Dice-K to AAA

The New York Mets have made their final cuts before Opening Day. Jenrry Mejia makes the roster — and the rotation — while Daisuke Matsuzaka does not.

Was anyone else surprised by this move? Personally, I get a queasy feeling whenever I turn on the TV and Matsuzaka is on the mound — I just can’t handle the snail’s pace and nibbling around the corners. But in his defense, Dice-K had a very strong spring, and had seemingly earned a spot in the starting rotation. Further, I thought for sure that the Mets would hold back Mejia for at least a month, for no other reason than to delay his arbitration.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but is it possible that the Mets are hoping they won’t need to promote Matsuzaka to the big-league roster, and in turn be on the hook for a $1.5M salary? That’s what his contract states — $1.5M if he makes the 25-man roster at any point in the 2014 season. I find it hard to believe that the Mets would use short-term finances as part of the equation in choosing between Matsuzaka and Mejia, but the difference IS about a million dollars (Mejia’s 2014 MLB salary is $509,675). Not only do the Mets save just a shade under a million bucks, but Mejia also pitched well enough to earn a spot, and he has the fan-loving status of being “home-grown.”

Regardless of what went into the decision-making process, expect to see Matsuzaka on the Mets big-league roster sooner rather than later. There’s no way that Jonathon Niese can safely increase his pitch count from 57 to 90 in a matter of two weeks (a safe and effective interval throwing program increases by only 10% every six days).

But that’s just my perspective. What’s your thought? Is Mejia on the roster and in the rotation a better decision than Matsuzaka?

On another note, is anyone else amused by the irony that “Dice-K” will be pitching in Las Vegas?

Post your notes 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. DanB March 31, 2014 at 6:53 am
    Since Dice-K signed a minor league contract, he can be put in AAA without affecting his current contract. As far as Mejia’s arbitration status, I have my doubts he will still be healthy by the time that is an issue. I hope I am wrong.

    By the way, I am predicting the Mets FINALLY see improvement this year. After two consectitive 74 win seasons, I predict 75 wins. Baby steps, I guess. I worry most about Wheeler’s health. If he gets hurt, that is a lot of pressure on the other young pitchers. If the young pitching doesn’t produce, it will be another decade of failure. If they do, it might (I hope) motivate the Wilpons to invest in the team.

  2. Kent March 31, 2014 at 7:36 am
    Since Dice-K is on the minor league deal, he is technically a minor leaguer, so he doesn’t need to stay down in minor for 10 days if sent down now. Mejia, on the other hand, if sent down to minor, needs to stay at least 10 days in the minor league. Therefore, if Niese can’t meke his next start (I really doubt he can), Dice-K could come back if sent down but Mejia can’t, I think this is the main reason that Mets sent down Dice-K instead of Mejia.

    Besides, as you said, Mejia pitched pretty well as well, I see no problem here.

    • Victor Chu March 31, 2014 at 1:12 pm
      Kent — since the season hadn’t started as of Sunday, would Meija still had to have to wait 10 days before being called up?
    • Victor Chu March 31, 2014 at 1:29 pm
      Joe — you raise an interesting point about why the Mets chose Meija over Dice-K … I was certain that if they both pitched well in ST, Dice-K would be on the ML roster over Meija … more so, given Meija got hit on pitching arm in his last start. However, $1 MM today may be worth more to the Wilpons than the extra year of arbitration control for Meija, as it may be that the plan is to trade Meija if Syndergaard and Montero arrive “on schedule”. Also, if Kent is right, the process of bringing up either Dice-K or Meija from the minors may have also been a contributing factor.

      Either way, it looks like Niese’s and Meija’s health are the wild cards as far as whether or when we see Dice-K in the rotation. Personally, I’d rather let both pitch in the rotation and let Niese get his innings in down in PSL under he is truly ready to come back … by then, we would know who we should keep as the 5th starter.

      As for how the season will play out, I expect a max of .500 (or a slight winning percentage), if all goes well … if any key cogs get hurt (e.g., starting pitching, Wright, Granderson) and/or if certain players don’t play up to their abilities/expectations (read: Davis, d’Arnaud, Tejeda) without any outside help (i.e, trades or signing Drew to a <1 year contract), I see a low-70s wins season at best.

      To get to 90 wins, everything will have to go right w/o any injuries — this means: 1 – the starting pitching is as good as expected, including what's coming up from the minors, 2 – Wright has a "career average" year and plays the whole season, 3 – Granderson performs to at least his "career averages", 4 – Chris Young returns anywhere close to his All-Star form, 5 – d'Arnaud is as good as advertised (e.g., .280 BA, 15-20 HRs, 75 or more RBIs, 6 – Ike returns to his post-May 2012 form, 7 – Tejeda plays like it is also 2012 for him, and 8 – the bullpen doesn't implode like it did in all of those quality starts by Johan Santana. That's a lot of "IFs"!!!

  3. Kent March 31, 2014 at 7:39 am
    since Dice-K is on the minor league deal, he is technically a minor leaguer, therefore if he is sent down to minor this time, he won’t need to spend at least 10 days in minor because technically he is in there to begin with. Mejia, on the other hand, does need to spend at leat 10 days in the minor. Therefore, if Niese can’t make his next start (I highly doubt he can), Dice-K could comeback if sent down but Mejia can’t, I think this is the main reason that Mets sent down Dice-K instead of Mejia.

    Besides, as you said, Mejia pitched pretty well too, I don’t see a problem.

  4. DaveSchneck March 31, 2014 at 8:11 am
    Nothing like rolling the Dice in Vegas! I see he back with the big team sometime soon. To echo Dan’s thoughts. Wheeler worries me as they can least afford to lose him. Every starter, including Gee, is worrisome from the helath standpoint. I suppose most if not all teams could say the same. Even if Mejia stayed healthy he has only thrown barely over 100 innings in a season, so they need arms. And, they expect DiceK and Colon to have trade value too.

    76 is my number of wins, with apuncher’s chance of 84 should the starts align. For the 4th consecutive time, Alderson has fielded an opening day team with holes. Had he obtained a more reliable SS and a legit 8th inning arm to back up Parnell, he still could have fielded a team with a payroll under $100 mil that projected for .500 with a puncher’s chance of 90. But noooooo. Nonetheless. I will hope the gut is wrong and they overachieve. At least they will field a pitcher every day that I can watch, and have a few kids in the line-up like TDA and Lagares that I will watch and hope to see them develop before my eyes. Granderson and C Young also interest me as to how much (if any) they modify their approach at the plate given the Citifield factor. With C Young’s study under Rod Carew, I really hope TC leads him off, even with his high K rate I think he can be quite effective using the entire field and provide a high OBP given his ability to draw BBs.

  5. Vilos March 31, 2014 at 8:26 am
    I don’t think Dice Ks 1,5 mm was (is) a factor, or at least I hope it isn’t!
    My only complaint is with Tejada, I expected an upgrade. Looks like alderson is playing poker.
  6. argonbunnies March 31, 2014 at 5:48 pm
    Dice-K made me cringe in his earlier starts too, but against the Jays he showed the best location I’ve ever seen from him (including with the Sox). The velocity isn’t what it used to be, but he was getting great mileage out of a cutter and tailing fastball on the edges of the plate, plus a nice mix of breaking pitches. His pace was also pretty average. After that, I wouldn’t have minded him starting the year in the bigs to delay Jenrry’s arbitration clock or whatever other shenanigans the Mets are up to.

    As for Mejia, I am eager to see what he can do with a real opportunity, but I am not yet sold that he’ll get one now. If Niese bounces in and out of the rotation with injuries, I don’t think Mejia can do the same — I believe he has only one minor league option remaining. The time has come for the Mets to either commit to Jenrry in the MLB rotation, or park him for one last time in the minors for whatever short-term reason they have before promoting him for good. We’ll find out as soon as Niese returns!

    (Also, I’m with Joe — expecting Niese to throw 90 pitches in MLB on April 6 is dangerously stupid.)