Relief Options

We all know the Mets need pitching, for the beginning, middle, and toward the end of games. And I’m not buying — for a second — Marty Noble’s announcement that “everything is secondary” to upgrading the starting rotation. Maybe that is specifically in regard to the trade market … but even then, I’m not sure; I think there is a possibility that the Mets trade for a better catcher than Johnny Estrada before they trade for an ace starter. While the Mets certainly would be a better club if they could get their hands on a Johan Santana or Danny Haren, I don’t believe that is the end-all and be-all of the winter. Plugging in a decent middle-of-the-rotation guy to fill Tom Glavine’s workload is a priority, yes, but that would NOT be considered an upgrade (more like, a “lateral move”). Additionally, if the Mets go into 2008 with Pedro Martinez as their nominated ace, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world — as long as they fortify the bullpen.

Signing a free-agent reliever is probably the easiest and most effective way to accomplish that task, and the recent buzz is that both Octavio Dotel and Shawn Chacon are interested in the Mets, and that the feeling is mutual. Actually, it’s a little better than “buzz” — it’s a direct quote from agent Dan Horwitz. This is the type of stuff I’m happy to hear.

Go ahead, bash all you want about Dotel’s health and Chacon’s flash-in-the-pan career. But the bottom line is that they are two of maybe three or four attainable relief arms worth pursuing (David Riske and Luis Vizcaino also come to mind) — I’m omitting guys like Troy Percival who prefer and will find a closer job. According to Horwitz, Dotel is interested in setting up, and because of his recent injuries, has no leverage to demand anything beyond a one-year deal. That’s good, because we don’t want another multi-year Mota / Show deal this winter. If healthy, Dotel will be the premier setup man in the NL East. If not, well, that’s a chance you take.

As for Chacon, I think he has more value than meets the eye. Because of his recent string of bloated ERAs, he similarly cannot hold out for some crazy 2- or 3-year deal. He doesn’t appear to have any health issues, and he still throws a good sinker. Ever since saving 35 games in homer-happy Coors Field for the Rockies in 2004, his role has been in constant flux — he’s been closing, setting up, mopping up, playing ROOGY, and starting. Maybe all he needs is a defined role. His issue is that he’s a guy who pitches to contact but also walks too many guys, which suggests one of two issues: either he’s going away from (or has no) plan of attack, or there’s a mechanical problem that precludes him from repeating his delivery. I haven’t seen enough of him to know which is the issue, but I know that Rick Peterson will be all over it and get him pitching more effectively (just give him ten minutes). Chacon is NOT worth slotting into a setup job, but he could be ideal for the “Darren Oliver” role that somehow disappeared when Aaron Sele arrived. He knows how to pitch out of the pen, and he’s been a starter and thus his arm has been through multiple innings. Start him out as the long man and who knows, he might eventually be valuable as an occasional 6th and 7th-inning guy.

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. isuzudude November 29, 2007 at 9:03 am
    I don’t know about these two, Joe.

    1. Dotel: He’s as much of a lock to get hurt in 2008 as any pitcher in baseball. Ok, so his agent says he’s healthy again. What’s he supposed to say? Sign my client at your own risk? He’s damaged goods? All you have to do is look back at each of the last 3 years to see Dotel hasn’t made it past 30 innings pitched in any of those seasons. I know it makes sense to only sign him to a one year deal that may be incentive laiden, but my question is what does Dotel bring to the table Duaner Sanchez already doesn’t? Do we need both of these guys hanging around the roster, and most likely occupying DL spots for half the season? Although Dotel may have “nastier” stuff and holds a sentimental place in Mets fans’ hearts, David Riske is still the safer, more reliable option.

    2. Chacon. Again, I’ll bring up a comparison. What does Chacon bring to the table that Jorge Sosa already doesn’t? Both can long-relieve. Both are better at getting righties out than lefties. Both can spot-start. So why bring in Chacon for $4-5-mil when you can bring back Sosa at half the cost? I’m also scared shitless of Chacon’s WHIP numbers. 1.51 for his career. 1.49 last year. Over his career he averages a walk every other inning pitched. That’s awful. Maybe his issue is mechanical, but I’ll go back to my question when you were lobbying for Jason Jennings. Are you willing to risk all that money to see if Peterson can “figure him out,” or would you prefer to bring back Sosa for less money? I know Sosa’s career WHIP is 1.45, but he did just post the lowest WHIP of his career at 1.33 in 2007, so maybe now he’s starting to come into his own. Perhaps your point of view is to bring Chacon in as a Pat Mahomes type pitcher, but I though that was supposed to be your projected role for El Duque this year. If Hernandez is squeezed out of the rotation, and has his “long relief” role stolen by Chacon, where is his spot on the roster?

    I also see a reference to Marty Noble in your article. That guy is a complete ass. I remember reading an article by him that tried to explain how pitchers are best judged by how many wins they get, and that numbers like ERA and WHIP aren’t important. What a dope. Pretty much his argument was that Steve Trachsel, with an ERA 5 and WHIP of 1.60 in 2006, was a better pitcher than CC Sabathia, with an ERA of 3.22 and WHIP of 1.17, because he won 15 games opposed to CC’s 12. He is a complete moron and I never read any of his articles.

  2. joe November 29, 2007 at 12:24 pm
    OK, here’s my feeling on things …

    1. Duaner is no more a “lock” than Dotel for next year. In addition, every year there are unforeseen circumstances (ex. injuries). So, yes, you’re right that Dotel doesn’t offer anything above and beyond Sanchez, but the crux of the matter is that Sanchez is every bit the question mark. Since Dotel does not cost the Mets a trading chip, but rather the one thing they have an excess of ($$), my feeling is that the Mets should use dollars every chance they can to buy arms that MIGHT help them in ’08 — particularly if they don’t have to commit long-term.

    2. Yes, Chacon = Mahomes = Oliver. As of right now, there is no one to push El Duque out of the rotation. In fact, if the Mets add, say, Silva, then the rotation is Pedro, Maine, Perez, Silva, Duque — I’m not counting on Pelfrey/Humber to step in to take #5 with Hernandez available. Further, if I missed someone, or if indeed Pelfrey or Humber is ready to step in, it’s still very good to have an extra starter around — a good one such as Duque, not a Chan Ho Park — at the ready. And if/when that starter assumes a spot (ex. if Perez gets injured), then you’re back to filling the role in bullpen left behind by Duque.

    3. I don’t know that Chacon brings anything to the table above Sosa. However, number one, Sosa has not yet been re-signed and I believe he is eligible for arbitration — so there is a possibility the Mets non-tender him and cut him loose. Number two, your fears of Chacon are justified, and I have similar fears with Sosa. Looking at Sosa’s career is like riding a rollercoaster, and in fact out of his six years in MLB, one was excellent, last year was up and down, and the rest were not good at all. I think we were blinded by Sosa’s excellent start to his Mets career in the rotation, as well as his first few outstanding relief appearances. After a while though, he was exposed in both roles. That said, I’m not about to pencil him into a role — a little competition may do him good.

    Number three, we go back to my first point, which is anything can happen. What if Sosa comes up with a sore elbow in ST? Or Pedro Feliciano? Now there’s a hole. Since Chacon is costing “only” money, and likely only one year, and we think he might be equivalent to Sosa (or slightly worse), then it’s one more can of paint to throw on the wall. In fact this was the reasoning behind signing Sosa last winter.

    Also I don’t believe Shawn Chacon — or anyone else — is going to squeeze El Duque off the roster. Going into ST he is (arguably) the Mets’ top returning starter — there’s a place for him somewhere if he’s healthy.

    I like Riske, but what I fear is that he’ll command a 3-year deal. If it’s a two-year, that’s not bad, but three is a tough commitment for a middle reliever (see: The Show). Also, Chacon might accept a minor league assignment, while Riske would have to remain on the 25-man all year (again, see: The Show; or Mota). Maybe that’s looking at things negatively, but I like the flexibility — a year of being stuck with Schoeneweis and Mota can do that to a guy.

  3. Micalpalyn November 29, 2007 at 2:07 pm
    Joe: IF Omar added Riske (or like), at 3.5 M per he has increased payroll by .3M having SHED Mota’s salary.

    IF sanchez does comeback healthy, then there would be Wags-Riske-Sanchez-Sho in the pen.

    The arbitration deadline is Mon I believe so I think at that time we will see more movement. But I think Silva is a great start.

  4. isuzudude November 29, 2007 at 7:30 pm
    Rumor has it that the Brewers are going to sign Riske, so cross another one of my desirables of the xmas shopping list. I guess that makes Dotel the next best free agent option, health concerns and all. However, I don’t think we can rule out a trade or a search through the japanese market for relief help either…although I’m clueless as to who’s available. Omar really has his work cut out for him. I’d hate to have his job right about now.