Pitching Staff Update
Do the Mets really need pitching? Omar Minaya doesn’t seem to think so. Maybe he’s right … perhaps Matt Wise, Steven Register and Brian Stokes were the only additions this team needed to fortify the pitching staff for 2008. Of course, there’s still about a month and a half before spring training — plenty of time to sign up a Jose Lima or Chan Ho Park.
But if spring training began today, this is what the list of arms might look like …
Question Marks (injury)
Out for the Year
Going over the above list, things don’t look all that bad. OK, maybe they do. For instance, there are four very shaky candidates for the #5 spot in the starting rotation, and if you add up all of their combined MLB experience there’s barely 100 innings. That might not be such a big problem if Orlando Hernandez weren’t 147 years old and almost certain to spend at least two stints on the DL. On the one hand, I’m all for giving a shot to the kids. On the other hand, it’s imperative to have depth, particularly when you know one of your guys is bound to go down. For example, what happens if Maine or Perez suffers an injury during the season? Who is next on the totem pole? There needs to be at least another arm or two — ideally someone with MLB experience — saved for a “rainy day”. Personally, I think it would be extremely irresponsible of the Mets not to either move one of the relievers (Heilman, Sosa) into a starting role or sign at least one or two starting pitchers with MLB experience — even if it is someone as awful as Byung-Hyun Kim or Josh Fogg. The kids have promise, and should get their chance, but there has to be a backup plan in place.
As for the bullpen, there are a lot of names but an equally large number of question marks. Whether Duaner Sanchez can come back healthy AND return to form is the biggest question of all — and everything flows from there. In a perfect world, Heilman and Sanchez will handle the eighth innings of games, Pedro Feliciano and Joe Smith will have an entire year like the first half of 2007, and Matt Wise and Scott Schoeneweis will both pitch like it’s 2005. The reality may not be so rosy. Even if all six of those pitchers pitch to their capability, it’s still not enough arms to get through a 162-game season of contests started by 5- and 6-inning pitchers. So the questions continue. Will Jorge Sosa continue to be a perpetual enigma? Can Carlos Muniz or Willie Collazo be more than AAAA pitchers? Is Brian Stokes any better than Jon Adkins? Can Steven Register make the team? Will Brant Rustich or Eddie Kunz pull a Joe Smith? What happens if the answers to all of those questions are “no” — a distinct possibility?
Again, it appears to me that the Mets need more depth — preferably another arm or two with MLB experience. Someone along the lines of Octavio Dotel would be most welcome — the problem is, after Dotel, there aren’t many others available “along those lines”. Shawn Chacon or Brett Tomko might be the next-best pitchers available, and then you’re getting into Aaron Sele / Scott Schoeneweis territory — guys who will command MLB contracts, and likely won’t be shuffled between AAA and the bigs. But if they can’t get a Dotel, that’s exactly what the Mets need — a few Heath Bells, who can go up and down throughout the course of a season. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many of those types available. Register would be a candidate, but he was a Rule 5 draftee and therefore can’t be sent down (without losing him). That leaves Stokes, Muniz, Collazo, and perhaps Schmoll — a group that could use a little help. Maybe Jorge Julio or Brendan Donnelly would be willing to sign up for such a role; otherwise there are guys like T.J. Beam, Chris Reitsma, and Brian Moehler still out there — not exactly promising, huh?
Right now, the pitching looks so-so, and vulnerably thin. Let’s hope Omar Minaya is working diligently to fortify the troops — or it could be another disappointing season.