Those 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.