Mets pitching options for 2014

Reverse LogoPitching will be the identity of the New York Mets for years to come.

With so much talent already at the major league level, even with ace Matt Harvey and pleasant surprise Jeremy Hefner on the shelf for 2014, and more on the verge of coming up, the team from Queens appears to finally have one strength.

Southpaw Jonathon Niese will probably serve as the de facto 2014 ace, at least until super prospect Zack Wheeler proves he can live up to the hype in his first full year. Veteran Dillon Gee quietly had a very good year after a poor opening, and figures to be a middle of the rotation starter.

Harvey obviously would have been top dog and Hefner seemingly earned another crack at starting full-time, but those two slots remain vacant. Long man Carlos Torres exploded onto the scene in June and former top prospect Jenrry Mejia showed electrifying stuff despite multiple trips to the DL, prompting some conversation about a back of the rotation job for one. Free agent journeymen Aaron Harang and Daisuke Matsuzaka soaked up some innings along the end of the season.

Since the off-season began, General Manager Sandy Alderson has publicly said he expects to bring in at least one starting pitcher. That probably makes the most sense, although it’s not the only method of filling the rotation.

Alderson could go back to a veteran like Harang or Matsuzaka that will eat innings and carry a low price tag at the cost of ability and stats. Harang made his Mets debut in September, finishing 0-1 in four starts with a 3.52 ERA and 26 strikeouts over 23 innings. He made $3 million with the Dodgers in 2012 and received nearly all of his $7 million for 2013 from the Dodgers and Seattle Mariners. A 35-year-old veteran reliant on mixing up six pitches that top out at 91 MPH, Harang is likely to get closer to $3 million, pitch most of the season and have an ERA well north of 4. Matsuzaka was released by the Indians in late August and struggled as a Met, hammered for 15 earned runs in 12.1 innings. But the 33-year-old Japanese pitcher settled down, yielding just four earned runs in his next 26.1 innings. Cleveland paid most of his $1.5 million salary for 2013. He also mixes in several pitches, including a cutter, slurve and changeup. Comparing the two veterans, Matsuzaka has the better ERA – 4.42 in 2013 and 4.52 for career, while Harang strikes out more batters. Neither pitcher should earn more than a few million from a team looking to add a fifth starter with some experience on the cheap.

The Mets could also opt to look a higher tier of free agents this winter. Both Bronson Arroyo and Phil Hughes are on the market, as is Matt Garza. The 30-year-old Garza has to be among the best on the list, with a career 3.84 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings, very close to his totals in a 155 IP-2013 campaign. Reliant on control to make his fastballs, slider and changeup effective, the righty earned $10 million with the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers last year. There’s no chance he signs for anything less that after Dan Haren signed for 1-year/$10 million with Dodgers this month and Edwin Jackson inked a four-year/$52 million deal in January. Not only would this type of signing cut into the remaining $25 million this off-season, but it would block upcoming prospects like Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero. Arroyo would also occupy a rotation slot, publicly demanding a three-year deal. Hughes earned $7.15 million from the deep pockets of the Yankees, but his 5.19 ERA, 1.48 home runs per nine innings and low innings pitched will drive him out of pinstripes in 2014. The good news is that a change of scenery away from the 314 foot porch in right field could do the righty well, as lefty pull hitters hit a disproportionate amount of home runs there and his 2013 road stats include a 3.88 ERA. A National League team and/or organization with a bigger park could gamble on a team-friendly, one-year deal with Hughes.

Tossing Alderson’s public comments aside, theoretically the Mets could also look at internal options. The 23-year-old Mejia threw just 27.1 innings last season, but sported a 2.35 ERA and 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings before getting sidelined to clean up bone chips in his shoulder. His stuff – a 90s fastball, slider and curveball – all look ridiculous at times, although Mejia has never stayed on the field and pitched consistently for a whole season. Of the Mets prospects, Syndegaard is by far their best prospect, as well as one of the best in the game. The young righty has both an explosive fastball and curveball to go along with a solid changeup. With just 54 innings at Double-A Binghamton last season and a very lucrative contract likely in six years, Alderson could delay the clock by leaving Syndegaard in the minors for at least a month. On the other hand, Montero has 155 innings pitched in Double-A and Triple-A Las Vegas, and he doesn’t project to be the same stud Syndegaard and Wheeler are. The 23-year-old looked solid last season with a combined 2.78 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings. He boasts a healthy fastball with good movement and power, but his slider isn’t quite there and his changeup needs work. More minor league innings in 2014 could make the difference between starting and relieving in his career.

At this early point in the off-season, the facts seem to outweigh the temptation to hand Syndegaard or Montero a job in Spring Training. Neither is quite ready for the Big Show and extra time away from a likely-disappointing major league squad won’t make a discernible difference. On the other hand, signing an expensive pitcher to a long-term deal is a terrible idea if Alderson values their pitching prospects and injured major leaguers. It also pulls money away from a small pool to begin with, limiting the offense for whoever takes the mound at Citi Field in 2014. Someone like Hughes could offer the best risk/reward for a fair price, and could always be replaced mid-season by Montero if the bigger park doesn’t help.

28 comments for “Mets pitching options for 2014

  1. tom
    November 26, 2013 at 8:58 am

    Syndergaard and Montero should both be called up around May 1 and added to the rotation. I am sure both are working on their ‘weaknesses’ over the winter and both will be ready enough on opening day to hold their own, and certainly by May 1 – but the Wilpons will want to wait until mid-June to keep them cheap for as many years as possible. I’d opt to call them up after the first rookie time hurdle in late April, not wait til mid-June and not sign other veteran pitchers who will cost bucks that could be put to use elsewhere, and sign HITTERS…TRY TO WIN IN 2014. Would it be so bad if their major league ERAs between May 1 and mid-June were 4.50? Montero dominated his last several AAA starts, and Syndegaard has superior stuff that will give him the ability to cope in the adjustment months.

    Wright is hinting VERY LOUDLY ABOUT IMPROVING THE TEAM NOW. LOSING BYRD, BUCK, A LOT OF HITTING IS MISSING JUST TO GET BACK TO EVEN WITH 2013 (and “getting back to even” is quite mediocre). They need to wake up and accommodate him.

  2. November 26, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Mike why would the Mets invest 5-7 million dollars on any starter when as you stated the young pitchers will be ready for the major leagues at a fraction of the cost? Arroyo is not an option when there is only 20-25 million left for the team to spend. Phil Hughes? Why? At what salary? 3 million? 4 million? What a waste of time and energy.
    Tom it isn’t going to matter if the Mets bring up the kids May 1 or June 1. They will both be limited as to how many innings they will be allowed to pitch. So that being said the organization knows that 2014 is a continuation of their rebuilding program. You want to win with what offense?

    • Steve S.
      November 26, 2013 at 10:16 am

      Agreed. Count on the Mets signing Harang or Dice-K, inserting Meija into the rotation in spring training, and bringing up Montero and Syndergaard when it’s “safe” for the Wilpons to get another year of control for them.

      Offense? I think there’s a chance they’ll sign either Cruz or Granderson (probably the latter, to bat behind Wright). Shortstop–a trade. They have Davis, Montero, and Murphy as chips.

      • November 26, 2013 at 10:51 am

        Steve I agree about the pitching. Better to apply whatever funds are left to the offense. The price for signing Cruz just went up. You can blame that on the Cardinals for their outlandish contract to Peralta. I don’t see the Mets paying Cruz 10-15 million for 2-3 years. A trade for a corner outfielder is a possibility using Montero and Murphy as chips. But Davis is a cow chip right now and what you get in return is going to be a low level minor league player. I still say Granderson is not coming here. It’s all a smoke screen and when the smoke clears you’ll have a player similar to Young being added to the offense.

    • November 26, 2013 at 11:19 am

      Considering Hughes’ major league career could be wavering, I have to imagine he can be had for just a little more than one of the retread innings-eaters. Take him on a low risk/high reward deal and if either Montero or Syndegaard are ready to contribute, deal him for a legitimate bat.

      Keep in mind there are technically two rotation slots without established starters. Maybe Montero comes up this summer, but Hughes could still occupy a space if Mejia gets hurt again.

      • NormE
        November 26, 2013 at 5:05 pm

        Mike, unfortunately I believe that your last sentence should read “when Mejia gets hurt again.”

  3. November 26, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Syndergaard comes up in May and Montero will be right behind him. Let’s not forget that the kids will have inning restrictions placed on them. That’s why you sign Dice-K or Harang to a minimum salary knowing if they pitch well they’ll be traded to a contender at the trading deadline. That’s a pretty good incentive to pitch your heart out. Hughes at 3-4 million dollars doesn’t make sense when in the back of your mind you know the kids are coming up in May and June next season. Don’t forget you have Torres available as an emergency starter if need be.

    • November 26, 2013 at 12:06 pm

      But if Torres is your longman, who’s the other starter beside Harang/Montero?

  4. November 26, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Montero should start the season with the Mets. I can accept Super 2’ing Syndergaard, though I don’t agree with it.

    If we are in fact a small-market team, we need to pitch the young guys. Look at Oakland in 2011, 2012. Rookies got the starts.

    As far as Super 2’ing Syndergaard, I’m doubtful it will save much money, since they’ll need to fill the hole with a veteran, bore the already distrustful fans, all for the questionable pay out in, what, 6 years from now? A lot can happen between then and now.

    • Name
      November 26, 2013 at 2:35 pm

      An extra year of both their primes in their 7th year in the league is worth more than 20 days in their first season.
      And it’s not just money, it’s about years of control. That means paying them free agent dollars one year later, or if you plan on trading them, getting a better package because they are under control for 1 longer year or trading them 1 year later than you might have if you didn’t keep them down for 20 days.

  5. November 26, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Gee, Niese, Harang, Wheeler, Torres. If you can add Dice-K to a minimum salary then you do it and shift Torres back to the pen. Apply 20 -23 million to left field, shortstop, a veteran back up catcher and the bull pen. Fill out the remainder of the roster with all the spare parts the team already has. If nothing changes over the winter(you never know) the infield comes in at about 30 million. The outfield 10-12 million. Starters 13-15 million. Bull pen 6-7 million. Catchers 3 million( includes a vet free agent back up) Bench 4-5 million. Total 70 million. If this happens I hope the fan base revolts!

  6. Name
    November 26, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    I can’t believe that people think that Harang and Dice-K are legitimate options for the rotation. I was for the signing when they occurred to eat up some innings, but I think that might have been the wrong decision as some people actually think they’re MLB quality, which they’re clearly not.
    Maybe people are lazy, but I keep seeing the same “options” come up. Arroyo to the Mets has never made sense, yet it keeps coming up as a rumor (thank you Metsblog).
    I really liked Colby Lewis, and he was just signed to a minor league deal! with a 2 mil base up to 4 mil with incentives. Maybe there was a wink and nod from the GM to Lewis that he was guaranteed to be on the team, but could Alderson not have offered a similar package while on a major league deal?

    If one does some research, there are plentiful amount of guys who are in the 2-5 mil price range who are decent and would only need 1 year deals:
    Scott Baker
    Jeff Karstens
    Paul Maholm
    Jeff Niemann
    Ryan Vogelsong

    Some minor deal flyers worth looking into:
    Jon Garland
    Chris Capuano
    Freddy Garcia
    Jair Jurrjens
    Jason Marquis
    Tsuyoshi Wada

    • Jerry Grote
      November 26, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      Between a really good choice, and a bad choice, what’s the difference here – extrapolated over roughly 80 innings of work before the cavalry/deadline arrives? What? 20 runs?

      So reach out, but the most this position warrants is perhaps $2MM if that. The Mets should be spending every dollar and every possible resource in terms of time and effort, getting the best 8 on the field.

      Worrying about the 5th starter for the first 15 starts is pretty much like jumping over dollars to pick up quarters.

      • Name
        November 27, 2013 at 12:19 am

        I see you’re assuming we have a solid, reliable 4th starter and the Mets rarely have injuries to their SP and whoever we sign will slot in as #5. Mejia and/or Torres have yet to make 10 mlb starts in a season and were both ineffective before 2013.
        The correlation between SP ERA and playoffs clubs is too strong for me to ignore and I think that SP is the most important component for playoff success in this day and age. I’d rather punt on one of the 8 position players than one of the 5 SP slots.

        • November 27, 2013 at 1:04 am

          One other note. The Mets are not a playoff team this year. I’m being realistic. There are too many question marks on offense. SA will continue to rebuild. I am not assuming that we have a solid anything other than at third base. Be that as it may, Niese, Wheeler and Gee are your starters for 2013. Mejia and Torres can split as your 5th starter with Torres available as your long man out of the pen. You only need one reclamation project for what 10 starts? By the trading deadline that pitcher is gone anyway. How many teams have reliable 4th and 5th starters? Not even the Yankees with their bloated payroll can say they do.

    • November 26, 2013 at 11:50 pm

      Name the pitching is in place already. What the team needs is temporary help in the beginning of the season. By the end of May Syndergaard should be in the starting rotation followed by Montero. Torres can be used as an emergency starter. Harvey returns in 2015(I know 160 innings). So is it worth signing any of the pitchers you mentioned? They’ll only be blocking the progress for which Met fans have been clamoring for. I would rather see one of the kids pitch to a 4 ERA and take his lumps and learn what it takes to pitch at the big league level than see anyone on your list.The Mets have a better footing with their pitching. We can all see that the main weakness is the outfield with no viable solutions now or in the immediate future on their current roster. Stop gap players on offense is not the answer. You can get away with it as a pitcher who pitches every 5th start but on offense you can’t hide it.

      • Name
        November 27, 2013 at 12:23 am

        I’d bet a million bucks that Syndergaard won’t be in Flushing at any point in May, even if all 5 current SP have their pitching arms chopped off.

        • November 27, 2013 at 11:57 pm

          So Name do you think June is too early or the all-star break?

  7. November 27, 2013 at 12:09 am

    Not quite sure why everyone just assumes the front office can just call up Thor or Montero, and expect them to dominate. If you re-read my post, you’ll notice I said that Montero’s breaking stuff needs a fair amount of work and Syndegaard has 50 innings at Double-A. Neither is ready for an immediate call up if you want them to succeed long term.

    And even if you did call them up in spring training and they did succeed, who’s the other starter? I’m seeing a lot of Torres in the bullpen, so it’s not him. Mejia hasn’t stayed healthy and Jeurys Familia will probably end up in the pen, if at all. You need someone to pitch every five days; might as well try to find a bargain like Hughes. I’m not advocating for a long-term deal like Arroyo to block the kids or an overpriced starter like Garza to suck up all of the money, but they need someone!

    One more thing. Offense attracts fans, but pitching and defense wins championships. I’d wager money they’d survive better with another good rotation and a mildly upgraded offense compared to a downgraded rotation and significantly upgraded offense.

    • Sean Flattery
      November 27, 2013 at 4:44 pm

      I agree. The assmuption these two are gonna get called up and just hit the ground running is optimistic. Also, with Wheeler and Mejia in rotation, there are innings caps aplenty to go around. They need a somewhat reliable veteran in the rotation, that’s an obvious!

      • November 27, 2013 at 11:56 pm

        The kids are going to take their lumps and have bad outings and be inconsistent. But this coming season is perfect for them. No expectation or pressure to win now. The same way Wheeler was up and down and had his moments. That’s why I see no point in signing any free agent pitcher for more than 3-4 million dollars. And if the team signs a veteran pitcher he’ll be traded by the deadline to continue replenishing the farm system. If any free agent pitchers fit that profile then SA will have him on his short list.

  8. November 27, 2013 at 12:34 am

    Since as you say both kids will not be ready Met management will not mind that. The 20 day waiting period is just another tool that the team will use to extend an additional year of control for that player and how SA fully utilizes the system. So while they may be with the parent ball club in spring training, the notion of them starting the year at Citifield is nonexistent. Hughes at 3-4 million dollars is a waste of money. So the team has 3 starters for now with Torres available as a temporary starter, So SA will go dumpster shopping on a reclamation project (Dice-K or Harang) that can be used in a trade at the trading deadline for more prospects. I don’t think the Mets will sink any more money than what they feel is necessary for a temporary fix. Mejia if he can stay healthy can be a spot starter as well. Harvey is back in 2015 albeit with limited innings. With 22-24 million left to invest on shortstop, left field, first base, bullpen and a back up veteran catcher your options are quickly dwindling.

  9. Metsense
    November 28, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Ideally the Mets bring up Montero in May (to get one year of control), and Syndergaard in July to avoid Super 2. In the mean time pitch Torres until Montero is here. Of the 86 NL pitchers who pitched 90 innings Torres profiles as a better than average 5th starter assuming 5th starters are pitchers ranked 70 – 85. Torres stats and rank are as follows:
    4.88 FIP (72), 4.89 ERA (70), 1.29 WHIP (45).
    The Mets should still pick up a very cheap veteran starter (nothing long term) because it is foolish to think that one of the starters won’t get injured during spring training. The other possibility is that a pitcher may get traded for an offensive position player. Pitching keeps them in ball games and you never have enough pitching.

    • November 28, 2013 at 9:04 am

      Metsense that should be the route the Mets should take. That would mean the team only spends about 10-11 million dollars on their starting rotation with a cheap veteran included. So why can’t they apply the remaining 20-25 million on a dependable right fielder and let CY play left field? As of today their infield comes in at 30 million barring any trades. Bull pen 6-7 million and catching 2-3 million if they sign a veteran catcher. Your 8 remaining spots take 4 million. Total 55 million and they can’t sign Choo? Why not? Even 17 million for 4 years is feasible.

  10. November 28, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    So much for Hughes… Sounds like he wants at least two years now, which would block the kids in 2015.
    http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york/mets/post/_/id/79809/mets-out-on-phil-hughes

    • December 1, 2013 at 3:25 am

      Hey Mike! Hughes just signed with a small market team. The Twins signed him 3 years for 24 million dollars! So much for those Met fans who were looking to get him or any other comparable starter for loose change.

      • December 1, 2013 at 11:49 am

        I guess he’ll do better in Target Field since it’s so much bigger than Yankee Stadium, but three years? Injury concerns are an issue too, especially over such a long deal, at least for a player trying to rebuild his value.

        What makes this all worse is that when I looked it up on MLB Trade Rumors, the post immediately under that says the Mets are “on the fence” about signing Arroyo. He’s been rumored to get a two year deal with an option for a third. Way too long and I don’t see how a back of the rotation guy is very attractive at the trade deadline.

  11. December 1, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    I know it’s about supply and demand but this is ridiculous. Hughes was inconsistent and ineffective at times. The Twins had the worse ERA in the majors least year. It just goes to show you that some teams are willing to take on an average pitcher no matter the length of the contract. On a side note. This is what I was referring to when all you need is one obscure team targeting a player the Mets might want to sign. You’re going to see more contracts like this because teams will be willing to reinvest their additional 25 million dollars from the new television deal which goes into effect in 2014. Unfortunately the Mets can’t do that since they’re broke and deeply in debt.

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