Tag: derek lowe

Mets Game 88: Loss to Braves

Braves 5 Mets 3

Oliver Perez got off to a strong second half start, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to do the same for the Mets.

In a matchup pitting the two top free agent pitchers coveted by the Mets last winter, Perez pitched his most effective game of the year. Of course, when your ERA was nearly in double digits a week ago, that’s not saying much. But still, we have to be happy to see baby steps from the enigmatic lefthander — perhaps by Year Three of his contract, the 36-Million-Dollar Man will begin earning his dough.

Perez walked four, struck out six, and allowed three runs on five hits in six innings. Two of those five hits, however, were solo homers blasted in the second inning that gave the Braves a quick 2-zip lead. The Mets mounted a comeback in the fourth, scoring three runs off a shaky Derek Lowe, but that was all they could muster in the contest. After Dan Murphy’s double scored Gary Sheffield, the Mets offense produced just two singles through the remainder of the game.

Notes

Ironic, isn’t it, that the starting pitchers spun similar performances, yet for Lowe, it was a mediocre outing, but for Perez, it was a good outing?

Garrett Anderson was 3-for-4 with a homerun for the Braves. Ryan Church pinch-ran for him in the 8th and eventually scored the insurance run.

Jeff Francoeur was 0-for-4 with an RBI. The Mets are 2-1 with him in the lineup.

Luis Castillo was the only Met with more than one hit.

Pedro Feliciano was victimized by Bobby Parnell’s inability to strand runners. Parnell faced two batters and allowed two hits, with one of them scoring the go-ahead run, which was charged to Feliciano. In turn, Feliciano was also charged with his third loss of the season.

The Mets are now 42-46 overall, 7.5 games behind the first-place Phillies.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Braves do it again at 7:30 PM on Friday night in Atlanta. Mike Pelfrey faces Jair Jurrjens.

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Braves Make High Offer to Lowe

According to various sources, the Atlanta Braves have offered Derek Lowe a 4-year, $60M contract.

Seems just a tad bit higher than the 3/35 that “wasn’t offered” by the Mets.

Further speculation is that Oliver Perez was offered three years and $30M by the Mets (or, maybe they didn’t — one never knows), and that there are no other teams in bidding.

If that’s true, then the Mets look like geniuses. Though I like Lowe’s consistency, if the Mets can lock up Ollie for half the price, then it makes a lot more sense to “settle” for the inconsistent lefty. It boggles the mind, though, that there isn’t anyone else out there at least kicking the tires on Perez. It’s not like 27-year-old lefties with his stuff and the ability to handle NY, grow on trees.

From Ollie’s perspective, it’s a lot less than he was looking for, but he’ll have an opportunity to cash out with a CC-like contract three years from now — if he puts together the kind of seasons we all think he can. Three years from now, there’s a good chance the economy will be better, and he’ll be only 30.

Of course, if the Mets are able to get Perez so “cheaply”, I would assume that means they have enough money to go after a bat. A big bat. Manny’s bat.

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Braves Targeting Lowe

Per several sources, agent Scott Boras is meeting with the Atlanta Braves to talk about Derek Lowe.

Lowe had reportedly been offered a 3-year, $35M contract by the New York Mets. Boras is seeking at least four years at around $16M per season for his client.

In desperate need to add starting pitching, the Atlanta ended trade talks with the Padres for Jake Peavy a month ago, and most recently were spurned by longtime Brave John Smoltz, who just agreed to a one-year contract with the Boston Red Sox.

Seeing the talent pool thin, and Lowe’s price tag dropping to below-market standards, Braves GM Frank Wren reached out to Boras. In addition, manager Bobby Cox met with Lowe in Atlanta, and Chipper Jones placed a phone call to the free agent pitcher in hopes of turning him on to “America’s Team”.

Despite this three-way blitz from Atlanta, Ken Rosenthal claims,

“From what I understand, the Braves are not interested in going beyond the three-year, $36 million offer from the Mets… I still don’t see the Braves going where Scott Boras will want them to go.”

Well then Ken, they’re putting on an Oscar-winning performance in the art of the bluff.

Meanwhile, the Mets are standing firm with an offer that pales in comparison to what Carlos Silva received last year from the Seattle Mariners.

While they have Boras’ ear, one must wonder if the Braves will also inquire about Oliver Perez, another free agent handled by the superagent? After all, the 27-year-old lefty has a 6-4 record and 3.46 ERA, including one shutout, in his career against Atlanta.

Actually, the best scenario for Boras is for the Braves to sign Lowe, which would in turn jack up the price on Perez for the Mets. But while the Mets continue to play chicken, the market for both pitchers continues to swell — some reports have the Phillies and Brewers looking at Lowe, and the Angels could be in the bidding for either pitcher.

What if the Mets lose out on BOTH Lowe AND Perez? The next-best starter on the market is probably Jon Garland, who would be a nice innings-eater at the back end of the rotation, but doesn’t project to be much else — even with a change to the NL. After Garland, the quality drops off considerably, with Tim Redding and Randy Wolf — both of whom have been linked to the Mets this winter — leading the pack.

This should be a significant concern for Omar Minaya, who as of now has two healthy starting pitchers heading into spring training (which by the way is only 36 days away). Should Lowe, Perez, Garland, and Redding sign elsewhere — which is a distinct possibility — Minaya’s best chance of putting together a championship rotation will begin with a novena. Hope he has knee pads.

Take a look for yourself at the starters available after Perez and Lowe:

Healthy, but Mediocre to Adequate:

Jon Garland
Tim Redding
Randy Wolf
Braden Looper


Healthy, but Awful to Mediocre:

Chuck James
Livan Hernandez
Odalis Perez
Sidney Ponson
Josh Fogg
Elmer Dessens

Good Potential, Questionable Health:

Ben Sheets
Jason Jennings
Mark Prior
Andy Pettitte
Mark Mulder
Curt Schilling

Questionable Potential, Questionable Health:

Bartolo Colon
Pedro Martinez
Freddy Garcia
Orlando Hernandez
Tom Glavine
Tony Armas

Now, let’s consider a few things. First, Tom Glavine is not coming back, and neither is Braden Looper. In addition, the Mets won’t roll the dice on dicey arms such as Mulder, Jennings, and Prior. They might take a chance on Freddy Garcia, and might be forced to gamble on Sheets. Pedro and El Duque would love to come back, but then it would feel like Groundhog Day. If Schilling were a possibility — which he likely isn’t — he wouldn’t be available until at least July. I’m not even going to qualify Dessens, Fogg, and Ponson. Odalis Perez and Livan Hernandez have been linked to the Mets in the past, and they could get ST invites — the question is, would we care? Pettitte would be a nice coup to annoy the crosstown Yankees, but he’s already turned down a $10M offer the Mets aren’t likely to top. Chuck James had a 9.10 ERA last year; he’s a guy who would be nice to have at AAA — not someone holding up the middle of your rotation. That leaves the underwhelming trio of Garland, Redding, and Wolf as the last men standing — they’re not necessarily coveted, but rather the default values left over when the quality has exited the market.

Should the Mets be stuck with a combination of Redding, Garland, and/or Wolf supporting the back end of their rotation, they will have no choice but to bring in Manny Ramirez. If you can’t keep the other team from scoring, then you have to outscore ’em, right?

It will be interesting to see how this drama develops over the next two weeks …

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Why Not All Three?

Will the Mets make a Yankee-like splash?

According to the latest buzz, Mets GM Omar Minaya has been in talks with superagent Scott Boras over the last few days, supposedly discussing one or all of Boras’ top free agent clients Derek Lowe, Manny Ramirez, and Oliver Perez. Reports inidicate that the Mets are most interested in Lowe, with secondary interest in Perez, and either mild or no interest in Ramirez.

My challenge to Omar and the Wilpons is this: why not sign all three?

As of today, the Mets have two healthy Major League-caliber starting pitchers on their roster — Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey. That’s a great start, but there are at least three other spots to be filled — unless the Mets plan to pray for rain the other three days. Yes, John Maine is still on the team, but no one can be certain that he’ll return 100% from shoulder surgery, and even if he does, we’re not sure which Maine we’ll see — the one who seemed on the verge of Cy Young candidacy in 2007, or the one who more resembled Steve Trachsel in 2008. I don’t think it’s a great plan to count on him coming back and being at his 2007 form.

Unfortunately, this is the Mets’ MO. We saw it last year, when they assured us that Orlando Hernandez and Pedro Martinez would come back from their various injuries and be stalwarts in the ’08 rotation. For those who paid attention, Pedro was lackluster in 20 starts, and El Duque never left Port St. Lucie. Similarly, the Mets counted on Duaner Sanchez to be 100% (he wasn’t) and also planned on Moises Alou giving the team at least 100-120 games. The Mets also banked on Luis Castillo coming back from multiple knee surgeries and re-emerging as the top-of-the order hitter and gold glover he was in Miami.

This is what bothers me most — every year, the Mets assemble their team with just enough names to fill the roster, with little or no backup plans in place if their hopes and wishes are unfulfilled. Meanwhile, teams that ultimately make it to the postseason are loaded with surplus in the spring, knowing that they’ll need the extra help over the grind of a 162-game season.

Take the Phillies, for example, who currently have four set starters in their rotation, and FIVE legitimate MLBers competing for the fifth spot. That’s right, they have five guys going for their last spot in the rotation, while the Mets have yet to muster more than three for their entire rotation (sorry folks, I’m not counting Jon Niese — he’s a decent-looking kid but realistically an unknown entity at this point).

The starting rotation will still be a question mark if the Mets sign either Derek Lowe or Oliver Perez. However, it will not be a question at all if they sign BOTH. For those who are worried that Niese will be “stunted” if the Mets begin the season with five starters, I can guarantee that he will still get at least 10-12 starts — probably more — in such a situation. Few pitchers make all 32-34 of their starts per season, and in fact, the 2003 Seattle Mariners are the only team in recent memory to go an entire 162 games without a pitcher missing a start. Things happen over the course of a season — injuries, illnesses, suspensions — so it always makes sense to have “too many” starters than not enough. Consider this: last year, Nelson Figueroa, Claudio Vargas, Brian Stokes, Brandon Knight, Tony Armas, and Niese combined to make 17 “spot” starts. It was not an unusual year — or don’t you remember the days of Brian Lawrence, Chan Ho Park, Jeremi Gonzalez, Dave Williams, and Jose Lima?

If the Mets do the right thing, and sign BOTH Lowe and Perez, they won’t have the best rotation in the NL, but they’ll have enough solid starting pitching to make a run for the playoffs. Signing one or the other, and then crossing their fingers on a second-rate starter such as Randy Wolf or Tim Redding, is defeatist. It might be different if the Mets were an offensive juggernaut — as they were in 2006 — but despite their high run total of ’08, their lineup is flawed. Once again, it’s hopes and wishes filling many of the positions.

For example, the Mets are moving into 2009 on the assumption that Daniel Murphy will continue to hit over .300 and that Fernando Tatis will have six months that resemble last July. Looking at things objectively, it’s fair to say that both players will hit around .270, and combine for somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-15 homers and 80 RBI. Can the Mets afford that kind of production from left field, when they expect to get next to no offense from the catching and second base positions? Again, it’s hopes and prayers that Brian Schneider will hit more like he did in the last two months of the season than he did in the first four, and that Luis Castillo will return to being an on-base machine. In addition, it seems the Mets are taking for granted that Ryan Church will return 100% and hit all year like he did last April. Headaches or no headaches, for those who follow the numbers, Church’s performance in ’08 was exactly in line with his career averages. We’d like to believe he’ll be the MVP candidate he looked like in April and May, but is that really fair?

If the Mets sign Manny Ramirez, however, their offense will have zero question marks. With Manny in the middle, it won’t matter whether Luis Castillo is the second baseman … heck, they’d be fine with Mario Mendoza playing the position. Similarly, it won’t matter if Brian Schneider hits his usual punchless .250, or if Church regresses, or if Carlos Delgado starts the season like he did last year — Manny makes up for all that. Further, having the greatest righthanded hitter of our generation in the lineup takes all the pressure off Carlos Beltran — and we’ve seen how he can flourish when surrounded by stars.

Most importantly, Manny is the exact opposite of what the Mets have symbolized in the last two seasons — he rises to the occasion. Whereas the Mets have become laughingstock choke artists, Manny is the ultimate clutch player, the go-to guy in the most pressure-filled situations. Imagine what might have happened in the last week of 2008 — or 2007, for that matter — if Manny Ramirez were a Met. Never mind the nonsense of Manny being a cancer in the clubhouse, or the “Manny being Manny” tendencies. Sure, he may not mentally show up for 20-30 games, but he’ll still be better than everyone else on the planet for the other 130. And, remarkably, Manny’s been on winning teams that went to the postseason in every city he’s played — despite all his bad qualities. What would you rather have? A distracting force who carries you into the postseason, or a group of aw-shucks perfect citizens who break your heart at the end of every September?

Of course, the Mets would never sign Manny, and they’d never sign both Lowe and Perez, so this article is moot. In fact, there’s a decent chance the Mets don’t sign ANY of the three. After all, they’ve already addressed the the issue that was most obvious in the court of public opinion — the bullpen — so they can go into the 2009 season pretending that they’ve addressed their “major holes”. Indeed, the additions of K-Rod and J.J. Putz are enough to fool most Mets fans into believing that the front office is making an effort to make amends for the last two late-season collapses. However, the rest of us who are paying attention know better — they may have shortened the game by two innings, but there are still seven frames the Mets have to play every day. Looks to me like a third consecutive year of a team that — with some luck and bull-whipping — is just good enough to compete for five months and two weeks, but not quite equipped to finish out the string.

You can prove me wrong, Fred and Jeff. After selling four million tickets, running your own cable TV station, and moving into a brand-new stadium, it’s hard to believe — despite Bernie Madoff — that you don’t have the wherewithal to pull it off, especially in a free agent market that has driven prices to affordable levels. But do you have the chutzpah?

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Mets Make Lowe Offer

According to the several sources, including the New York Times, the Mets have offered Derek Lowe a three-year, $36M contract.

If the Mets can get Lowe that cheap, I’ll be amazed. I find it hard to believe that no other team in MLB can afford a 3/36 deal for Lowe. If I were Brian Cashman, for example, I’d be on a flight to get to Lowe’s house ASAP to make a better offer. Think about it: the Brewers signed Jeff Suppan to a 4/42 deal back in the winter of 2006 — and Suppan was, back then, in a similar place as Lowe, though not quite as accomplished. I realize the economy has changed in the past two years, but #2/#3 starters who can crank out 200 innings a year and have impressive postseason numbers remain a rare commodity. If the Brewers, for example, allow the Mets to sign Lowe to such a paltry deal, then Milwaukee owner Mark Attanasio should be tarred and feathered for his remarkably inane, “woe is me” comments of last week. Three years and $36M is a bargain for a talent like Lowe — a bargain that ANY small market team can easily swallow, from St. Louis through Kansas City to Milwaukee.

Of course, my fingers are crossed that Lowe is crazy enough to accept such a low-ball offer — though that seems like hoping against hope with Scott Boras advising him.

On another note, it is my opinion that if the Mets do in fact sign Lowe to such an affordable contract, they should then have plenty of extra dough to throw at Oliver Perez as well — and spend it on the bipolar lefthander. Enough of this “one or the other” nonsense — sign them both! Last I checked, the Mets have only two healthy MLB starters returning, and will need all the rotation help they can get.

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Mets Like Randy Wolf

According to various sources, the Mets are interested in adding Randy Wolf to their 2009 starting rotation.

To me, that’s a nice idea — IF the plan is to make him the #5 starter. His lefthandedness is a big advantage in the NL East, and his veteran status suggests that he’s unlikely to crap the bed. He’s a tough competitor and a battler, which will endear him to New York fans. Finally, he is a complete pitcher — meaning, he does everything from field his position to keeping runners close to placing bunts.

However, if signing Randy Wolf is an alternative to acquiring a #3-type starter — i.e., Derek Lowe, Oliver Perez — then I’m not sure what the Mets’ brass is thinking. Besides not being a middle-rotation guy anymore, Wolf’s injury history is unsettling. He’s suffered both elbow and shoulder injuries during his career, and though he managed 190 IP last season, there’s no guarantee he won’t miss 80 games like he did in 2007.

Unfortunately, this is not the Randy Wolf in his mid-twenties — a young kid with a sharp breaking ball, 90+ heater, and a potential all-star. Rather, this is the Randy Wolf approaching his mid-thirties, age and injuries having robbed speed from his fastball and causing him to hang on to his career by thread. At his absolute best, he might give the Mets a season similar to Steve Trachsel’s days in Flushing — 30 starts, .500 record, somewhere between 160-190 innings. That’s a solid fifth starter, not a #3 on a championship ballclub.

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Burnett Has Many Suitors

It appears that three teams are in the midst of a bidding war for A.J. Burnett.

The Braves, Red Sox, and Yankees have all reportedly made offers to the fragile but gifted righthander, who is seeking a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $75M+.

One must wonder if the Yankees and Red Sox really want Burnett, or is this deja vu all over again — in other words, a repeat of the chase for Carl Pavano several years ago. Back then, it appeared that the Red Sox were bidding for Pavano to keep him away from the Yankees, and vice-versa. If the two deep-pocketed clubs are serious about Burnett, that’s bad news for the Braves, who will have a hard time out-bidding the big boys.

If the Bosox sign Burnett, they likely will not pursue Derek Lowe — who has expressed a preference to return to Beantown. Such a signing would also free Boston to trade one of their young starters for someone like Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

On the other hand, if Burnett signs with the Yankees, then there’s a better chance of Lowe returning to Boston, but still no guarantee.

In either case, the Braves would need to get creative about filling their rotation needs. My guess is they’d get back into talks with the Padres about Jake Peavy — if he isn’t already a Cub.

One thing is for sure — the Hot Stove is close to breaking, with one move likely to ignite another ten.

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Mets Moving Past Lowe?

According to John Harper of the Daily News, the Mets did not expect there to be so much demand for Derek Lowe, and that they’re moving on to cheaper options. From the article:

The Mets aren’t conceding anything yet, but privately they admit they didn’t expect Lowe to be in such high demand, and they worry that with the Yankees and Red Sox in the hunt, they may have to lower their sights for a starting pitcher.

Huh. First of all, how could the Mets underestimate the value of a veteran sinkerballer who hasn’t missed a start in seven years, and won 106 games during that span? Further, how could they think Lowe wouldn’t be heavily courted, considering that 29 MLB teams can’t afford C.C. Sabathia? Unlike A.J. Burnett and Ben Sheets, Lowe is a sure thing. He may be older than those two oft-injured fireballers, but not by much. People tend to forget that Burnett will be 32 next year, and Sheets is entering his thirties. Further, in the combined 18 years of MLB between Burnett and Sheets, you can only find one season of more than 13 wins. In contrast, Lowe has AVERAGED 15 wins per season since he became a full-time starter.

I find it hard to believe that the Mets have been blindsided by the demand for Lowe. What’s more believable is that they’re not comfortable offering Lowe — nor any other pitcher — more than three years. This would be an acceptable stance if the Mets were gushing with near-ready pitching prospects in their farm system. Unfortunately, after Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell, they don’t have anyone who projects to be better than a fourth or fifth starter within the next three years. That’s a fact. And there are enough scouts who aren’t sold on Niese and Parnell, either. So the Mets won’t be able to fill their rotation needs from within the organization for at least a few years. Further, the 2010 free agent class is filled with injury-prone starters (Rich Harden, Jason Schmidt, Mark Mulder, Eric Bedard), with the top starters being John Lackey and Brett Myers. Looking ahead a year, Lackey might command a 5-year, $80M contract. Will the Mets pay that premium?

Harper also suggests that it would take Ryan Church to pry away Edwin Jackson from the Rays — I agree. It makes me laugh when people suggest that the Mets can get one of the Rays’ young starters in return for Aaron Heilman. Sure, Jackson has been inconsistent and Andy Sonnanstine appears to have ordinary stuff, but they both won 13+ games in the AL East and are only 25 years old. You don’t get talent like that in return for a 30-year-old middle reliever with a 5+ ERA. More to the point, the Rays don’t need arms, they need bats. They have a sudden surplus of pitching, and are looking to deal from that strength to find a corner outfielder with some pop.

If in fact the Red Sox or Yankees (or some other team) sign Lowe, the Mets may have to go the trade route to fill their starting rotation. If the price is too high or too risky for Lowe, then the cost for A.J. Burnett has to be way out of the Mets’ league. From all reports, there’s no interest in getting into the Sabathia bidding, and I don’t see the Mets going after Sheets, who at this point is riskier than Burnett. The next-best starter available is Jon Garland, who despite a high win total gets hit hard — opposing batters hit .303 against him last year — and probably isn’t worth the many millions he’ll get on the open market. After Garland, the quality drops off significantly — the next tier is Braden Looper, Randy Wolf, and Livan Hernandez.

Oh, and of course there is Oliver Perez — who is starting to look a lot more appealing than when the offseason began.

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