Tag: jon garland

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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Be Careful What You Wish For

Did you send your Christmas “wish list” to Santa Claus? Or perhaps you sent it to Omar Minaya?

Already Mets fans have received two early presents — Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz. But the offseason is far from over and most of us are clamoring for more than answers to the eighth and ninth inning — though it’s a fine start.

One thing to keep in mind, however: be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.

Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus recently wrote an interesting column for SI.com, pointing out “Five Free Agents To Be Wary Of“. Among them are Orlando Hudson, Randy Wolf, Milton Bradley, Jon Garland, and Jason Varitek. Huh … if it weren’t for Bradley being on that list, you’d think the article was written specifically for Mets fans, since the other four players have been rumored to be on the Mets’ shopping list.

Though I’m generally not a stat-head, Sheehan shows stats that support the headline — and I personally am wary of these five guys without delving into the numbers.

For example, as much as I love the O-dog’s personality, and think that alone would upgrade the Mets as a team, I do worry about the Mets giving him a long-term, expensive deal because he does, to me, compare to Luis Castillo at the same age. Not surprisingly, Sheehan offers the same comparison, so I’m not the only one. Think about it — when Castillo celebrated his 32nd birthday (Hudson turned 32 last week), he was about to finish a season with a .301 batting average and .368 OBP. Though he played most of that season and the one before on bad knees, he still managed to steal 34 bases and score 175 runs between 2006-2007, and his glove (not range) was still considered one of the best in the game. Yes, those bad knees greatly diminished his range, but few were in his class when it came to glovework (he made less than a dozen errors in two seasons combined) and turning the double play. In his free-agent offseason, he was finally going to get much-needed, but supposedly minor, knee surgery. Most expected that he’d return to at least 80-85% of what he was as a Gold Glove winner and top of the lineup table-setter.

And here we have Hudson, who himself is a Gold Glover and coming off a career-high .305 / .367 year (wow, those numbers are close!). Also like Castillo, he’s had several nagging injuries in his most recent two seasons. Granted, his injuries have been to his wrist, various fingers, and hamstrings — none of which would be nearly as damaging to his range as Castillo’s two bad knees. But he’s been less durable since he’s entered his 30s — is that a pattern developing? Yes, his ability to swing the stick with occasional pop still makes him a better alternative to the slap-hitting Castillo — but does it make him worth $30M over 3 years? Moreover, will the Mets be sorry they gave an injury-prone second baseman a long-term deal a year from now? It’s easy to say “no” now, and many of us thought the 4-year deal given to Castillo was crazy even at the time. But how many expected Castillo’s value to drop so drastically, so quickly? We figured it would be a bad contract when it was in the third or fourth year, not the first.

Similarly, Sheehan points out concerns that I share for Wolf, Garland, and Varitek. I’ve been shaking my head all along wondering why Wolf is in the conversation at all, and this adds fuel to the fire:

Since coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2006, Wolf has a massive Petco Park/Earth split: a 3.58 ERA and a 68/26 K/BB in the Happiest Place on Earth (For Pitchers), 4.90 with a 232/117 K/BB everywhere else. He’s a flyball pitcher without the velocity to work up in the zone any longer, and will have a huge home-run rate in a normal park.

Garland has put up better looking numbers on the surface for the last few years, but Sheehan informs us that his low strikeout and high contact rates suggest he’ll be progressively worse as time goes on. Even still, a move to the NL should stave off that downslide for at least a year or two, and he has the potential to be an innings-eater. But he certainly isn’t worth more than a two-year deal.

Varitek came up in recent rumors surrounding the Mets, though how much truth to them is up for debate. Still, the Mets have supposedly been shopping Brian Schneider in the hopes of upgrading the catching position. Would Varitek qualify as an upgrade? Hard to say. Defensively, he’s about equal to Schneider, with a weaker arm. Offensively, it’s hard to be worse than Schneider was last year, but ‘tek was close; where Schneider had no power and a so-so average, Varitek had so-so power and a terrible average — you make the call. From a leadership standpoint, there’s no question — Varitek is exactly the type of leadership personality the Mets need, both on the field and in the clubhouse. Problem is, can he play in enough games to be effective? He turns 37 next April, and is probably best served in a platoon role — ideally and ironically, with someone like Schneider. But is it worth a compensation pick and $9M/year for someone who might play in only 100 games? (Well, that’s about what the Mets paid Moises Alou to appear in 15, so ….)

Of course, there are no guarantees with any free agents, and if the Mets added one or two of these players mentioned it wouldn’t be the end of the world. In fact, I’d welcome the additions of Varitek, Hudson, and Garland. The key is not overpaying for what could turn out to be yet another bad contract.

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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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