Archive: November 24th, 2007

Ripple Effect on Relief

In the past few days, both Scott Linebrink and Francisco Cordero left Milwaukee to sign massive four-year contracts. Those two signings have significantly affected an already thin market for middle relief, in several ways.

The most obvious, of course, is that those two pitchers are now off the market. Additionally, the Brewers now must find two arms to replace them — certainly they’re not looking at Guillermo Mota as an option to fill either of their roles. At minimum, the Brewers need to find a closer, as it’s doubtful they’ll send Derrick Turnbow to the end of games again. But, there aren’t many closers available — which means they’ll be looking at setup men, quasi-closers, and failed firemen such as Brian Fuentes, Octavio Dotel, and Troy Percival. The demand for those types has a trickle-down effect, and suddenly drives up the value for fringe guys such as Salomon Torres. Whereas two weeks ago a team might have been able to pick up, say, a Dan Wheeler in an under-the-radar deal, now it will likely take a decent prospect to pry him away from the Rays. Not to mention what the Nationals will be asking for Chad Cordero.

Which way will the Mets go? Will they send two top prospects to Washington for the “other” Cordero? Would they give up a Kevin Mulvey for a Fuentes or Wheeler? Will they give the questionable Dotel or Percival an overvalued two-year, $16M deal? Or will Omar’s scouting staff continue to scrape the waiver wire and the winter leagues in search of the next Chad Bradford and Pedro Feliciano? Or will they do something that should have been done six months ago, and tell both Philip Humber and Mike Pelfrey to get used to pitching from the stretch?

Should be interesting to see this develop over the next few weeks.

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Weighing In on Freddy Garcia

So the big “buzz” this weekend is that Omar Minaya is after Freddy Garcia … and most fans look at Garcia as a turkey.

According to the Daily News, Garcia will be shopped at the winter meetings by his agent Peter Greenberg, but may also consider waiting until mid-season to sign with someone.

“If something is right at the winter meetings, maybe he’ll sign or maybe he’ll wait and maybe make more money,” Greenberg said. “He’d be a guy for the second half. Contenders are looking for pitching around that time and you wouldn’t have to trade for it then. If we did a showcase and we reached a deal (next summer), we’d let a team do a physical and do a Roger Clemens, a prorated deal for that season plus any extra years.”

First of all, if there is any interest at all in Garcia in the first week of December, Greenberg would be out of his gourd to wait until June before signing. What that quote is called is “framing” — it is actually the backup (read: desperation) plan in case Garcia gets no offers or is seriously lowballed.

Secondly, I think Omar is being quite smart in calling on Garcia — so long as you take the correct perspective. Let’s call a spade a spade here: Freddy Garcia is a high-risk gamble at this point. He’s coming off surgery for a torn labrum and rotator cuff, and most pitchers do not come back favorably from that type of surgery. Do not be influenced by Pedro’s remarkable recovery and standout performance this past September — he is the exception rather than the rule.

In almost all other cases of pitchers suffering rotator cuff and/or labrum tears, it takes a minimum of 14-18 months to return to the mound, and nearly no one has made a significant career for himself after returning. The most successful so far, in fact, has been our own Orlando Hernandez — and he missed one full season, had a great half season immediately following the surgery, then two and a half seasons of discouraging performance before an outstanding 2007. To get an eye-opening dose of reality when it comes to pitchers coming back from shoulder surgery, check out this chart at Viva El Birdos.

After seeing that chart, and also watching the recoveries (some still in progress) of Brian Lawrence, Aaron Sele, Mark Mulder, Tanyon Sturtze, and Chris Carpenter, for example, and it’s easy to understand why it’s vital for Garcia to take the money in December — he very well may not be throwing off a mound by June. His surgery was performed during the last week of August 2007; to believe that he’ll be able to showcase his talents next June is unbelievably optimistic, and probably unrealistic. Pedro’s rehab was faster than the average bear’s, and he had surgery in October 2006. It took Pedro until June of ’07 to throw off a mound, and was still another month and a half before he was ready for minor league competition. And to reiterate: Pedro was the exception, and shouldn’t be used as the measuring stick. Better to use Mulder or Sturtze as comparisons — Sturtze didn’t throw an MLB pitch all year, and Mulder looked awful in three September starts (addtionally, Mulder had to have another surgery).

At the same time, however, if Minaya can get Garcia on the cheap — and on a two-year (second year being a club option), rather than one-year deal — it turns into a low-risk, high-reward proposition. I say two years because it’s almost a sure thing that the guy won’t be back before August ’08, but will likely be recovered by ’09. In other words, I’d hate to see the Mets pay a guy to rehab, only to see another team reap the benefits. This happened to the Yankees with Octavio Dotel and Jon Lieber, and could happen to the Braves with Sturtze (I know, it couldn’t happen to two better teams, but you can understand my point). And if by chance Garcia does come back by July ’08 and pitches well, you don’t want to have to bid for him for another season.

Personally, I like Garcia as someone to have on the backburner and possibly contribute. It will cost the Mets only money, and cash is their most expendable commodity. Garcia likely won’t make it all the way back soon enough to help, but he might. And he almost certainly won’t return as the near-ace he once was, but he’s always been a tough competitor as well as a guy who knows how to pitch — and those are two things that can’t be taught. Yes, the Mets still need to find a top-of-the-rotation “ace” type of guy, but that’s not what signing Garcia is all about. Look at him as the “Brian Lawrence option” for late 2008 — someone who might be able to step in late in the season and make some spot starts. Now, who would you rather have on the mound in mid-September in the thick of a tight pennant race — a guy like Lawrence, who was NEVER more than mediocre, or a guy like Garcia, who several times was the leading horse on playoff and World Series teams?

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