Nolasco, Other Pitchers Off the Table

With Matt Harvey out for the year, Jeremy Hefner (remember him?) also out until at least August / September, and the chronically injured Jenrry Mejia hardly a lock to hold down a rotation spot, the Mets would seem to be in the market for a few pitchers — starting pitchers in particular. Picking up a reliever or two is also in the cards, considering that Bobby Parnell may not be ready come Opening Day, and the bullpen in general is less than impressive. Already, though, several arms have been signed by other clubs. Let’s look at who’s off the table, including the most recent righthander plucked from the free agent market.

Ricky Nolasco
The Twins have handed Nolasco 4 years, $49M. I don’t think the Mets were ever in on Nolasco, but he would’ve been a nice fit — especially at what seems to be a bargain rate for someone who makes 30 starts a year, hurls 200 innings, and is only 30 years old. He’s essentially the righthanded version of Vargas, below. It sounds like a lot of money, but it isn’t for these type of #4 starters.

Dan Haren
Signed with the Dodgers for one year, $10M. Ouch. I didn’t think the Mets would want to go after Haren, but that’s not the point. The point is that Haren — who is clearly past his prime and no more than a five-inning pitcher these days — was given $10M. That’s scary, because that means Aaron Harang is worth at least one year, $7M. And what might Daisuke Matsuzaka fetch in this market? I have to wonder if the Mets can afford any decent MLB starting pitcher, considering what teams are willing to pay for 5th-starter-types.

Tim Hudson
This is rather old news, but I don’t remember covering it here. Hudson received two years and $23M from the Giants. Considering what was given to Haren, this would seem to be a bargain. Unfortunately, even a bargain is beyond the Mets’ reach.

Ryan Vogelsong
Vogelsong just agreed to a one-year deal to return to San Francisco. Terms are not yet announced, but it’s believed to be somewhere in the realm of $4M guaranteed, $8M with incentives. Again, not good news for the thrifty Mets.

Jason Vargas
Remember Vargas? He was a throw-in in that trade with Seattle, when the Mets acquired Jeremy Reed and Sean Green (and some other Putz). Five years ago, I stated this about Vargas:

For most fans, losing Vargas seems inconsequential, since he’s been hurt for most of the time he’s been property of the Mets. I beg to differ, as I think he’s on the verge of finally breaking out.

There are a few things that simply can’t be taught. A 95-MPH fastball, for instance. Heart, for another. Vargas’ stuff is ordinary at best, but he has plenty of heart, and is a tremendous competitor. I’m of the ilk that you can’t underestimate what’s inside a ballplayer — see Dustin Pedroia, David Eckstein, Greg Maddux, Johan Santana. No, I’m not saying Vargas is another Santana — he’s not even close — but his competitiveness will take him further than better-skilled pitchers with weaker stomachs. I think he’ll win a job with Seattle, and do OK for himself. In my mind, he had a better chance of effectively filling the #5 spot in the Mets’ rotation than Jon Niese. Also, it’s too bad he won’t be able to hit in the “other” league.

We can’t live in the past, we must look forward. Ironically, Vargas today is, essentially, Jonathon Niese — a solid, innings-eating lefthander who will almost always keep his team in the game through 6 innings, and fits into the #3 or #4 slot of a pennant-contending club. The cost for that on the open market? Four years, $32M. That’s not a huge amount of money, all things considered, and it’s too bad the Mets couldn’t have brought Vargas back for that — I didn’t hear anyone suggesting they even made an offer. And if his arm didn’t provide enough, the Mets could have always used his bat.

Joe Smith
Oh, my, another one of those pieces of the J.J. Putz trade. Smith has been a solid middle reliever since making his Mets/MLB debut in 2007, and he just earned himself a three-year, $15M deal with the Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim on the Left Coast Near the Pacific Ocean.

Philip Humber
Oh jeez, how many former Mets pitchers are we going to see sign elsewhere this winter? Oakland gave Humber a minor-league contract and an invite to spring training. He wasn’t very good in 2013 nor 2012, but he was OK in 2011. I doubt the Mets had interest in bringing him back, though it wouldn’t have been the worst idea — it doesn’t hurt to have extra arms with MLB experience hanging around in AAA.

Fernando Nieve
Nieve was on no one’s radar, but he was another former Met signed by the A’s on a minor-league deal. I included him here just for fun.

Javier Lopez
With Scott Rice and Josh Edgin under control, and a great relationship with Tim Byrdak, the Mets weren’t in the market for a LOOGY. But if you’re interested, a solid, lefthanded, thirtysomething reliever on the open market runs in the neighborhood of Lopez’s deal: 3 years, $13M.

LaTroy Hawkins
You already know about this one, but listing Hawkins here for comparison and perspective. A solid, righthanded, fortysomething reliever on the open market runs around 1 year, $2.5M

Josh Johnson
Chronically injured, and with dangerous mechanics, I’m betting against Johnson’s comeback. However, he was the kind of pitcher many Mets fans and pundits figured would be on Sandy Alderson’s list of “low-risk, high reward” starters with injury issues — likely along with Roy Halladay. Johnson went where all dead pitchers go to resurrect their careers: San Diego. He received a one-year, $8M deal — likely too rich for the Mets’ budget for a roll-of-the-dice kind of guy. I imagine Halladay would command a similar contract, and, similarly, doubt the Mets are in a position to open up the purse for him.

There are still many arms left on the market, and we’ll go through them soon enough. But can the Mets afford any of them? Stay tuned. Meantime, let me know what you think of the pitchers already signed, and the contracts they’ve been given, and how that might affect the Mets’ plans this winter.

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. argonbunnies November 29, 2013 at 4:38 pm
    This speaks to the lack of depth out there. There are some really great young pitchers playing today, but not a lot of reliable back-end arms. Dan Haren and Josh Johnson used to be two of the best and most under-rated starters in the game, but after their recent performances, they should be some teams’ last ditch options for the #5 spot in January.

    Looks like if the Mets decide to bottom-feed in Jan-Feb, there’s really going to be nothing left.

    Vargas is homer-prone, so we’ll see how that plays in K.C. He doesn’t have much margin for error, so any sort of decline would render him pretty disposable. But perhaps 4 years avoids his decline phase?

    Nolasco is one of those guys who’s always pitched better than his ERA, until he tires or has the One Big Inning. If the Twins make him a 6-inning pitcher, in that giant stadium, he could finally post an ERA around 3.00. Or, they could give him a slow hook like the Marlins always did, with similar 4+ ERA results. Either way, $49 mil seems excessive for a guy whose ERA is well above league average after 1300 career innings. Maybe teams really do care about K/BB ratio these days.

    In the context of these other deals, $2.5 mil for Hawkins seems like nothing, $23 mil for Hudson seems like a total steal, and I’d label Joe Smith the “least likely to disappoint” of the remaining players.

  2. blastingzone November 29, 2013 at 6:43 pm
    If the mets are not going to sign Arroyo and Kazmir who I
    really like and would have given us another left handed starter and would have been a lot cheaper than Arroyo then I would rather see the mets let Mejia, Montero, Torres, and Dice K, (resigned and invited to spring training) compete for the 4th and 5th spots rather than sign another Marcum because he’s cheap and will take up a royster spot! Syndergaard will be coming up in june just like Wheeler did last year and with Montero(if he’s not traded?) and Mejia the mets should be fine!!
  3. DanB November 29, 2013 at 8:35 pm
    I don’t understand why the Mets (and a lot of fans) were not interested in bringing in a quality starter on more then an one year deal. Mets have a lot of pitching, but it is mostly untested, young pitching. I would feel more comfortable if they had a solid innings eater. Just watch next year when inning limits kick in, who will pitch then? Or when one of the can’t miss, actually does miss? What is wrong with having depth? If nothing else, it gives the Mets trading pieces.
    • izzy November 30, 2013 at 11:42 am
      The answer Dan is that so many have been buying into the propoganda that old guys are overpaid, get hurt all the time , underprodiuce that they are convinced the young guys don’t get hurt, right Harvey, Mejia, Hefner, Familia, Edgin. If any of them would have gotten hurt we’d have had to go scourge AAA leagues to find garbage like Matsuzaka. Good thing they didn’t get hurt.