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.