Why the Mets need to consider Jair Jurrjens

If the season were to begin today, the New York Mets would have a starting rotation that was questionable at best. Johan Santana was a disaster after his historic no hitter and his health is a major factor. The Mets even have been rumored to be shopping him. The question is who would be dumb enough to take that massive contract for a pitcher his age with his health issues? There’s Dillon Gee, who had to be shut down mid-season after a 6-7 record with a 4.10 ERA in 17 starts. He is also returning from injury. How reliable will he be?

Then, there is Jon Neise and Matt Harvey. Both young and talented, but still inconsistent. At just 26, Neise is on the rise after starting 30 games last season and going 13-9 with a 3.40 ERA and being inked to a long-term deal in Queens. Harvey had a solid rookie debut campaign. He was instantly embraced by fans, media and teammates. He went 3-5 in 10 starts with a 2.73 ERA. A bit better run support, and he easily could have been in the mix for the ROY award. The loss of R.A. Dickey left a massive void in the rotation that the Mets are trying to fill. Several players have been whispered to be in the mix for making a home start at Citi Field this year. Among them are Kyle Lohse, Carl Pavano, Shaun Marcum and Chris Young.

First, Lohse is out of the question. Yes, the 34 year old hurler’s 16-3 record and 2.86 ERA last season is certainly enticing, but any team that signs him must give up a first round draft pick to the St Louis Cardinals for his services. How many teams can afford that? Definitely not the Mets. Then, there is Carl Pavano. The Mets have been rumored to be in “serious talks with him“. There are several problems with him.

While I understand the logic, he has two major things working against him: age and health. He is 36 and returning from injury over the last season.  His 6.00 ERA in just 11 starts is scary. If the Mets choose to focus on his previous years where he posted a 14-12 record in 2010 (with two teams) and a 17-11 record in 2011 with the Twins, then he would be a sure bet. However, the reality is that he is most likely not the same pitcher he was then. The truth is that he may be closer to that 1.40 WHIP posted last year than he is the 1.19 WHIP that he had in 2010.

Next, there is Shaun Marcum. He had a 3.70 ERA in 21 starts last year. He is 31 years old and can be an anchor to a rotation if he is on. If he is not, he could be a disaster. Marcum will command bigger dollars than the Mets may be willing to pay. Especially since they are not the only ones interested. The Indians have had talks with him and are very serious about signing him. It’s doubtful these Mets would usher into a bidding war.

That leaves the most obvious option of all left: Chris Young. He signed with the Mets in 2011 and again in 2012. He totaled a 5-9 record with a 3.76 ERA in that span. That combined tally is misleading, however. His Mets career has been feast or famine. Year one was more feast with a 1-0, 1.88 ERA in just four starts in a injury-shortened year. The next go around, the Mets were hoping to see that performance built on. It wasn’t. Again, he was injured, but not before posting Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type stats with a 4.15 ERA and a 4-9 record in 20 starts. While his performance in a third stint in Queens would be anyone’s guess, it is not a stretch to imagine it would be more comparable to last year as opposed to the previous one.

All of these options are decent. Some are better than others. The Mets are obviously looking to catch lightning in a bottle like they did with Dickey.With age, health and experience as a backdrop, the Mets need a proven starter to serve as a go between for their future rotation.  If that is their mentality, allow me to add another name to the mix that, in my humble opinion, deserves a real consideration: Jair Jurrgens. He meets the age requirement at only 26. He meets the experience factor after pitching in the league for six years (Detroit and Atlanta) and posting a career 3.62 ERA.

When the Braves cut ties with him in December, it was a shock that several teams were not in line to pick him up. As of right now, it is an even bigger shock that he is still available. His asking price can not be high, even with Scott Boras as his agent, due to his poor performance last year when he posted a career low 6.89 ERA in a sub-par season. The question on him is health. Is he healthy? There are no reports that his health is an issue. The Braves optioned him to AAA after his first 10 starts. Only three were quality appearances lasting five or more innings. They did not tender him a contract after that.

All signs point to a loss of velocity. According to FanGraphs, he posted a fastball at an average of 88.6 mph last year. That is down from his 90’s plus average from just two years before. Whether it’s age or an undisclosed injury, he has lost something. If there was a better current free agent candidate for the Sandy Alderson “lightning in a bottle” theory, I don’t know who it is. Because of his age, he is more likely to regain his form and his zip.

That spells a promising trend for whatever team eventually signs him. It would be a wise acquisition. One that a GM would have to carefully weigh and recognize the chance that he is taking on this player but that it is worth the risk for the smaller contract on a player with bigger upside. That’s the exact mindset the Mets have shown under Alderson. This seems like a perfect fit. What’s the hold up?

24 comments for “Why the Mets need to consider Jair Jurrjens

  1. David Groveman
    January 8, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Marcum and Jurrjens make sense to me but I’d rather spend more on Marcum

    • Frank
      January 8, 2013 at 11:25 am

      Only problem with that logic Dave is why spend that kind of money for a guy who would be sent to the bullpen after Wheeler comes up later in the year? Unless you commit to him and sub-plant Dillon Gee. That is the only way it makes sense. If that is what they would do, I am all for it. I doubt that is what they would do, though.

      • David Groveman
        January 8, 2013 at 1:01 pm

        I don’t think of Gee as someone worth “protecting” if you get Marcum then you move he or Gee (whoever is pitching better) to the pen when Wheeler is ready, but more likely, neither as Santana is injured.

  2. JerryGrote
    January 8, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Not sure why Vasquez hasn’t made this list. If his arm is up to pitching, he has been able to consistently deliver #2-#3 type pitching. His last contract was for $7MM, and he might be willing to sign a 1 year deal … perhaps incentive laden, with an option. Marcum … I like best, but years/$$$ might price him out of our market.

    Seems to me like Jurrgens is someone far more likely to get you returns in 2014 than 2013. Picking up 4-5 MPH on your fastball doesn’t happen overnight. I’d take on Jurrgens if I felt some comfidence Hefner & Co. – or more particularly, felt really, really sure I could get 280 IP from Santana & Gee. Just feel like we need assured innings.

    • Frank
      January 8, 2013 at 11:35 am

      JerryGrote, the only reason I left Vazquez out was because I have not heard any reports that tie him to the Mets. They haven’t seemed interested in him. That doesn’t mean they won’t be as the offseason progresses. Just haven’t heard of anything as of now.

      As far as Jurrjens, I agree it will take a year or two for him to find his game. Wheeler is projected to make his debut this season. Whoever we sign will become a bullpen pitcher later on anyway unless they do so well that Gee goes to the bullpen.

      Right now, not many teams are willing to take a chance on him, so if the Mets do, they would establish a relationship with him and thus makes it easier to sign him at his age more long-term. He would be a good arm out of the bullpen or as a spot starter for years. If the Mets play it right.

  3. JerryGrote
    January 8, 2013 at 10:33 am

    I wonder how much the Berkman signing is impacting the Vasquez/Marcum deals. It just seems like they aren’t discounting injuries very much. Look at Pelfrey … he was done in May, never even got to the point of being dominant, and he got nearly as much as RA Dickey was going to be paid for 2013.

    Baseball is out of control.

  4. January 8, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Why look to court free agents pitchers just to fill a spot for one year? the Mets have an abundance of young starters who could just as easily fill the void(and cheaper). Why look to secure a 3-4 million dollar risk when you can use these youngsters at minimum costs. The benefit would be their gaining major league level experience with an eye on 2014. So many Met fans are looking for the next R.A. for Sandy to sign. When do we give the kids a chance to prove themselves? I don’t want to see another former Atlanta pitcher come here(Glavine was enough for me). If Jurrjens was healthy wouldn’t the Braves have signed him? That should be a red flag. The risks must of outweighed the benefits.

    • Frank
      January 8, 2013 at 11:22 am

      Pete, you’re absolutely right. If I had my way, they would make McHugh the 5th until Wheeler is ready. Wheeler is projected to make his debut at some point this season. Whoever is the 5th will only be so for a matter of a few months. I don’t understand spending the money on someone that they will just move to the bullpen anyway. McHugh is projected to be a long reliever in the Majors. Why not just let that pan out? I agree. Problem is the team is already stating their intention. This article is a suggestion to their current plan.

      As far as Jurrjens goes, there are red flags on all of these guys. My thinking is if you sign him now for that handful of starts this year, you can keep him for the next several years as he gets his game back. He would be a great spot starter/long reliever in this bullpen for years if they played it right. Thanks for the thoughts.

  5. Heybatter
    January 8, 2013 at 11:09 am

    I’d sign jurrgens and give up some low level prospects to LA for Harang. Provides cover to two potential holes with our own injured pitchers coming back.

    • Frank
      January 8, 2013 at 11:14 am

      That’s a good idea. Problem with it is the Dodgers will not take low level prospects. They gave up a lot of prospects last season in their trades, they need to rebuild their farm system. They will want more in return.

      • David Groveman
        January 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm

        The Dodgers would take ANY prospects right now. Nobody wants a prospect with no discernible talent but the Dodgers might still want a number of our pitchers who have not pitched past A+ and aren’t supposed to be studs (but have pitched well).

  6. Joe
    January 8, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    There’s no way the Braves let an arm like his, at his age, go for nothing unless there was something seriously wrong with him. I trust the Braves’ management; I’d probably stay away from him.

  7. Name
    January 8, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    “This seems like a perfect fit. What’s the hold up?”

    My guess is that Boras is trying to get him a Major league contract AND a guaranteed Starting Job, which of course no team is willing to give.

    I would take him on a minor league contract for sure, but I think he will get a Major league contract from someone.

    And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone just lose it. Just look at Scott Kazmir and you could possibly add Tim Lincecum to this list next year.

    • Frank
      January 9, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      Outstanding point on Kazmir. I suspect IF they were to even consider going after Jurrjens, it would be a minor league deal with an invite to ST anyway, like they did with Laffey.

  8. Steve from Norfolk
    January 8, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Has Jurrjens changed his arm slot or stride in the past year orso? With that much speed loss, I wonder if he’s messed up his shoulder.

  9. Seth
    January 8, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Why is everyone so automatically pessimistic about Johan? He’s only 34, hardly over the hill, and another year removed from surgery. With that amount of raw talent, I wouldn’t be so quick to write him off.

    • Name
      January 8, 2013 at 10:05 pm

      I can probably name 2 reasons for people being pessemistic about Johan.
      1. The Horrible finish to his season last year and people not understanding that it was his ankle and not the no-hitter that led to his bad outings.
      2. Since the Mets have such a dismal expectation this season, many Met fans cannot bear to sustain another disappointment. So they lower expectations for Johan so much that he can’t really disappoint.

    • Frank
      January 9, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      Sorry, but Johan is at the point in a veteran pitcher’s career where they have to either become “crafty” or hang it up. He has lost the velocity that made him dominant. Doubt it will ever return. That doesn’t mean he can’t be effective. Look at Greg Maddux. He lost his fastball early too and he adjusted for what was a potential HOF career.

  10. Brooks
    January 8, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Johan wasn’t a disaster after the no-hitter, he was a disaster after the ankle injury. His ERA after the no-hitter and before the ankle injury was 3.60. The start at Yankee stadium right after the no-no needs to be taken with a grain of salt because A) it was the Yankees in Yankee stadium, B) Johan didn’t have a great track record at that stadium before that start, C) Anyone not named Verlander would probably be at least a LITTLE effected by 134 pitches five days later. So take that start out and his ERA was 2.16 leading up to the ankle. I’ll say it again, 2.16.

    One or two media nuts write about Johan’s ERA after the no-hitter and then that is what is believed. Media is terrible in that regard. People just spew out what they read instead of looking for themselves. Of course his ERA after the no-no is going to be dreadful when its weighted by five starts after and including the ankle injury where he gave up 33 runs. He threw 8 three-hit shutout innings the start right before it. I mean come on, it’s not rocket science.

    It really needs to stop, it’s driving me crazy.

    • Name
      January 8, 2013 at 7:50 pm

      I’ve been preaching the same thing for 5 months. Glad to see someone else has taken notice. Hope to see you around more often.

  11. January 8, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    All this talk of who or what free agent the Mets should sign is very nice. The organization has an opportunity to really see what they have in the farm system. If they, in fact, are looking to the 2014 as many so called experts have stated, then let the farm system do what it is suppose to do, bring up some of the young talent. From a historical perspective, this team is looking a lot like the Mets of 1966-1967. Some good young pitching talent in the farm system, where would the team be if they didn’t give Seaver, Koosman, etc. a chance to play/grow, 1969 would have never happened.

    • Name
      January 8, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      It’s one thing to let the kids play, and another to force a kid at a level they’re not ready yet(see Meija, 2010). The Mets NEED placeholders at certain positions, and pitching is one of them.
      Besides, you never want to punt a season before it has even begun. This team still has a chance because of the potential of the pitching staff. Add in a few bullpen pieces and if a few other things break the Mets way, they could easily contend. As we’ve seen from last year, with the addition of two wild cards, .500 in the middle of September could mean you are still in contention.

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