Alderson: Mets Unlikely To Sign Pitcher To Multi-year Deal

On Monday, Sandy Alderson told reporters that the Mets were unlikely to give a free agent pitcher more than a one-year deal.

The exact quote was this:

“We’d be hesitant to give a multiyear contract, but it doesn’t mean we wouldn’t.”

Well, that’s a bit more optimistic than how most of the headlines were interpreting Alderson, but, not exactly promising, either.

The argument behind not handing out more than a one-year deal is that Matt Harvey — presumably — will be out for only one year. So the Mets don’t need pitchers in 2015? Um … really?

This kind of communication, if believed to be true, should be upsetting to a Mets fan, for three reasons. First, it significantly limits the pool of available pitchers — with the very least-talented, and/or most risky, among those who the Mets will consider. Secondly, because of the first reason, it suggests that the Mets aren’t serious about contending in 2014 — that they’re simply looking for stopgaps until Harvey returns to full health in 2015. Third, it suggests that the Mets aren’t yet looking to improve their pitching in 2015.

It’s that third reason that should really irk Mets fans. It’s bad enough that the team has essentially put all of their eggs into Matt Harvey’s basket, and may be punting 2014. But if that’s the case, and assuming they’re gearing up for 2015, wouldn’t they want to start adding significant building blocks to surround Harvey?

I know the immediate reply from many Mets fans: the team has a bunch of lights-out prospects who will be ready by ’15 and smoking batters left and right. Maybe they will, but that’s a huge assumption — and moreover, an unfair one. Just because Noah Syndergaard today looks like he could be a stud, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Any of a dozen things could happen that prevent Syndergaard — or Rafael Montero, or Jenrry Mejia, or Jake DeGrom, or name-your-fav-phenom — from becoming solid MLB starters in 2015. There’s been much hype about the “wealth” of pitching prospects in the Mets system right now, but I’m not seeing that much of a difference between the number and quality of prospects they have now compared to the days of Kevin Mulvey, Eddie Kunz, Brant Rustich, Nathan Vineyard, and Brad Holt. People love to fall in love with untested prospects, but the reality is that stuff happens, and when it all shakes out, maybe one or two of any top ten prospects pan out.

But let’s pretend that at least 3-4 of this “new wave of Mets pitching prospects” turn out to be good enough to find their way to a MLB 25-man roster in 2015 — wouldn’t it be really, really nice to a) have a solid veteran innings-eater to take some of the pressure and load off the youngins’; and, b) have some depth to guard against injury and/or use as trade bait to acquire pieces needed elsewhere?

Why can’t, or why won’t, the Mets make a pitch (pardon the pun) for a hurler like Matt Garza? What’s wrong with locking in a veteran such as Bronson Arroyo — who’s tossed 199+ innings every year since 2005 (and done it pitching half his games in a hitters’ park) — through 2016? Why wouldn’t the Mets even kick the tires on Jason Vargas, Ricky Nolasco, or Scott Kazmir? Would it have been so terrible to have either lined up as a solid #4 for the next 3-4 years?

Yet here’s the kicker: of the free-agent pitchers available on a one-year deal, the best of them is Bartolo Colon — but according to reports, his price was too high for the Mets. Maybe the rumor that he’s looking for one year at $10M are erroneous, but if that is indeed the asking price for a pitcher who just went 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA in 30 starts and 190 innings in the Adulterated League, and that’s too rich for the Mets, well, what DO they expect to acquire, and at what bargain rate? Granted, I’m not necessarily an advocate of going after Colon, but if the Mets are going to pigeonhole themselves to one-year deals, they’re not going to find a much better alternative for someone with the potential to fill one of the top three spots of the rotation. Instead, they’re in the market for fifth-starter, filler types, such as Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Harang. Hey, if you truly believe that the Mets starting rotation had the lookings of a playoff contender this past September, then OK. But I disagree with that opinion.

What’s your thought? Do you think the Mets are smart to only look at pitchers on one-year deals this winter? Why or why not? Answer 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. Chris December 10, 2013 at 9:15 am
    If Colon is available at that price I am appalled we haven’t signed a contract already. Unless he understandably doesn’t want to play for the Mess. This is all so sad.
  2. DanB December 10, 2013 at 11:32 am
    Let’s assume the Met’s rotation is full of young studs in 2015. What happens in September when pitching limits begin? Who starts when the young pitchers are shut down? Let’s face, the elephant in the room says that any pitcher who can demand a multi year contract can also demand a decent salary and that is why the Mets are not considering signing one.
  3. Joe Bourgeois December 10, 2013 at 12:12 pm
    The elephant in the room is the Wilpons’ debt. They’re hanging onto the team by their fingernails, and for obvious reasons don’t want to admit it. Therefore the various rationales — it’s better for them to have people think they’re waiting for Harvey and their stud pitching than that they just can’t afford anything other than the Granderson & Young contracts. And Granderson in particular reads as a desperate ploy to get a few more butts in seats in 2014. I’d be surprised if they spent much, if any, of the (constantly shrinking, now $10 million? Last week $13?) “money they have left.”
  4. DaveSchneck December 10, 2013 at 1:15 pm
    We all agree on the elephant, but Alderson is going to have to work within whatever parameters that this ownership buffoonery has established. I would not give Colon 2 years at age 40 and given his PED-driven rennaissance. I would have gambled 2 years on Kazmir given his age and lefthandedness, but Beane beat Alderson to the punch while Alderson was panicked over finding a real OF bat with his stack of $5.

    The problem here is that the Mets really need a legit #3/#4. Off last year, Colon may be the only one left on the board that could possibly be had on a one year. If they don’t get him or trade for one, it’s going to be a scrap heaper, since the elephant whispered to me that Garza and E Santana and dare I say Tanaka or not on Sandy’s board.

  5. argonbunnies December 10, 2013 at 4:13 pm
    It seems to me that the demand for starting pitchers is fairly consistent year to year, due to injuries and ineffectiveness if not contracts. From what I’ve read, there’s a lot more supply this year than there will be next year. Accordingly, prices should be lower. If the Mets don’t pounce now, most likely they’re waiting until 2016.

    The thing is, of this year’s remaining supply, how much of it is good? Ervin Santana’s been erratic. Garza’s been erratic and injured. Arroyo doesn’t strike anyone out. These guys are all going to be paid more than I think they’re worth.

    Bringing in Jason Hammel, Gavin Floyd and Jeff Karstens, and then doing something similar in 2015, might be the best we can do via free agency.

    If the Mets were going to spend like the big boys, then I’d aim for Tanaka, with Jimenez as back-up, and Colon (who should earn the $16 mil Kuroda did; $8 mil is ludicrous) as consolation prize. But we all know the Mets are not in the “out-bid 29 other teams” game.

    No, I don’t expect Mejia, Montero, or DeGrom to pan out as starters. Nor do I think we can count 100% on Harvey’s return, Wheeler and Niese’s health, or Gee’s effectiveness. But if we really want a boost to the rotation, it may have to come from trades or luck.

    • Joe Janish December 10, 2013 at 5:12 pm
      There WAS a lot more supply than there will be next year. And I agree with you, what’s left is hardly perfect. But then, what pitcher IS perfect? Any that are “good” are locked up and not on the free agent market. I further agree that none of these pitchers are worth what they’ll get. But those two points don’t matter, because at some point, a team that needs depth and can’t trade for it has no choice but take a risk on someone who will be overpaid. That is, if a team is making the decision to improve themselves over the preceding year.

      Last year, the Mets went into spring training with exactly five starters penciled in to the rotation — Harvey, Niese, Gee, Marcum, Santana — with Hefner as a backup plan and with the hope that Wheeler would join in the fray at some point. By mid-August, Harvey, Wheeler, and Gee were the only healthy arms left from that bunch, and by the end of August, Harvey was down, too (though Niese had returned). As it stands right now, the Mets have exactly three pitchers penciled in — Niese, Gee, and Wheeler. Mejia is being touted as a candidate but in reality he is a backup plan, considering his injury history. Who knows if Niese has really healed from his shoulder issue? Who knows when Wheeler is going to blow out his arm due to his mechanical flaw (his velocity has already dipped)? With so many question marks and holes, the Mets have little choice but to dive in and risk making a mistake or two, with the hopes that at least one or two pitchers pans out.

      Personally I think Arroyo and Maholm present the least amount of risk vs. upside, and believe the Mets really missed the boat on Vargas. And as much as I hate Colon’s PEDs use, when I look objectively and from the Mets’ POV, he’s someone to seriously consider on a one-year, high-dollar deal.

      • argonbunnies December 10, 2013 at 9:58 pm
        If the Mets have no choice but to overpay, then perhaps it’s best to overpay where they are most lacking and where the risk is less. By which I mean: hitting, not pitching. I’d rather have Drew and Hammel/Harang than Tejada and Arroyo.

        Maholm is a good bet to stay healthy, thus avoiding the need to go to your 6th and 7th starters. The thing is, we should be able to get some decent 6th and 7th starters, and I’m not sure Maholm’s any better than those guys. His great finish to 2012 looks like a fluke after 2013. I’d actually bet on Karstens pitching better in 2014.

  6. NormE December 10, 2013 at 4:30 pm
    DanB touched on the issue of limiting the young arms pitch counts and innings. For 2014 the limits will apply to Wheeler, Mejia (if he can stay healthy) and when they are brought up, Montero and Thor. Obviously, you have to include the latter two’s minor league time in the count. But, in 2015, when Harvey returns he’s going to be on a limit, too.
    There will be limits on most of the young arms. Thus, the need for veteran arms. When you go cheap in that area you create a greater strain on your relievers. The bottom line should be: don’t go cheap on pitching.

    On a related point, the retirement of Mark Prior is a classic lesson in the dangers of abusing young pitching.

    • Joe Janish December 10, 2013 at 5:20 pm
      The innings limits are baseless and ridiculous, but they’re going to be followed so when we discuss what the Mets do, they have to be considered. And so, yes, agreed — the Mets need some veteran arms to eat innings.

      As for Prior, I disagree. His was a classic example of everyone in baseball having absolutely no idea what “safe mechanics” look like. He had MAJOR flaws that directly caused his arm injuries, and were exacerbated by the fact that no one in baseball has any understanding on rest and recovery. Pitches shouldn’t be counted to limit pitchers, they should be counted to figure out how much rest a pitcher needs after an outing.

      Someone who self-appointed himself as an “Injury Expert” authored a book celebrating Prior’s “perfect mechanics” as perceived by other self-appointed “experts” such as Tom House. Never did anyone consider science when evaluating Prior’s motion — it was all about the opinions of dozens of coaches / former pitchers who agreed that his motion “looked” great.

      But that discussion is for another day …

  7. Bill December 10, 2013 at 8:50 pm
    HI Joe – I certainly agree with your analysis and I’d like to see the Mets pony up for one of the better pitchers still on the board. I don’t agree with Garza – not a fan for some reason. I do agree with Arroyo, but there has to be a limit on him – with the deals some of the pitchers are getting (Kazmir, Hughes), Arroyo has to be thinking 3 or 4 years for 35-40 M . .too much in my opinion. I just scanned the 40 or so starters still open as free agents. A lot I have kind of lost track of – maybe they are not healthy? (Westbrook), Some I thought retired about 15 years ago (Jamey Wright and Jon Garland), some do look intriguing, but I have no idea what the market is – Ubaldo Jimenez is one. Ideally, I’d like to see a lefty – Maholm seems to top that list. What about James McDonald? . I know Daniel Hudson was injured last year, not sure of his status – could be a low-risk, high reward guy as he was a pretty good pitcher for a while. Jeff Niemann and Clayton Richard are two more names that jumped out as having had decent years in the not so distant past. Barry Zito, anyone??? As far as the top of the stack goes, there just isn’t anything there of sufficient quality where I (if I were a GM or an owner) would commit more than two years. Not sold on E. Santana, Garza. The list just looks like more long term risk than is really worth it. Now if you want to talk trade for David Price, i’m in that discussion! (without giving up Syndergaard) (or even a trade for Masterson who I see may be available, although CLE will be looking to ‘trade high’. What I want to know is how Doug Fister was available for the song that the Nats had to pay? Are there any others out there like that?


    • Joe Janish December 10, 2013 at 9:08 pm
      Hi Bill, thanks for joining the discussion!

      Those are many names, and we discussed some of them over the past few weeks. The Mets supposedly are not interested in Maholm, though I don’t know why. Yes, many free agent pitchers are injured.

      James McDonald is interesting but spent most of 2013 with a shoulder injury.

      I wouldn’t mind seeing the Mets taking a flyer on Zito.

      David Price? At MINIMUM it will cost Syndergaard AND Wheeler. In my opinion, it would be worth it — I’ll take established superstar with no health issues over two prospects with highly questionable / potentially damaging mechanics any day of the week.

      I’m not sure how the Nats nabbed Fister, and don’t know if there are any other deals like that around.

      • Bill December 10, 2013 at 9:23 pm
        I thought I was the only one who would admit that I wouldn’t complain about a Zito signing 🙂 Ok then . .let’s rally for Zito and Jimenez. and yea, Price is a unique one, although I don’t think I would do both of those guys for him. That is the problem with the superstars – it just guts the system you are trying to build.
      • argonbunnies December 10, 2013 at 10:03 pm
        Joe, have you seen something you don’t like in Syndergaard’s mechanics? I’ve only seen a few seconds of tape, looked fine there.
        • argonbunnies December 10, 2013 at 10:17 pm
          Just found this video. Good slo-mo starts 30 seconds in. His arm’s a teeny bit late, but it doesn’t look horrible to me. When he takes the ball out of the glove he looks a little stiff or something… my first thought was Tommy Hanson, but fortunately I think Mat Latos is more similar. What’s your take?
        • Joe Janish December 11, 2013 at 1:14 am
          Funny, I have been analyzing that video for months, and trying to convince Angel Borrelli to give me some on-record comments (which she hates to do).

          Here is what I see, from my untrained baseball eye and lacking the complete and necessary scientific knowledge to make a reliable evaluation:

          1. He lands on his heel to start his stride, which jars the rest of his body. He should be landing more softly and on the middle of his foot.

          2. He lands with an “open toe” – pointed directly at home plate. This causes his front hip to open up too soon, thus losing potential power from his legs. It would be better to land with a slightly “closed” toe – in which his foot is around 45 degrees (or at 2 o’clock).

          3. When his foot lands, his throwing hand is down, forearm angled down toward the ground. From behind it looks like his forearm / hand is pointing toward 3:30/4 o’clock. His hand should be up near 12 at that point in the motion.

          4. His arms aren’t quite working in unison at the beginning of the delivery. Front arm kind of shoots up toward the sky and the back arm down at the ground. They should be more mirror-like.

          To me, #3 is a major issue that can and should be adjusted ASAP. Most likely, it won’t happen. It’s a similar problem that Zack Wheeler has, and which will cause Wheeler to blow out his arm sooner rather than later. But again, this is me talking out of my arse using just enough knowledge to be dangerous, and not a scientist speaking.

        • argonbunnies December 11, 2013 at 1:31 am
          Well Wheeler’s arm isn’t even close at foot strike. I saw the same thing you saw in #3, but at least Syndergaard is well on the way to getting the arm cocked, and he gets there shortly thereafter.

          Doesn’t look too different from most modern pitchers… so perhaps we should expect a similar health record…

        • argonbunnies December 10, 2013 at 10:23 pm
          Or maybe my standards are too low. Here’s Montero. Much nicer, right? Got some solid drop-and-drive going on.
        • argonbunnies December 10, 2013 at 10:24 pm
          Slo-mo at 7:15.
        • Joe Janish December 11, 2013 at 1:21 am
          Eh, I’m not all that impressed with Montero. The drop-and-drive is a negative — it actually prevents him from getting more velocity. It’s a technique the Mets have been teaching since the 1960s, and it’s kept Jon Niese from throwing 96-98 MPH.

          It took me a long, long time to reverse my belief that Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman were doing something right with that drop and drive. But in the end, after learning enough about physics and human kinetics, I believe very strongly that those pitchers succeeded IN SPITE OF the drop and drive. It didn’t necessarily hurt anything, but it didn’t help anything, either.

          If it sounds like I’m down on just about every pitcher’s mechanics, I am. But, trying to find a way to fix that problem — at least at the MLB level. It’s no coincidence that I find flaws in just about every pro pitcher and just about every pro pitcher goes down with an injury — and/or loses velocity at an age range when he should be in the peak athletic years of his life. Doesn’t anyone find it strange that every pitcher who signs a pro contract throws at least 90 MPH — and generally, closer to 95 — yet by the time they get to MLB, their velocity has reduced, instead of risen? Athletes get stronger and faster as they reach their age 26-30 years … except most pitchers.

        • argonbunnies December 11, 2013 at 2:01 am
          I know nothing about whether drop-and-drive is good for its own sake, but it did look to me like Montero was using his lower half and letting his arm whip through with less effort than many pitchers show. It looked like he squared himself to the plate and stayed under control pretty well, and the follow-through looks easy on the arm.

          I won’t demand high-end velocity if we can wind up with a guy who has plus command and control and stays healthy. 91 is fine.

          Declining velocity in pitchers’ 20s
          I completely agree. King Felix saw a big drop-off at 25. Greinke, Morrow, Jimenez and Josh Johnson lost 1 mph at 27. Even Kershaw has been losing velocity since his age 21 season. The system is broken. Ideally, the Mets would use a better system, but failing that, here’s a strategy:

          (1) Ease pitchers through the minors so they arrive with a full repertoire and minimal wear and tear. (2) Get everything you can out of them early. (3) Trade them just before they get expensive, while their value is at its highest. Then they’ll fall apart on the next team’s watch.

          The last two steps are basically what Billy Beane has done. Here are the ages of good-looking starting pitchers who the A’s traded or allowed to leave: Hudson 28, Zito 28, Lilly 27, Blanton 27, Haren 26, Mulder 26, Harden 26, Gonzalez 25, Smith 24, Mazzaro 23, Cahill 23.

        • Joe Janish December 11, 2013 at 2:43 am
          That’s exactly right: the system is broken, and instead of fixing the system, Beane works with it, dumping guys before their arms blow out (and they cost too much). Oh, see the most recent post — Brett Anderson for Drew Pomeranz. Huh.

          The irony? He has Angel Borrelli in his backyard to fix the system — and she was directly responsible for a) Barry Zito’s 2005/2006 success; and b) unofficially changing the rest and recovery strategy of Oakland MLB starters in 2011 and 2012 (she gave away the advice to their pitching coordinator at the time). There’s Mr. Moneyball, with easy access to the keys to the next great market inefficiency — preventing pitching injuries — and he’s either too oblivious, or the organization is too cheap (or ignorant), to hire the person who can be their greatest secret weapon since sabermetrics.

          Go figure.

  8. crozier December 11, 2013 at 12:55 am
    Borderline infuriating column. “It suggests the Mets aren’t serious about contending in 2014”? You’ve been saying that all year. So why are you challenging a decision to preclude investing in a long-term pitching contract, as opposed to filling all the offensive holes you’ve carped about since April?

    More pitching is a nice-to-have. More offense is a requirement. And the budget, as we know, is limited.

    • Joe Janish December 11, 2013 at 1:06 am
      You don’t see the problem of limiting the free-agent targets to only one-year deals? Then we can’t have a conversation. The better pitchers will cost more and require more years. The only pitchers available on one-year deals are the longshot comebacks and the pitchers who aren’t very good.

      Why is the budget limited? Isn’t this supposed to be the winter that the Mets have financial flexibility?

      If I didn’t infuriate, what would be the point? 🙂

      • crozier December 11, 2013 at 11:32 am
        Ha ha, yes, what would be the point? Seriously, though, your debate with argon is the heart (i.e., the point) of this blog, right? It’s certainly what I find most interesting and useful.

        I get that you want to inspire passionate debate in the MetsToday community, and you do. But complaining that the Mets aren’t aiming to be competitive in 2014 contradicts your analysis of the team throughout your 2013 writings – every indicator says you think it’s 2015 or beyond. So I’d expect you to applaud their foregoing an investment in pitching (which looks very promising for 2015) and focus on the need for bats (which look not a whole lot better than the 2013 lineup). It feels like you’re playing devil’s advocate to stoke discussion, and it’s unnecessary – this group doesn’t need stoking; they’re always fired up.

        • Joe Janish December 11, 2013 at 2:37 pm
          You may have a point re: my contradiction.

          But here’s my view: a team with as many holes as the Mets can’t get better in one offseason. There were/are several pieces available via free agency this winter who could be very helpful from 2015 and beyond. I’m not sure Granderson is one of them, but, he’s a nice addition from a personality / “hey we really do have money to spend” standpoint. If the Mets are serious about contending once Harvey returns, they are going to need as much good pitching as they can find, and there may be less decent arms available next winter. Further, if they add one or two innings-eaters to pitch in 2014, that’s less strain on the bullpen — where some youngsters who could be helpful in ’15 will be pitching from. Finally, if the Mets have pitching depth going into ’15, that’s one less thing to address and possibly an area from which they can trade.

          Finally, why must they focus on one thing vs. another? Again, the payroll is finally, supposedly, “flexible,” so what is stopping them from adding both bats AND arms? Other teams (that weren’t even waiting for “flexibility”) routinely add pieces to both areas. The Mets couldn’t sign Jason Vargas and Bronson Arroyo because they only have enough money for Granderson and Young? At this rate, they may not have enough money and talent to contend until 2069!

        • crozier December 11, 2013 at 6:58 pm
          See, it sounds like you’re doing it again. No one here thinks they have the money to spend, and no one thinks Sandy A. Wilpons is/are forthcoming (I’m being kind in not saying they’re dishonest). So keeping the discussion real – as opposed to wouldn’t-it-be-nice – I’m focusing on what I think they should do with what they have.

          As I’m sure you know.

          And I say, two more bats, please. I’ll roll the dice (K) with pitching.

        • crozier December 11, 2013 at 7:47 pm
          But what do I know about running a team? If the Mets got Colon, yippee.

          They still need runs.

    • DaveSchneck December 11, 2013 at 10:02 am
      I disagree on the “nice to have” label on the pitching needs. The Met pitching is currently not playoff caliber, even with the young arms on the way. A few points –
      1. The young arms are unproven
      2. Harvey’s innings need to be replaced
      3. Gee, Niese, and Wheeler all had arm issues last season
      4. The Marlins outpitched the Mets last year, and have their ace from day 1.
      5. As of today, the Mets have the weakest pitching in the NL east
      • crozier December 11, 2013 at 11:41 am
        The Braves 1990s rotation would have trouble delivering a pennant with this year’s Mets lineup, so moot point on the “playoff caliber” comment.

        If the Mets acquire more offense, I would gladly give the unproven arms a shot in the rotation. If the Mets can add bats AND acquire a good veteran pitcher, hats off to Sandy. But if I had to choose, I’d go with offense, no question. That Harvey, one of the best pitchers in the universe in 2013, couldn’t muster a winning record for his team on the day he pitched was somewhat attributable to bad luck, but it’s largely due to an anemic lineup.

        • Joe Janish December 11, 2013 at 3:21 pm
          I think a big reason for their anemic offense is that their philosophy doesn’t suit their home park nor the current time. The front office is hot for batters who watch balls go by and big swingers who aim for the fence but miss the ball more often than they make contact. That strategy worked great in the PEDs era, when middle infielders hit 20 HR a year and posted .330+ OBPs from the bottom of the lineup. It COULD work well today if your home park is a bandbox (which Citi Cavern, obviously, is not). It’s very difficult to find high OBP and HR guys right now, because they’re at a premium and in high demand. Strange that this “moneyball” front office wouldn’t be able to identify and exploit a market inefficiency, and build a strategy around that — isn’t that why they came to Flushing in the first place?

          Bah, humbug!