Will Mets make the right personnel choice with Shaun Marcum?

The conventional wisdom is that the Mets ultimately will move Jeremy Hefner to the bullpen when Zack Wheeler becomes one of the starting five. However, Shaun Marcum continues to build his case for being dropped from the rotation. After pitching masterfully out of the bullpen in his previous appearance, Marcum got knocked around by the Cubs Friday night, as his ERA rose to 5.43 for the season.

In his last nine starts, Hefner has a 3.38 ERA with a 3.1 K/BB ratio. There’s no justifiable reason to remove him from the starting rotation. Yet you hear people repeat over and over again that he fits better in the bullpen. It makes no sense, especially when Marcum is not giving the team a chance to win on anything remotely approaching a regular basis.

Hefner has made 12 starts this year and has 8 QS, meaning he’s given the team a chance to win two-thirds of the time. Meanwhile, Marcum has started eight times and has two Quality Starts, giving the team a reasonable chance to win only one-quarter of the time.

There was a belief that Marcum was turning things around lately but that might have just been good fortune in facing the Marlins in back-to-back appearances. In three games against Miami this year, Marcum has a 3.86 ERA. Against the rest of the teams he’s faced, he has a 6.10 ERA in 38.1 IP.

And before you start throwing out “small sample size,” consider that Marcum’s mediocre pitching extends back to last season. After coming off the disabled list last year, Marcum started eight games and had a 4.32 ERA in 41.2 IP. So, in his last 96.1 IP, Marcum has a 4.95 ERA. At some point, if the Mets hope to be a good ballclub, they have to stop jumping through hoops to give preferential treatment to guys who simply are not getting the job done.

Marcum is on a one-year deal and is unlikely to be a Met beyond the 2013 season. Hefner is four-plus years younger and not only will he not be a free agent like Marcum at the end of the year, he will be a pre-arb player, meaning that the Mets control his rights and will have him on a contract near the minimum wage next season.

Who should the Mets keep in the rotation in the rest of this developmental season – the pre-arb guy who turns in a Quality Start two-thirds of the time or the pitcher four-plus years older who already has one foot out the door and the other on a banana peel? It’s really an easy decision once you examine the evidence.

Marcum has been a good pitcher in his career and it was a defensible gamble by the Mets to sign him in the offseason. But the results simply have not been there. One can certainly argue that he’s been unlucky this year and xFIP shows him slightly ahead of Hefner here in 2013. But the big picture is that Hefner could be a starting pitcher for the 2014 Mets and deserves a shot to see if he can continue to pitch as well – as a starter – for the rest of the season as he has in his last nine games.

Additionally, the Mets might even be in a position to help themselves financially here. Marcum has an incentive-laden contract, with bonuses for being on the active roster for certain days of the season. With the majority of the bullpen pitching well (and Scott Rice being a lefty that simply *has* to be in the majors), the Mets could cut Marcum and save a few pennies while also keeping a better option in the starting rotation.

Of course, that won’t happen. The Mets’ M.O. is to give extended shots to guys who have contributed nothing while burying guys who could potentially help if given a shot. Collin Cowgill and Josh Satin have hit in the minors when given a chance but the Mets insisted on giving playing time to Rick Ankiel, Ike Davis, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Jordany Valdespin at their positions, instead. That quartet has gone 67-388 (.173) with 122 strikeouts.

Through games of June 9th, Valdespin had a lifetime .578 OPS (.288 OBP) as a starting player. So of course he’s inserted into the everyday lineup as a leadoff hitter. In four games, he’s 2-for-15 and carries a .133 OBP. The results are not a shock; now we’re just left wondering how long this awful experiment will last.

So, expect Hefner to go to the pen so that Marcum can keep throwing 85 mph beach balls to the plate every five days. And expect a useful reliever like Greg Burke to get sent down, rather than one of the lefties. Because we all know that you simply cannot have a successful bullpen without two lefties on the roster.

The average NL reliever has a 3.65 ERA yet the Mets’ bullpen has an ERA a full run higher, the worst in the National League. One can only imagine how bad the Mets’ bullpen would be if their lefty relievers had not allowed 44 ER in 60.2 IP. Wait, what do you mean their lefties have combined for a 6.53 ERA? How can that be – you need multiple lefty relievers! Terry Collins has told us this over and over again going on three years now.

It’s bad enough that the talent level is not where it needs to be on the major league roster. But the Mets make the problem all that much worse by combining sub-par talent with horrific decisions on who to play and where. It would be nice if the Mets would at least stop making bonehead personnel choices. So, let them start improving in this matter by keeping Hefner in the rotation where he belongs and by removing Marcum, instead.

21 comments for “Will Mets make the right personnel choice with Shaun Marcum?

  1. June 15, 2013 at 1:33 am

    With so many teams in need of starters, I would trade Marcum asap. I didn’t say reliable but then again the pitching in the majors has become so diluted that given the right fit Marcum would be a valuable commodity(besides he’s pitching for next years contract). I wonder if Collins is speaking for himself or just voicing managements opinion on team matters. If its your least season as a manager then have the guts to “manage” this team and not what you think players should be doing according to your philosophy. If the Mets can bring in a retread like Ankiel and let him participate(can’t say play)for a month why not let Cowgill play consistently for 2 months and see? At least you will find out if you have the players in place for the future.

  2. blastingzone
    June 15, 2013 at 7:23 am

    I couldn’t agree more ither trade Marcum in a package deal at the dead line or cut him! Gee
    and Hefner are pitching far better in the 4th and 5th spots to stay in the rotation! I love
    it last night TC said that “Marcum had been pitching well and yesterday was just a bad start”!! Give me a break, I guess he didn’t remember Marcums best outing was in releaf!
    The problem is Hefner or Gee might bring you a bat in a package deal but I doubt it with the way Marcums been pitching we couldn’t get anything worth a dam even in a package and the mets would have to eat the rest of his contract! The MO of the mets is not to eat contracts(Bay
    is an exception) and to get there money’s worth out of that player even if he’s having
    a bad year! The mets need to cut him if nobody wants him and move on! I would play Spin another week and if he doesn’t produce I would bring up Flores to play 2nd base and lets see
    what he can do so we know how to move forward for next year at 2nd base?

    • June 15, 2013 at 8:46 am

      Hey blastingzone – as always thanks for reading and commenting.

      The Mets have gotten much better recently about eating salary. In addition to Bay, they dumped Castillo and Perez while they were still owed money and included cash in the deals that sent out Beltran and K-Rod.

      You should drop by the Game Chatter and watch a game with the rest of us some time.

  3. Mack Ade
    June 15, 2013 at 8:32 am


    I hope you don’t mind that I stopped by.

    Everything you said is true. The Zack Wheeler for Shaun Marcum switch will be an upgrade.

    Your ‘foursome’ of Valdy-Ike-Captain-Rcik sadly doesn’t have an available upgrade.

    In my opinion, and that’s all it is, you need to hang in there with the best you currently have until all the funk is worked out… 1B Davis, 2B Murphy, SS Tejada (when he’s ready), 3B Wright, C Buck, LF Duda, CF Nieuwenhuis/Lagares, RF Byrd…

    Your rotation will now be Harvey, Niese, Gee, Hefner, Wheeler

    Your pen has added Aardsma and will soon add Atchison.

    That’s your team… right now… it’s the best you have. Marcum should go to the pen as a long man and immediately marketed for a AA/AAA field prospect. You’ll get someone decent for him. Not great, but decent.

    Hopefully, Buck will break out of his slump long enough to market his bat when d’Arnaud is ready to come up. That too will be an upgrade.

    Next spring, Montero will be an upgrade to Hefner.

    Baby steps.

    • June 15, 2013 at 8:54 am

      Mack – your insight is always welcome here.

      Mets are going to face some big bullpen issues in the near future. In addition to what to do with odd starter out when Wheeler gets promoted, they have Atchison and Pedro Feliciano soon to be ready. And if Leathersich keeps up his current pace at the new level, he’ll need consideration, too.

    • Chris F
      June 15, 2013 at 10:30 am

      Hi Mack good to hear from you. Hope all is well.

  4. ed
    June 15, 2013 at 9:56 am

    If you take stock in TC and SA it’s time to move out the older unproductive players and start the youth movement for 2014. The problem is TC, he’s fighting for a future contract and feels the pressure of Wally and co moving in. I would make the move at the start of the second half of the season, bye, bye TC

  5. Chris F
    June 15, 2013 at 10:30 am

    If Marcum has trade value, I’d take it for pretty much any prospect we could get. He shouldn’t, and won’t, be here next year. Sure put him in the pen. I’m tired of the coddling. He’s clearly not helping the team win games.

    I think Gee and Hef must be opening some eyes around the FO set…I hope some entertaining offers come in on both. Parnell too, speaking of the pen.

  6. Name
    June 15, 2013 at 11:59 am

    There is one other small factor that could come into play here: Free Agent’s next year. Marcum was signed and promised a spot in the rotation. How might other FA view the Mets if they dump him now? He was rushed back to the majors because we couldn’t bear watching Laffey anymore; if you throw away his first 4 appearances, he has a 4.28 ERA since.

    Cherry-picked stat for Hefner: Against the bottom 3 offenses in the NL(LAD,WAS,MIA): 2.25 ERA. Everyone else: 5.63 ERA.

    So the decision is not quite as easy as it seems. And I would not trade either because we have quite a few doubleheaders in the coming months and not many off-days, not to mention the fact that Marcum would bring back nothing worthwhile.

    • June 15, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      We hear this line of thought all the time — we can’t possible move on from a guy we signed as a FA because if we do future FA will shun us.

      Has there ever been a quote from any FA or player agent that we won’t sign with Team X because the way they treated crappy FA last year? If so, please send me a link.

      FA want to get paid. No free agent is going to turn down a Mets offer because they dumped a guy with an ERA over 5. Players and agents understand it’s a bottom-line business. You produce or they find someone else who will. That’s why they go for the money.

      Finally, in six starts against teams with a record of .500+, Hefner has a 3.34 ERA in 35 IP.

  7. Metsense
    June 15, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Marcum seems to be the logical trade choice because of his reputation, some solid outings, and the baseball community lauded Sandy for signing him last winter. Pennant hungry teams should be interested in an established veteran commodity.Could he bring back a prospect as good Vaughn or Puello? If not, then hold him because Gee and Niese have some minor arm issues still.

    • Metsense
      June 15, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      Brian, your last paragraph sums up the frustration. Sandy puts together the roster and I assume TC puts together the lineup. Right now I would get rid of the person(s) that are putting together the lineup because there have been enough decisions to indicate that it is not working.

    • Joe Vasile
      June 15, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      While it would be nice to say we can just trade Marcum to a contender, what contender is going to take a starter with an ERA over 5.00, even if he has had success in the past? As far as a Puello/Vaughn type prospect in return, that might be too much to ask for, unless the player is still in A ball, and has a ways to go before reaching the majors.

      • Lafferty
        June 15, 2013 at 11:36 pm

        I wish he would come to kc Royals. I don’t think he has one foot out the door and slipping on a wet spot or what every that fool said. Im sour because Marcum went to my kids high school. And know my grandkids are going threw. He is like a hero to some. My grandson is 16 from the same high. He to has a dream. School money after high school is the first dream. Who would wont to live in new York he a country boy from a town of maybe 14000. He belongs in American league were he can pitch only. He proved the other day he can work out of bull pen out of a losing team effort.

        • Chris F
          June 16, 2013 at 9:32 am

          I think the comment was more along the lines that he has a 1-yr contract and isn’t bringing wins to the Mets. He won’t be in NY next year, and so he is on the way out the door.

        • Name
          June 16, 2013 at 11:23 am

          “He belongs in American league were he can pitch only”

          The guy can handle a bat, so league shouldn’t matter to him.

    • June 15, 2013 at 12:26 pm

      Vaughn has an .817 OPS in Double-A while Puello checks in at 1.007 — if you make that the going rate for trading Marcum he’s not going to get dealt. Maybe you get a guy who shows one plus tool in A-ball or a pitcher who looks like he could contribute as a middle reliever

  8. Jerry Grote
    June 15, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Asking for a club to make the right personnel decisions, on a day when they literally play half of their already miserable defense OUT OF POSITION … is really asking for too much.

    The lineup for 6-15-2013:

    1B Murphy, 154 of 440 games in the ML at 1B. Minors? 21 of 240.
    2B Valdespin, ML, nil. 0 starts at 2B in the minors
    SS Turner, 6 of 54 games at the ML at SS. Minors? 54 of 496.
    3B Wright.

    C Buck

    LF Duda, 106 of 262 in the ML at LF.Minors? 201 of 457.
    CF Lagares, ML nil.Minors? 143 of 588.
    RF Byrd.

    While I will grant you that the Minor Leagues, it is important to move players around and some of this might be off base … at some point you have to put players in a position to succeed. I honestly don’t know wtf this team is doing, but if you think for a second they are going to make a smart decision about personnel when it comes to Marcum … just ask Niese after today.

    What are the odds you get a 6-4-3 double play, when the SS and 2B can combine to have a total of 54 games played in their minor league careers in their respective positions?

    This is beyond absurd.

  9. June 15, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    I think it’s meaningless. His salary is guaranteed. The Mets save only the incentive clause money. The problem is when 2 teams offer the same money. Will the FA sign here or with say Chicago or even Arizona? Need to change the perception of not only the team but the organization as well. Being frugal has its rewards if your Fred Wilpon. But not for the fan base.

  10. brettg
    June 17, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    I think the thought behind this is that the mets have more starters coming and Hefner will eventually go to the pen regardless

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