Will Mets Roll with Dice-K?

The Mets have until noon today (Tuesday) to either inform Daisuke Matsuzaka that he’s made the 25-man roster, or pay him $100,000 to go to the minors.

Based on his spring performance, one would think Dice-K will make the club. But if so, what will the Mets do with Jenrry Mejia?

Again, based on spring performance, Mejia would appear to have earned a spot somewhere on the Mets pitching staff. Many would argue that spot should be in the rotation. At the very least, he’s pitched well enough to take a bullpen role. However, considering the economics — and with the Mets, one must always consider the economics — there’s a good chance Mejia will start the season in the minors. Because if the Mets can keep Mejia off the 25-man roster until May, they’ll push back his arbitration clock a full year.

Is that fair? No. Does it make sense for a team whose goal, supposedly, is 90 wins? Not really, if you truly believe that Mejia can contribute toward that win total. But when you consider that the Mets are likely to have Mejia on an innings limit for the season (a limit based on what, exactly?), chances are, as a starter, he’ll have reached the end of his innings by August — we’re assuming, of course, that he remains healthy and pitches so well that he’s on course to make about 30 starts over the entire season.

What if the Mets are in the hunt come September, and Mejia is shut down after pitching, say 150 fabulous innings (long shots on both, I know, but we’re assuming best-case scenario)? That last month would still count as active service time, and Mejia would be eligible for arbitration after 2015 (deservedly so, one could argue, if he has such a strong 2014). Imagine the outrage if the Mets are a few games out of the Wild Card, thanks in part to Mejia’s performance over the course of the year, and they shut him down? Oh my.

At the same time, if Mejia begins 2014 in Las Vegas, will the Mets cut short his starts — pull him automatically after, say, 4 or 5 innings — to make sure he can fit more innings at the MLB level after May?

Finally, should the Mets forget about Mejia as a starter, and start grooming him for short relief?

My bet is he starts in AAA, as a starter. What do you think should be done, and/or, what WILL the Mets do with Mejia? 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. Walnutz15 March 25, 2014 at 8:44 am
    I think your entry sums up everything you need to know about the situation.

    In my view, there’s no way they:

    – Pay Matsuzaka $100k to be reassigned to Triple-A; while being able to keep Mejia under another year of control —- whether or not his arm holds up, or whether or not they look to deal him somewhere.

    While it’d take a pretty negative-nelly not to like what we saw from Jenrry Mejia last year, the reality check here is: what can you realistically expect from a guy who’s literally never been asked to pitch a full season, whether it be in a starting or relief capacity?

    Like pretty much all of the young pitchers we’re gonna follow, Mejia’s got an injury history – and has mechanics that lend themself to absolute max-effort…..throwing, following-through, getting himself into (horrendous) fielding position…..still, after all these years of being in the Met-system.

    While I’m now intrigued as anyone by his repertoire, given what he showed in a small sample last year – I still have no idea how he holds up (durability-wise) as a starter. Let alone, if anything changes stuff-wise – in being asked to consistently take the ball, post-2013 issues.

    If the choice is to:

    – Take him as a starter for half a season, prior to maybe losing him to injury (who knows)….or
    – See if he can become a valuable set-up man, like so many figured he’d be – before playing this “starter/reliever” coin flip the past handful of years…..

    I’d definitely want to see how he takes to some important late-game situations.

    Just think he’ll be less of an on-field liability that way, and possibly get himself into the mindframe that’ll last at the Major League-level.

    To me, there’s still so much “wrong” with him as a pitching project (baseball iq/mechanics-wise)….that I think his best bet is in relief work. He looks like – and has the stuff of “that” kind of guy.

    I’m just very skeptical of him being durable-enough to blossom the way some here seem to want him to. (Then again, with the way Collins “handles” a bullpen – I’m unsure of how he’d hold up out there in the ‘pen, either…..*shrug*)

  2. Walnutz15 March 25, 2014 at 2:00 pm
    Looks like they have, in fact, forked that $100k over to Dice-K – in order to keep his rights……but haven’t announced whether or not they’ll anoint him or Mejia as the 5th starter.

    Looks like they’ll wait until after each guy’s respective start in Montreal this weekend.

    I just never figured the Mets to be handing out additional money, no matter how little……good play by them, at least.

    If they merely sent Mejia down, then he’d have to stay down there for 10 days – and not make Niese’s start (provided he’s not ready).

    Dice-K can be optioned – since they have his consent, and be brought right back up…….since he’s on a Minor League deal.


    – the $100k + consent, sends Dice-K to Vegas
    – Mets can carry an extra bench player for the first 4 games
    – Mejia gets the ball for the 5th game of the season.

    All the while, they can keep tabs on Niese’s progress or lack thereof.

    He’s ready? – then Mejia goes back to Vegas.

    He’s not? – then Matsuzaka takes his start, and Mejia stays with the Big Club ’til Niese is ready.

    Got all that?

    • Victor Chu March 27, 2014 at 1:53 pm
      Walnutz15 … my bet is that unless Dice-K blows in his final ST tune-up, he gets put on the starting rotation … and Meija goes to Vegas … and, then if Niese is not healthy enough to go on 4/6, then Meija gets the call-up.

      If Niese is healthy and ready on 4/6, then I think Dice-K will gets like 3-5 starts to see how he starts the season … if he’s does well, then Meija stays in Vegas. If he’s stinks, then Meija will get the call-up, unless he gets hurt or stinks in Vegas.

      I just feel like despite Sandy’s “90 wins” comments, they’d prefer to keep the young guys under team control as long as possible, 2014 be damned!

  3. DanB March 25, 2014 at 3:11 pm
    Mejia’s trade value is higher the less he gets exposed. It is also higher the longer he is under team control. Dice-K’s trade value is higher the more he can prove he can get MLB hitters out. Who else will be Marlon Byrd this year other then Dice-K? The Mets don’t seem willing to spend the money necessary to improve so they need to further boost their farm system. Only way left is via trades for prospects and waiting a few more years. Certainly the Mets have not actted like a team who thinks it is winning 90 games.
  4. argonbunnies March 25, 2014 at 10:14 pm
    Mejia’s got the stuff to retire MLB hitters. He throws plenty of different quality pitches to face a lineup multiple times. The question for me is not effectiveness, but health.

    Mejia’s delivery isn’t great, and he tends to rack up wear and tear from pitching. So, is it better to have him throw fewer pitches, by putting him in relief? Or is better to avoid irregular usage, and keep him on the “every 5 days” schedule?

    Personally, I think he’ll get hurt either way, so the best plan is to get the most out of him before that happens. Let him start in MLB. If you need to bide a little time first, use him very lightly in AAA.

    It’s sad to say all this about a 24-year-old athlete, but I think there’s an established track record at this point.

  5. crozier March 25, 2014 at 10:35 pm
    I’d be pleasantly surprised if Niese starts games with any regularity in April. Of all the Mets’ arms, he’s my primary concern. Therefore, I’d like to say Mejia will see some starts in the rotation, at least at the outset, but that would be saying I understand how management thinks, and that wouldn’t be a true statement.
    • Dan42 March 26, 2014 at 9:22 am
      It’s hard to grasp the concept that this team’s management would actually think.