Free Agents Left on Scrap Heap: Pitchers

We’ve covered position players left on the scrap heap, and now it’s time to look at pitchers still swimming around the free-agent pool.

Joe Saunders
Saunders is exactly the type of veteran innings-eater the Mets need to solidify the back-end of their rotation. Unfortunately, he reportedly has several suitors, and it’s doubtful the Mets will offer the best deal.

Chris Volstad
Volstad was absolutely terrible for the Cubs last year, and like Felix Unger, was asked never to return. The Royals picked him up on waivers in early December, but dropped him soon after. I always thought the 6’7″ righthander was an imposing figure with good stuff, and he’s only 26 — still time to turn it around. His size, 92-MPH sinker, low K rates, and inability to put it together remind me of Mike Pelfrey — except Volstad has pretty good off-speed stuff. I like the idea of penciling Volstad into the Las Vegas rotation as depth, and seeing what happens.

Kevin Slowey
Slowey is a typical product of the Minnesota Twins system: pitches to contact, walks very few, doesn’t strike out many. He was an OK back-end starter from 2008-2010, but has been terrible since. Maybe a move to the NL could turn him into an adequate back-end starter again.

Aaron Cook
Unsurprisingly, a move to the AL East and the comfy confines of Fenway Park yielded frightening results for the veteran sinkerballer; Cook posted an unsightly 5.65 ERA in 18 starts and he struck out less than two batters per nine innings. However, he still sports a heavy sinker that induces an absurd number of ground balls, so he could have value as a spot starter / long reliever.

Jair Jurrjens
This time last year I would have jumped for joy if the Mets were able to sign Jurrjens as a free agent. However, a 6.89 ERA can change one’s opinion. 2012 was also the fourth straight year that Jurrjens’ velocity decreased; it’s now under 90 MPH. Something definitely is wrong with the former phenom, and it could be physical. Buyer beware.

Matt Capps
If the Mets were serious about replacing Frank Francisco in the closer role, Capps might make sense. However, I’d be concerned about Capps’ health, as his rotator cuff is damaged and he’s a pitcher who relies heavily on velocity. Here’s my strategy: sign Capps, showcase him as a healthy, lights-out closer in the first half, trade him for a prospect like Wilson Ramos at the deadline. It worked for the Nationals a few years ago.

Manny Corpas
There was a time when I thought Corpas could turn into a valuable setup man. However, his velocity had dropped steadily every year, now down to 87-88 MPH — a major drop from when he touched 94-95 in his first few years in the bigs. As a result, he’s completely lost confidence in his heater (which now more aptly described as a “warmer”), and throws a rinky-dink slider about 60% of the time, which makes him a situational reliever / matchup guy. Why is he on this list, then? Because this is the same front office that gifted D.J. Carrasco with a two-year deal, so who knows what they’re thinking?

Chad Durbin
There’s nothing exciting about Chad Durbin. He quietly gobbles up innings and keeps his team within striking distance in the middle parts of meaningless games. And, he can fill any role, including a spot start if necessary. He’d be an un-sexy, but valuable signing.

Kyle Farnsworth
Could he be the 2013 version of Jon Rauch?

J.P. Howell
Not happening, but I figured I’d put him on the list to appease those wearing rose-colored glasses.

Brandon Lyon
Lyon seems to fit in the Frank Francisco mold of overrated reliever who gets overpaid because he once displayed a modicum of success as a closer for a bad team. In other words, the Mets might be able to afford him.

Jon Rauch
Rauch wasn’t awful last year, but he’s not an 8th-inning setup man and the Mets can’t afford to give him another $3.5M. If he’s amenable to, say, a one-year deal under $2M, the Mets shouldn’t hesitate.

Manny Parra
He’s lefthanded, can start or relieve, and strikes out a batter per inning. The reason the Mets can sign him is because he also walks about five batters per nine.

Peter Moylan
There aren’t many pitchers left who can “bring the funk,” as Willie Randolph might say, and Moylan would likely be obtainable on a cheap, minor-league deal. He would be a nice reliever to bring in to “mix it up” in the sixth or seventh inning.

Brian Wilson
I’m stunned that no other team has given Wilson a one-year, incentive-heavy contract with $5M-$7M guaranteed. He was a very reliable closer — in a Doug Jones kind of way. And it seems that most pitchers come back successfully from Tommy John surgery, so the risk is manageable. How has he not yet been picked up by the Dodgers, Reds, Nationals, or anyone in the NL East? Seems weird. In any case, he’d be a great sign for the Mets — if they can afford him.

Shaun Marcum
Marcum would be a welcome addition to the Mets, and though he’s no R.A. Dickey, he’s as close to R.A. as the Mets might be able to afford and can get from the current free-agent pool. My gut tells me that the Mets won’t pony up the money / commitment necessary to ink him to a deal.

Carl Pavano
Pavano is exactly the kind of veteran innings-eater the Mets need at the back of their rotation. And, it seems marginally possible that the Mets can afford him. Does that mean there’s a match?

Derek Lowe
The poor man’s Pavano. Considering that Pavano is in the budget of the poor man, maybe that means Lowe is the destitute man’s Pavano. In other words, he could find himself a Met by February. His value would be as Pac-Man, eating innings in various roles.

Rich Hill
Hill pitches well when he’s healthy, which isn’t often. He had a 1.17 ERA in the AL East last year despite continued elbow issues. There’s a good chance the Red Sox bring him back on a lesser deal after non-tendering him.

Sean West
West is a big lefthander with a big fastball, and was supposed to be an ace starter by now. He never quite put it together, but he’s also yet to try his hand as a reliever. Since he’s yet to make it as a starting pitcher, maybe his 96 MPH fastball and 6’8″ frame would be suited to a LOOGY role?

Kevin Whelan
This converted catcher was once a promising prospect in the Yankees organization, but fell from their graces and is now a free agent. He throws a low-90s fastball and a nasty splitter, and struck out 12.8 batters per 9 innings last year in AAA, posting a 3.54 ERA. And that’s no fluke — he had an unreal 15.6 K/9 in 2009, and is at 11.2 K/9 in his minor league career. The bad news? Last year he walked almost 6 batters per 9 IP — which is right around his career average.

Aaron Heilman
Don’t laugh – Heilman may be the best of a really bad lot of minor-league free-agent pitchers still available. He’s bounced around quite a bit since leaving New York, and spent the last two years in the minors. His 4.02 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 34 AAA games last year may seem underwhelming, but consider that he put up those numbers in the hitter-friendly PCL. Also of note, considering the league, he allowed just 4 homers in 47 IP — quite a feat for a PCL pitcher. I didn’t see him pitch live in 2012, but the numbers suggest he might have something left. What can it hurt to take a flyer on him?

Royce Ring
Yes, another former Met, but I swear this isn’t a nostalgic choice. Like Heilman, Ring found success in the hitter-happy PCL — great success. He had a 1.17 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. The catch is that he pitched in only 11 games. Still, he’s always put up strong K/9 rates, and he’s a lefty, so is worth a look-see.

I’m sure I missed a few guys. Point them out in the comments.

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. Mike B January 4, 2013 at 12:01 pm
    I got an idea. The Mets sign a Marcum or even Pavono and 1 or 2 of the relievers to help bullpen out. Then sign Bourn and trade for Upton. I would actually be excited about next season.

    It could happen right.

  2. NormE January 4, 2013 at 12:09 pm
    A few of these guys might be of short-term value as place-keepers but how many 1.5 million dollar contracts will Sandy be able/willing to sign.

    Notice that you left Chris Young off the list. On purpose or an oversight? What would Freud say?

  3. Jon C January 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm
    Joe, what do you think the Mets plan is this year (assuming they have one)? To me, trading Dickey and not signing any good free agents (Bourn) points to a rebuilding strategy.

    Well if thats the case, then lets go all in. Forget the “innings eaters”. Forget the veterans who bounce to a new team every year.

    Why don’t we sign the guys who were promising but slowed to injury (Jurrgens), sign guys who were once top prospects and see if a new pitching coach can lower than walk rate. WHAT DO WE HAVE TO LOSE (other than a bunch of baseball games, which we are going to lose regardless of who we sign before the season starts)!!! Lets pick up a bunch of these guys and one or two of them will probably pan out. We might not see the next RA Dickey, but maybe we end up with a guy who can be on a major league roster when we get better, or to use as a trade chip.

    The last thing the Mets should do is go in between rebuilding and competing, or we will be stuck there longer. We must stick to the plan (please let there be a plan). If we are rebuilding, then to heck with how many losses we have this season, lets roll the dice with the guys who have some upside.

    And sorry, I did laugh when I saw Heilman’s name :/

    • Izzy January 4, 2013 at 8:53 pm
      I think the big plan is to try to get the first draft pick. But it will be very hard to do since Houston looks horrid and so do the fish.
      • Dan B January 5, 2013 at 10:50 am
        Ha! Can you prove the Mets care about signing draft picks? Part of the new “financially responsible” Mets program includes not signing free agents AND draft picks. Oops, Met fans who believe the team is rebuilding weren’t suppose to know that.
        • Izzy January 5, 2013 at 9:35 pm
          You are right Dan B, but there is a cult of alderson “loser lovers” who will love watching the battle of the losers and telling us the magic number for the holy # 1 draft pick in 14.
    • Joe Janish January 5, 2013 at 11:10 pm
      Jon, I believe the Mets’ plan is twofold: 1. stockpile young talent in the event they have enough money to compete in MLB in a future year; 2. shed as much spending as possible / lower budgets, in all areas including but not limited to MLB player personnel.

      Why can’t the Mets sign free agents and still “rebuild”? Why must “rebuilding” have to coincide with losing? The answer is that Mets ownership doesn’t have the finances to field a proper MLB team with a chance to compete for the playoffs. They don’t have the finances because they did a crap job of managing their money and several entities that have enormous revenue potential.

      As for your suggestion to sign players like Jurrjens and other former prospects with high upside potential, I’m all for it. Further, I believe that should be the plan regardless of whether a team is in rebuilding mode. But as you point out, the Mets are going to stink in 2013, so there’s even more reason to gamble on giving questionable players chances to prove themselves.

      Regarding innings-eaters, I think they are incredibly important to a team that is intending on using several young arms. If the Mets don’t bring in one or two veterans for the express purpose of eating innings, the pressure and strain of innings will fall upon young pitchers who may not be physically ready to handle the rigors of a 162-game season. It doesn’t make sense — especially in a year destined for losing — to put the health of youngsters such as Harvey, Mejia, Familia, Wheeler, Edgin, etc., in harm’s way. Believe me, I don’t like the idea of limiting pitchers’ innings at every level of the minors, but that’s the way it is and as a result, pitchers can’t log the innings needed to fill a 162-game season when they arrive in MLB. So it’s responsible and sensible to have a few “throwaway” veterans around to gobble up innings as necessary.

      Finally, in response to your remark “to heck with how many losses we have this season …” — I’m fine with that, IF the Mets lower their ticket prices to a level similar to what I would pay to watch the Newark Bears. Similarly, if I was a TV advertiser, I would refuse to pay big-league prices for commercials playing on SNY in between innings. If you are going to participate in the Major Leagues, and charge Major League prices, you must provide a Major League product. Think of it this way: if you paid upward of $150-$200 to see a play on Broadway, and the actors turned out to be a mix of college students and retreads from Paper Mill Playouse, would you be happy with the money you spent on the ticket?

      • DaveSchneck January 6, 2013 at 10:28 pm
        I’m a little late to the dance on this one, but I couldn’t agree more with evey point you make. They absolutely can rebuild without throwing in the towel in 2013 and incurring a huge amount of losses. All it takes is a (relatively) little bit of money, which they have, and some wise spending that does not compromise the ability to spend in the future or cost them players that can contribute in the future. They can still do this before the first pitch of 2013. Your final point can’t be stressed enough – if they are not going to invest appropriately, even if it is best in the long run, then say so. Do not lie to the fan base AND overprice a substandard product. Ultimately, the customers vote with their wallets, but if people spend in 2013 based on the current roster or some of NormE’s $1.5 million dollar upgrades, then they will get what they deserve. Alderson certainly knows this, and I suspect even these owners can sense it as well. It doesn’t require Greinke or Hamilton to accomplish this.
        • NormE January 7, 2013 at 12:29 am
          Hey DaveSchneck, welcome to the dance. I’m kinda sad that you are joining us because I enjoyed your usually more positive, intelligent take on the Mets. The Wilpons have claimed another victim.
          Just to be clear, I never advocated the 1.5 mill. “upgrades.”
          I just felt that this was the budgetary restraint under which Alderson was working.
          The point Joe Janish was making about inning eaters being needed to protect young arms is an excellent one.
        • DaveSchneck January 7, 2013 at 9:40 am
          Thanks for the compliment. I know that you haven’t advocated for this level of signing, but like many others, and like me at times, the Wilpon nonsense has taken its toll and we all expect to worst…small market bottom feeding. They may still go that route, although I think they have money to spend, which Jon Heyman is now reporting, and they will actually spend here before spring training. Their finances are clearly in better order and even they can see the need to give the fans a reason to keep any interest in the 2013 season.
  4. DaveSchneck January 4, 2013 at 1:35 pm
    How could you exclude Jesse Orosco and Mel Rojas?
    • Joe Janish January 5, 2013 at 11:13 pm
      I was thinking of adding both Jesse Orosco and Jesse Orosco, Jr. That would be a fun bullpen.

      Mel Rojas? Only if he could convince his cousin Moises Alou to come out of retirement and play LF. Heck, I might consider him if he could get his uncles Matty, Felipe, and Jesus Alou to accept a spring training invite — then at least the Mets would have a full outfield.

      • DaveSchneck January 6, 2013 at 2:27 pm
        Joe,Unfortunately Matty passed away about a year ago, but I think Moises could still contribute with the bat if he was allowed to have a baserunner caddy.
  5. argonbunnies January 4, 2013 at 6:56 pm
    Isn’t Matsuzaka available too? It wouldn’t shock me if he could be turned into a dominant closer.
    • Joe Janish January 5, 2013 at 11:16 pm
      Dice-K as a closer would be a GREAT idea for Citi Field revenues. The top of the ninth inning would be guaranteed last at least 45 minutes — you know how many hot dogs and sodas you can sell in that time?
  6. Joe January 4, 2013 at 8:53 pm
    Jair Jurrjens threw a no-hitter … wait, or was that just in that lousy Trouble with the Curve movie?

    Pavano can give us Kenny Rogers flashbacks as Yankee cast-offs. See also, Twins connection. Might be able to thrive in the no stress Mets pitching role.

    Is Izzy done? He showed a bit of life last year. Farnsworth sounds like the sort of pitcher the Mets would throw out there. The Rays gave him 3M last year. What’s his going rate now? The Mets won’t give him that.

    Look out for Chris Young. Mets probably also hope Santana gives them at least five more wins or something.

  7. The King January 5, 2013 at 12:02 am
    Darn! Is Ollie signed for ’13?
    • Dan January 5, 2013 at 10:50 am
      Yep- the Mariners scooped him up for 1.5M with an additional 600K in incentives, way beyond Sandy’s budget.
  8. Florian January 5, 2013 at 12:33 am
    What about José Valverde? I don’t feel he has been a big subject of offseason talk, which could mean that his dismal performances in the play-offs for the Tigers are all that people remember. Has had issues with his split finger fastball. Still, at least was a reliable closer – 49 out of 49 games 2011, and still closed 80 – 90% (if I remember correctly) of games in 2012 successfully. I think 2010 was also not a bad year for him.
    Will induce heart attacks, though – he likes to “pick his strikeouts” and keeps runners on base before he finishes the game.
    • mike B January 5, 2013 at 3:05 pm
      Valverde’s poor performance in the playoffs would not be a factor on this team.
    • Joe Janish January 5, 2013 at 11:18 pm
      Florian, thanks for bringing up Valverde — he was someone I should have included in this list. Considering the lack of interest around him this winter, the Mets might just have enough money to sign him.
  9. Dan January 5, 2013 at 9:55 am
    Heilman looked good as the Round Rock closer, but he didn’t pitch the last month. It was strange because it was announced that he was going to the DL to clear roster space for another player, but no other reason was stated and he remained on the roster until after the season ended. He was on the Iron Pig DL with Turf Toe in 2011, since his arm looked good the toe may have started to bother him again. Haven’t heard a thing since the DL announcement with no official transaction to that list.
    • Joe Janish January 5, 2013 at 11:20 pm
      Dan, thanks for the update. Minor league DLs are always questionable.

      If Heilman is healthy, I can see him being a valuable member of the bullpen, eating up 6th and 7th innings.

  10. Quinn January 5, 2013 at 12:46 pm
    I’d like to see Wilson in a mets uniform cuz if he doesn’t reinjure himself that could be a viable closer for whenever they intend to compete.
    • Izzy January 5, 2013 at 9:38 pm
      Wilson beats to his own drummer. He won’t beat to Alderson’s or Wilpon’s same as Dickey. Therefore he ain’t coming to Queens. GF we have another guy who climbs a big mountain and wins a CY award.
  11. Dan B January 7, 2013 at 10:18 am
    Joe, how could you list “stockpile young talent” as number 1 on your list of Met goals? Because they made two trades in five years that brought in young talent? As a reminder, those two trades also saved the Mets a lot of money. I could point even more examples of the Mets choosing to save money over stockpiling prospects. How about Wagner and KRod trades? How about keeping Reyes, Hairston, et al at the trading deadline due to worries of declining ticket sales? How about leaving slot money on the table and not signing draft picks? The whole “we are rebuilding with young talent” charade is a convenient smoke screen to hide the fact the Wilpons are trying not to lose the team. After three years, Alderson’s minor league system is still rated below average by BA.