At 10 am on Saturday, MLB.com reported that Pedro Martinez was anxious to return to the Mets, saying he had “unfinished business” to take care of.
Twelve hours later, MLB.com was reporting that Martinez was negotiating with the Marlins, who would like to add the venerable righthander as a peer leader to their young staff.
Meantime, the Mets signed Tim Redding. Yee ha.
Martinez as a Marlin makes all too much sense. First of all, Pedro has a house in Miami, as it is a short plane trip away from his home in the Dominican Republic. Secondly, the smug wait-and-see strategy of the Mets has suggested that Pedro’s days as a Flushing favorite are in the past. Whereas the Mets have been less than lukewarm in their interest, the Marlins are motivated to bring in Martinez, seeing his value as a guide to developing youngsters and his expected discount rate.
Funny, isn’t it? The Mets’ rotation currently consists of two solid, healthy MLB starters, one question mark due to injury, and a guy who was unwanted by the worst-pitching team in baseball. They also have more money than just about every other team in the National League. However, they are in no rush to re-sign a three-time Cy Young Award winner who puts fannies in the seats, owns a championship ring, and provided humor, personality, and media savvy that is otherwise nonexistent in the Mets’ clubhouse. This despite the fact that they need more arms for their rotation, they invested millions in nursing Martinez back to health, and the public statement from Pedro announcing his wish to return.
On the other hand, the Marlins already have five young, competent hurlers filling THEIR rotation and little room in their budget to gamble on a guy who may or may not be on the verge of a comeback, and may or may not be interested in playing for them. Yet, it is Florida making the advances — not New York.
It’s easy to look at Pedro’s performance in 2008 and say he’s washed up — any knucklehead can safely grade a player on the most recent numbers. But when one considers the type of injury and surgery Pedro endured, he should not have been expected to be much more than he was last season. I, for one, cautioned several times that Pedro’s eye-popping return at the end of 2007 was not necessarily indicative of how he’d pitch in 2008. Shoulder surgeries generally require a recovery period of 18 months to two years — which means Martinez should be just beginning to feel like his old self around May or June of this year. We witnessed his velocity come back at random points in 2008, but he never returned to full strength — partially due to the recovery process and partially because of a rash of nagging injuries to his lower body.
Bottom line is this: few people have Pedro’s desire to win and determination. Those are assets that can’t be taught. If Pedro still wants to compete, he’ll find a way to be at least a decent #5. With a little luck, he could push himself into a #3 or #4 — it all depends on whether he can stay healthy. Yes, the Mets need pitchers who can give them 25-30 starts, and there’s doubt that Martinez can do that. But, the Mets need pitchers, period, and Pedro will take a significantly reduced rate — so it won’t be a huge gamble. To me, giving Tim Redding a guaranteed deal is more risky than offering an incentive-laden one to Pedro — at least Pedro has done something in his career, has already succeeded on the big stage, can handle New York, and is a positive influence on everyone in the clubhouse.
Which brings me to my next point. This Mets team is desperate for leaders, winners, clutch performers, and people with personality — so where is the logic in allowing Pedro to walk away? Isn’t he all of those things?
Of course, Pedro hasn’t walked away yet, and these discussions with the Marlins could simply be a backup plan, or a way to motivate Omar Minaya to strike a deal. But signs are pointing to a Pedro exit — the “addition by subtraction” comments, the demotion of Guy Conti, the signing of Redding, and the inaction by Minaya thus far. My fear is that Pedro Martinez will be lured to the Marlins and not only have a comeback year, but inspire the rest of the Florida staff to take a big step. There are some very talented youths down there in Miami, and Pedro could be the key to unlocking their potential.
Such a development would make the NL East a vastly more competitive division than it’s been the last three years.