It’s time for the Mets to stop dumpster diving for starters

Dumpster DivingThose of us not born with a silver spoon in our mouth sometimes have to resort to dumpster diving to rescue usable items that others have thrown out. I’m not too proud to say that I’ve done this while looking for storage boxes. Perhaps you’ve done something similar. The cash-strapped Mets have been busy dumpster diving for starting pitchers the past three seasons and we hear that they are likely to continue this practice for 2014, too.

Let’s roll out the names that Sandy Alderson has rescued from the land of misfit toys the past three seasons. There was Miguel Batista, Chris Capuano and Chris Young in 2011. The following year saw repeat appearances by Batitsta and Young. This past season we were treated to Aaron Harang, Aaron Laffey, Shaun Marcum, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Carlos Torres.

These pitchers combined to deliver 634 IP and surrender 299 ER. That’s a very respectable 4.24 ERA or a bottom-tier fourth starter. The problem is that only Capuano delivered a full season’s worth of innings with 186. Young is next on the list with 115 in 2012. But when they first signed him in 2011, he was only able to deliver 24. And of course, Marcum completed 78.1 innings before coming down with his season-ending injury in 2013.

When you sign pitchers coming off injuries, you shouldn’t be surprised when they, you know, get injured again. It’s just a thought to keep in mind when you hear names like Scott Baker, Josh Johnson or even Johan Santana bandied about as potential additions to the 2014 rotation.

It’s time for the Mets to give up the dumpster diving model.

In addition, they should not spend whatever cash they may have available on a healthy free agent pitcher. Instead they should finally look to internal options to fill any available positions. The Mets head into the offseason figuring they have three rotation slots filled with Dillon Gee, Jonathon Niese and Zack Wheeler. They also have Jenrry Mejia, who is supposed to be ready for Spring Training after surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow. Additionally, they have Torres, who worked both as a starter and a reliever last year.

The Mets want Torres to be a reliever but it’s never a good idea to put a player in a role less than he can handle. While Torres’ ERA last year was significantly better as a reliever, that’s very misleading. Torres made nine starts and had an ugly ERA because he got bombed in two outings, both against the Nationals. In two starts against Washington, Torres allowed 14 ER in 7 IP. In his other seven starts, he allowed 13 ER in 42.2 IP, for a 2.74 ERA.

Torres threw a Quality Start in six of his nine starts this past season. It’s reminiscent of 2012 Jeremy Hefner, who threw a QS in eight of his 13 starts. The Mets wanted Hefner to be in the bullpen for 2013 but injuries elevated him to the starting rotation. Hefner ran off 15 consecutive starts where he allowed a 2.78 ERA in 94 IP. It would have been a shame to miss out on that because he was banished to the bullpen. And it will be the same in 2014 with Torres.

People will say that it’s crazy to count on Mejia being ready at the start of the season and that the Mets need more depth even if he is healthy. But if they don’t trade one of their starters in the minors, they have that depth. The Mets have four hurlers on the farm that should be ready to pitch in the majors at various points in 2014 in Jacob deGrom, Darin Gorski, Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard. And it’s likely that Mark Cohoon and Chris Schwinden will be kicking around, too.

Instead of hoping that veteran returning from injury hurler X can stay healthy and be productive, give a shot to people who have performed well in the minors. deGrom had a 3.56 FIP in Las Vegas last year while Gorski had a 1.83 ERA in Double-A in 2013. Both of those players will be 25 on Opening Day next year, so it’s not like it would be rushing kids if they were to wind up in the majors in April. Give them the first crack if Mejia’s not ready or any pitcher gets injured

The bottom line is that whatever money the Mets have available to spend in the offseason should go towards hitting. Alderson can satisfy his dumpster fetish by bringing in a veteran pitcher on an NRI. But they should not sign someone to a contract like they did with Marcum last offseason and they should not remotely consider spending on someone like Bronson Arroyo or Ervin Santana.

25 comments for “It’s time for the Mets to stop dumpster diving for starters

  1. October 10, 2013 at 12:53 am

    Marcum got what? 4 million? If you start to average out the salaries with the amount of starts these injury prone rejects provide how is that cost efficient? For the life of me I don’t see why the Mets just refuse to bring up any of their kids to pitch. Wouldn’t you rather go to Citifield and watch these youngsters learn the art of pitching in the majors? At some point they’re going to have to learn and since the team is in rebuilding mode isn’t that the point? With such a limited budget to deal with SA needs to fix the offense(outfield) as his number one priority. And if the Mets fail to do so I don’t think Alderson will be beck in 2015.

    • Joe Vasile
      October 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      One win was worth $7,032,099 on the free agent market in 2013. I’d call over a win from Hefner on the minimum salary, plus positive contributions from Torres and Harang for peanuts cost efficient, even when you throw in the dreadful Marcum. Looking back, Capuano had a great season, and Young and Batista were roughly replacement level (which was all they were supposed to be). The only three dreadful signings of the Alderson era have been Marcum, D.J. Carrasco, and Frank Francisco, and those all were relatively low risk <$6mm/season. I can think of at least 10 worse signings from 2006-2010.

      • October 10, 2013 at 1:13 pm

        I thought I was being generous including Torres in this lot, given he had all of six starts in the majors prior to this year. But there’s no way that Hefner belongs, as he never appeared in the majors before the Mets picked him up.

        Where are you getting the $7 million per FA win number from?

      • Jerry Grote
        October 10, 2013 at 1:22 pm

        Joe … here is where I see a divergence. The signings weren’t terrible, sure and I actually give credit to SA for his work on developing starting pitching band aids from his arrival here.

        But the Mets could get “roughly replacement level” innings from their farm system and not pay anything for it in 2014. If the net result of signing Bronson Arroyo is 185-200 innings of even 2.5 WAR (which is cost efficient), what alpha are you gaining by expending money … if you can get 0-1.5 WAR from deGrom et al for free?

        Every penny that we have would be cost efficiently spent by improving the offense, not on pitching. At least, without putting words into Brian’s prodigious mouth (jk), that’s what I get from his post.

    • Za
      October 14, 2013 at 11:56 am

      You’re kidding, right? Of course the Mets have “brought the kids up to pitch”. What do you call Harvey and Wheeler? And Torres, for that matter, when you’re talking about bringing people up from the minors? Montero and DeGrom weren’t ready last year whereas there’s almost a 100% chance they’ll both see the majors in 2014 if they stay healthy. Even then, it makes sense to have insurance because of injuries. I’d be perfectly okay with signing another (not high-end) starter.

  2. blastingzone
    October 10, 2013 at 1:56 am

    Mejia didn’t have TJ surgery so there is no reason to think he won’t be ready in time for
    spring training? You have Dice K and Harang to compete for the 5th spot and if Mejia isn’t
    ready they can compete for the 4th and 5th spot along with there young pitchers that haven’t
    been traded? Is Montero along with Syndergaard subject to super 2’s next year because if they
    are you know the mets won’t let them make the team no matter how well they pitch in ST! Sandy
    can’t help himself and will sign a FA starting pitcher to be the 4th starter!!

    • Za
      October 14, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      Blastingzone, it really seems like you don’t get how pitching staffs are built, how contracts work, and how hard it is for a pitcher to have immediate success. Super 2 or not, it would definitely not make sense for Sandy to only get 6 years of a player if he could get 7 years of control. That’s why it’s unlikely Syndergaard or Montero make it onto the 25 man coming out of ST. The Super 2 deadline comes later.

  3. Jim OMalley
    October 10, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Cohoon…you never hear much about him. Torres was so-so. He had decent k:bb ratio but was hittable. If the Mets put cash into RF and SS and added offensive punch, Torres could get us some wins.

    • Za
      October 14, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      Torres was solid this past year. At least as a swing man, he’s miles beyond what Hefner offers us. Cohoon can’t succeed higher than AA. Maybe in Japan?

  4. Metsense
    October 10, 2013 at 8:16 am

    The Mets should not look to add a veteran pitcher and guarantee him a spot in the rotation.
    Niese, Gee, Wheeler and Mejia are a lock. Montero is supposed to be ready and Syndergaard is probably ready.
    In order to add a year to free agency control, it is understandable to hold them back to May 1st. If either pitched good in ST though then screw Super 2 and waiting until July, sometime you have to stop planning and begin competing. For this April have Torres, deGrom, Gorski and Cahoon compete and get that temporary 5th spot. The Mets need to know about these three rookies to make sure they are not Scwinden clones and this may be the only opportunity.Harvey, Hefner, Syndergaard and Montero will eventually be in the totation and are supposed to be better pitchers than they are. Alderson is a paradox. He wanted the fans to have patience for the past three years while he rebuilds the farm system and yet when there is an opportunity to utilize it he looks outside the organization. Doesn’t he have faith in his own work?

    • Dave
      October 10, 2013 at 3:15 pm

      Montero, Noah and Mejia are ALL going to be on innings/pitch limits. so unless you stagger their arrival you still need some back up. Figure Noah has 1/3 year in Vegas before he comes up. I figure Mejia if ready, gets a slot out of spring training. I think 1 dumpster diver as they were labeled is not a bad insurance policy.

      • October 10, 2013 at 9:51 pm

        Opening Day — Niese, Gee, Wheeler, Mejia, Tores
        First call – Gorski
        Second call – JDG

        Hopefully seven starting pitchers gets you an extra year of control with Montero & Syndergaard. With a little luck, seven gets you past Super Two, too.

  5. Scott
    October 10, 2013 at 9:00 am

    I’m fine with bringing back Dice K and Harang on minor league deals so they can compete with Torres and Mejia for the 4 and 5 slots in the rotation. I wouldn’t be opposed to throwing Johan into that mix on a similar deal. I’m intrigued by the Japanese pitcher. If he’s another Darvish, the Mets could have the best rotation in baseball by 2015 and still be able to deal pitching for a bat this year.

  6. DD
    October 10, 2013 at 11:57 am

    The fact is, this might be the only good opportunity the Mets have to find out what Gorski or deGrom have. Thor and Montero should be deemed ready for major league action at a point during the season, and they are but the beginning of a parade of young pitchers working through the system; it would be a mistake not to run out some of the immediately available talent out there and see what they can contribute. This holds true whether the Mets are considering deGrom of Gorski as part of the Mets future, or simply trying to enhance their trade value.

    My own shopping list would begin and nearly end with 1) Starlin Castro, 2)some as yet undefined hard hitting corner outfielder, and 3)Marlon Byrd, on an up to 2 year deal. That is plenty for Alderson to accomplish.

    • Za
      October 14, 2013 at 12:15 pm

      Starlin Castro is terribly overrated and has a huge contract for a guy who is only regressing in performance and attitude year to year. Jhonny Peralta would be cheaper, have a better attitude, and put up better numbers.

  7. October 10, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    I vote “YES” for Jenrry Mejia

  8. Josh
    October 10, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    Mostly good analysis, but how can you say to stop dumpster diving in one breath, then suggest Chris Schwinden as a better option in the next? Just because he HAS pitched in the majors doesn’t mean he CAN pitch in the majors.

    • October 10, 2013 at 9:51 pm

      Schwinden would be their 10th pitcher and hopefully not make more than an emergency start all year.

  9. Name
    October 10, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    First of all, I Don’t think Marcum deserves to be labeled as “Trash”. Yes, his traditional numbers this year were trash-worthy, but one could argue that was due to extreme bad luck as he had a 3.64 FIP. He had around a 3.7ish ERA over the last 3 seasons and dumpster-pieces don’t get $4 million + incentives in Free Agency.

    Personally, I make a distinction between reclamation projects and trash. So from that liast, the guys I would label trash are Batista, Harang, Laffey, Dice-k and Torres. On the position player side, Ankiel would be a perfect example of trash.

    It seems like you are contradicting yourself in this article. The whole purpose of the article, it seems to me, is that you don’t want money to spend money on significant starters like Arroyo and Santana. But those types of guys are clearly not “Dumpster pieces”. In fact, if you don’t want Sandy to spend money on a significant starter, you DO want Sandy to continue to acquire low-cost NRI dumpster pieces.

    As for guys like Gorski or deGrom, I would wholeheartedly support them if it were late in the season or if the Mets were out of contention, but I do not want to see those guys considered for April. In an earlier article I noted that that there was a high correlation between strong SP and making the postseason. In my view, SP is not something I would be taking a risk on, and guys like deGrom and Gorski are very risky players to count on in your rotation to start the year.

    However, almost no team only need 5 starters for the year (and certainly not the Mets), so they would be perfect 6th,7th, or 8th starters to have, but if you count on one of the to be the 5th, you’re going to have major issues if one of the other 4 go down as now you have to count on both of them in your rotation.

    • October 10, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      No one wanted Marcum because he came with injury problems and he was terrible in 2012 when he came back from injury. And as we found out (demanding a specific catcher an hour before game time, ripping GKR after he was gone) he’s a little bit of a problem guy, too. Yes, he got more money than Capuano, and Young but to me he’s no different. He’s a guy in the Mets’ price range only because of injury concerns. If he hadn’t been injured in 2012, he would have gotten a much bigger contract.

      Maybe the thing to do is create three tiers – minor leagues, minimum wage deals and more money guys. Here’s how they would fit:

      Minor League – Hefner, Laffey, Torres
      Minimum Wage – Batista, Harang, Matsuzaka,
      More Money – Capuano $1.5M, Young $1.1M, Marcum $4M+

      The minimum wage guys were mid-season pickups, which makes me think similar types would be available during the 2014 season, too, if we need them.

      So, screw the more money guys – whether that’s someone looking for $1 million or $15 million. Go ahead and sign a minor league guy (NRIs, if you will) especially since Alderson has done well with this type. But give the first shot to guys who’ve performed well in the upper minors.

      • Name
        October 11, 2013 at 1:10 am

        I’m still not sure I am that optimistic about deGrom and Gorski as you. Like I said earlier, they are guys I would like to first see in September or when the Mets are out of contention rather than in games that potentially count. And i’m definitely not going to hand one of them an open spot to start the season.

        I wouldn’t spend the big bucks on a Free agent starter, but if there’s a low-risk guy (up to a couple million) with upside, I’d have to consider it.

  10. Sean Flattery
    October 12, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Scott Feldman? Jorge De le Rosa? Joe Saunders? Jason Vargas? Etc… There’s alot of veteran, innings eaters who would be good options for next year..Even Barry Zito wouldn’t be terrible for just a year..If this year has shown us anything is you can’t have too much pitching. Plus, the innings caps on these young arms stresses needs for innings.

  11. October 13, 2013 at 12:39 am

    Why not do it the other way around? Go with the youngsters in the beginning and apply your payroll to upgrading the outfield. You can always find an inning eater at any time of the year. This way the kids learn to pitch at the major league level when it means something. Hard to gauge pitching in September when you’re facing teams that have been eliminated as well. Think about it. For what you will wind up paying for a Zito type pitcher(5 million+)would be the equivalent to the entire Met starting rotation!

  12. October 14, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Peralta will put up good numbers? Is that with or without the P.E.D.’S?

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