poor man’s Chris Capuano and let me know whether you think that’s what the Mets need.

Jon Garland
Garland would have been a good fit four years ago, as well as three years ago and two years ago. Garland is also a good fit on a blue spruce or douglas fir this time of year. As for the Mets in 2012, well, I’d take him if he’s willing to accept a minor-league deal and ST invite.

Livan Hernandez
He’ll give you innings, if nothing else. Also, on days he pitches, he can be slotted into the #7 or #8 spot of the lineup.

Edwin Jackson
The Mets can’t afford him. Secondly, he might not be worth what he’ll get — unless the Mets fire Dan Warthen and make a trade for Dave Duncan.

Paul Maholm
From the low-budget perspective of the Mets, Maholm is a no-brainer. However, I fear that there are other clubs willing to give Maholm more than what the Mets are willing to offer in terms of dollars and years. But, I was stunned that the Mets ponied up the dough necessary to sign Frankie Francisco, so maybe I’m wrong.

Jason Marquis
Will this finally be the year that the Staten Island native joins his second-favorite hometown team? Perhaps not unless Jeff Francoeur returns. Added benefit: like Livan, you can bat him 7th or 8th, and use him as a pinch-hitter for whomever is playing CF, SS, or backup catcher.

Micah Owings
Like Livan and Marquis, Owings can hit. He had a somewhat promising rookie year as a starter in 2007, but went downhill from there and has been a reliever the last two years. I’m not sure if he’s good enough to start again but I do like his bat.

Roy Oswalt
I’m not seeing it, though I’d love to. My feeling is that Oswalt will sign with a pennant contender for much more than the Mets are willing to spend.

Vicente Padilla
Padilla missed most of 2011 due to neck surgery. Before that, he was a very handsome back-end starter. I don’t know – worth a shot?

Brad Penny
Penny enjoyed the second-worst MLB season of his career, riding on the coattails of the Detroit Tigers. It could be argued, though, that his 5.30 ERA and 1.56 WHIP would drop with a return to the NL, and he did average nearly six innings per start. Meh, I’d rather take my chances elsewhere.

Joel Pineiro
This was the guy the Mets should have signed to a three-year contract instead of Oliver Perez that fateful winter. However, signing Pineiro now doesn’t make up for that. But, he’s worth offering a minor-league deal / ST invite if no one else does.

Jo-Jo Reyes
Maybe if the Mets sign this Joe Reyes, the fans won’t notice the one lost. Seriously though, I — like most — cannot figure this guy out. He has a 94-96 MPH fastball, nasty secondary stuff, but his strikeout rate is alarmingly low considering his skill set and he gets hit all over the park. He just turned 27 years old, and quickly running out of time.

Joe Saunders
This would be the 2012 version of Chris Capuano, but, like Maholm, can the Mets afford him? Despite the fact he eats innings and wins, Saunders doesn’t hold too much value with the sabermetric set because other peripherals suggest he’s mediocre. Still, I get the feeling there’s enough demand for Saunders that he’ll get a multi-year deal that will be too rich for the Mets and be from a club with a more optimistic 2012 in their sights.

Andy Sonnanstine
Sonnanstine peaked in 2008 when he went 13-9; he hasn’t been very good since and he’s been primarily a reliever for the last two seasons. A move to the NL and out of the AL Beast could be just the ticket for him.

Javier Vazquez
Didn’t he retire?

You may have noticed that Rich Harden, Erik Bedard, Ben Sheets, Chris Young, Brandon Webb, Kelvim Escobar, Mark Prior, Don Gullett, Wayne Garland, David Clyde, and several other injury-riddled pitchers were left off the list. That was intentional, because the Mets will already have a high-risk injured pitcher in camp named Santana, and I don’t see it making sense to throw good money at high risk candidates considering their extremely limited budget.

Looking at the list of free agents, it’s pretty slim pickings. Besides the perpetually injured, I also didn’t bother wasting space on the likes of Rodrigo Lopez and a few others. But, maybe I missed someone; let me know in the comments.

As for who could realistically be in a Mets uniform in 2012, and would be welcome … well, it’s tough. Maholm would seem to have the most upside among those who appear to be within reach — though you might also put Reyes into that “high ceiling” category. Saunders would be a nice, reliable #4, but can the Mets afford him? The quality drops off pretty drastically after that. I wouldn’t mind Cook and/or Garland on a minor-league deal, and it wouldn’t hurt to see Brackman in Buffalo.

What do you think? Who should the Mets go after on the open market? Who might they be able to obtain via trade? Did I miss anyone?

11-12 Offseason

About the Author

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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