Flaying Fossum

casey_fossum_mets.jpgSome “play possum”, while in Flushing we “flay Fossum”.

Read on to decipher and debate the mysterious moves that brought Casey Fossum to New York and sent Darren O’Day and Nelson Figueroa packing.

It’s been a few days, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around the series of moves that, in the end, resulted in a “trade” of Darren O’Day and Nelson Figueroa for Casey Fossum.

O’Day was a decent, if hittable, situational reliever who might one day evolve into a reliable 7th inning “crossover” guy. He was especially valuable in the Jerry Manuel “matchup” strategy employed in the late innings (which better resembles musical chairs). Offering O’Day back to the Angels and/or waiving him down to AAA to make room for Nelson Figueroa made a lot of sense, though, for several reasons.

First, the Mets needed a spot starter on Sunday to fill in for the ailing Mike Pelfrey. When the team arrives at a logical explanation for NOT sending Big Pelf to the 15-day DL, please let me know. Second, Figgy is ideal insurance as both a starter and long man behind the question marks known as John Maine and Oliver Perez (and now Pelfrey, for that matter). Further, Figueroa performed exceptionally well in the WBC. It was slightly stunning he didn’t make the team out of spring training, but hey, better late than never.

So Nelson Figueroa goes out and pitches six solid innings against an MLB team — something Maine and Pelfrey have yet to do, and Perez and Livan Hernandez have done only once each. The next day he’s DFA’d to make room for Casey Fossum. Hmmm …

One MetsToday reader (Upson) suggested that the move made sense from the standpoint that Figgy was redundant as long as Brian Stokes is around, and that Pedro Feliciano could use a southpaw sidekick. Regarding the former, if Stokes and Figueroa are essentially the same, then why didn’t Stokes make the start on Sunday? Further, if Stokes is the “long man”, how does he have only 3 IP in 4 appearances?

Then there’s the issue of Fossum as the second “LOOGY”. Fossum did get off to a hot start in Buffalo, starting two games and allowing only 5 hits and striking out 12 in 11 innings. He also, however, was hit hard — very hard — facing A and AA hitters at the tail end of ballgames in spring training. Despite great stuff, Fossum has a career MLB ERA of 5.47 and a 1.51 WHIP. Over the last two seasons (2007-2008), lefthanded hitters have torched him for a .319 AVG and 6 HRs in 185 ABs. Despite the fact he’s been “stretched out” as a starter in Buffalo, we know his main role is to face LH hitters (yikes!) and is unlikely to ever get a start or pitch more than one full inning at a time.

I have nothing against Casey Fossum — in fact, I’m rooting hard for “The Blade”, partially because he’s a NJ native and partially because he’s an underdog. But wouldn’t it have made a lot more sense to simply put Pelfrey on the DL, have him miss two starts instead of one, and keep Figueroa — who flatly earned a spot this spring — for at least another week?

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. hdarvick April 22, 2009 at 11:08 am
    You realize, of course, that the only way Nelson Figueroa reamins in the Mets organization is if the other 29 Major League teams don’t claim him by this afternoon, since he was put on (72 hours)waivers Sunday after pitching six solid innings. It seems to me that there are a few teams that may have interest in a starter/long reliever/short reliever who pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings in 4 games in the WBC (two hits) and, in his first game for the AAA Bisons allowed 0 runs, 2 hits, 2 walks in 7 innings of a scoreless tie – all 4 baserunners were erased on DPs so he faced the minimum 3 batters each inning.
  2. joe April 22, 2009 at 12:27 pm
    I would be mildly surprised if another team claimed Figueroa, mainly because Philip Humber squeaked through a few days ago without a problem. Not saying Humber is necessarily better, but he is younger, and thought for sure that someone like the Nationals would scoop him up.

    The big question is, if Figgy passes through waivers, is will he report back to Buffalo or elect free agency?

  3. hdarvick April 22, 2009 at 12:51 pm
    Humber’s ML record is 25 innings pitched in 4 years. In 4 games this month for the Twins, he allowed 6 runs on 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings. Compare that to what Figueroa has done in March and April (WBC, Bisons) – and in the 2009 Venezuela Winter League if you want to go back that far: Figueroa pitched a no hitter into the 10th (tenth) inning of a playoff game, winning 1-0 after allowing a hit in the 10th… We shall see.
  4. joe April 22, 2009 at 1:09 pm
    We know Figueroa had a great winter and a fantastic WBC, there’s no denying that. But a team like the Nats or Padres is more likely to claim a younger kid with an unknown future and “upside” than a veteran like Figgy. Nelson is an ideal fit on a team that has its sights on the postseason and needs a spot starter / long reliever. Looking around MLB the only team other than the Mets who can use a pitcher like Figueroa is the Angels … or possibly the Yankees if Chien-Ming Wang continues to struggle (though I imagine they’re more liable to promote Phil Hughes).

    Mentioning Humber was probably a bad example on my part. My thinking is that right now there aren’t too many teams suffering injuries to starting pitchers — otherwise Pedro Martinez would be signed — and Nelson is an ideal fit for a team in need of a starter. Humber fits a similar profile (starter / long man) and at nearly 10 years younger would be more attractive to a team looking toward the future.

    In any case, we’ll find out shortly whether he’s claimed. It would be nice to see him get a chance to start 4-5 times in a row for someone and prove he belongs in MLB.

  5. isuzudude April 22, 2009 at 2:31 pm
    Although Figgy could choose not to report to AAA, it looks like Joe is the winner of this argument.


  6. hdarvick April 22, 2009 at 2:37 pm
    I guess so. If he goes to Buffalo, if the Mets call up Figgy again, can they send him back to Buffalo without clearing waivers?
  7. joe April 22, 2009 at 2:42 pm
    I don’t think so. I believe that he would have to clear waivers every time he is sent back down, because he is out of “options”.
  8. upson April 22, 2009 at 3:08 pm
    First, I’m really glad Figgy cleared the waivers. The Mets dodged the bullet here.

    Second, for the record, Joe I share your doubts about the roster management. I was defending the Figgy/Fossum swap only in the context of Feliciano’s overuse and Stoke’s inactivity and only under the assumption that Figgy clears the waivers. At the same time, I wholeheartedly agree that the Mets should have resolved this differently from the beginning by DL-ing Pelfrey and either recalling Figueroa to make more than one start or starting Stokes and recalling Robertson or Muniz (who both have options left) to provide some innings. Such a solution would both give two more weeks to evaluate O’Day and give some playing time to Stokes.

  9. hdarvick April 22, 2009 at 7:26 pm
    Figueroa declared free agency. Looks like the Mets did not dodge the bullet.
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