Mets should consider Daisuke Matsuzaka for rotation depth

Daisuke MatsuzakaMost of the top free agent hitters have inked deals for 2014 and beyond but the same cannot be said for the top free agent pitchers. Seemingly, everyone is waiting to see where Masahiro Tanaka lands – and for how much – before the other top hurlers make their deals. Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo and Paul Maholm are still available.

The glut of SP on the top half of the market makes things tough for those at the bottom half. There are a bunch of guys who are questionable if they will get a guaranteed deal or if they will end up with a minor league contract and an invitation to Spring Training. Two guys likely to be had on NRIs are ones who pitched last year for the Mets – Aaron Harang and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Both players had brief moments of good pitching for the Mets last year. After failing miserably with Seattle in the beginning of the year, it looked like Harang’s career was over. But he came to the Mets and threw three Quality Starts in four outings and posted a 3.52 ERA in 23 IP. If Harang still has the desire to pitch, and is willing to go to the minors to prove it, those numbers should earn him an NRI from some club.

Matsuzaka made more appearances for the Mets. He looked absolutely horrible in his first three starts but in his final four appearances, he looked terrific. In those four games he posted the following line:

26.1 IP, 1.37 ERA, 0.835 WHIP, 2.3 K/BB, .461 OPS

In his last start of the season, Matsuzaka pitched 7.2 scoreless innings against the Reds and allowed just four hits and struck out six batters. It certainly looked like it took a few outings for Matsuzaka to find his sea legs but that he proved he could still be successful in the majors.

Now, you may be saying – It’s a small sample, so what difference does it make? Well, Edinson Volquez hasn’t had four games like that since 2008 and last year he put up a 5.71 ERA yet he got $5 million guaranteed from the Pirates. If you had to gamble on a pitcher, would you really take Volquez over Matsuzaka? Would you pay 10 times more for the privilege? It seems backwards to me.

My preference is for Jenrry Mejia to be the Mets’ fifth starter this year. If an opening arises in the starting rotation, there are a bunch of guys in the farm system that deserve to get a shot. But we all know that the Mets are going to sign a veteran pitcher to an NRI – so why not Matsuzaka? Sure, he rivals Steve Trachsel in terms of being a frustrating guy to watch. But he showed that he still could get major league hitters out last September. And that’s what’s important with a veteran signed for rotation depth.

Perhaps Matsuzaka is unwilling to sign a minor league deal. If that’s the case then there should be no problem with the Mets moving on to the next guy on the list. But there are going to be warts on whichever veteran the Mets bring in for depth. A wart for Matsuzaka is that he’s a chore to watch work on the mound. But he’s healthy and has an established level of performance (4.52 ERA, 4.57 xFIP) that makes him a quality depth guy.

13 comments for “Mets should consider Daisuke Matsuzaka for rotation depth

  1. Name
    January 10, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    I’m quite surprised to see this was written by you Brian considering you’re one of the biggest Gorski/deGrom supporters. Even though I’m not high on Gorski/deGrom and would loathe the idea of either of breaking camp with the Mets, i’m even more opposed to Dice-K, even on a minor league deal. I don’t even want Dice-K to be an option for Sandy/Terry, because I’m sure he’ll make his way to the Mets at some point, which is something I can’t stand.

    The guys i’d look at are Bruce Chen, Gaudin, Nienmann, Travis Blackley

  2. pal88
    January 10, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    I’D rather have dce k than Garcia…thats the latest ugly rumor

  3. Eric Schwartz
    January 10, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    It can’t hurt to give him a good look in spring training. You never know.

  4. Steve Rogers
    January 10, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Ehhhhh…not as high on him as I was when he was here during the summer. I guess, if its a warm body as a NRI to help stock up in the minors. But on the major league level…ehh.

  5. JimO
    January 10, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Bring him to Spring Training; give him his walking papers if he doesn’t perform and doesn’t want to accept a minor league assignment. If the Mets got ten starts with him and he goes close to .500; what is wrong with that?

  6. January 11, 2014 at 12:52 am

    I think A,J, will re-sign with the Pirates or retire. I don’t think the Mets will be in any hurry and will wait to see what’s left over the next 6 weeks. I could live with Dice-K as the 5th starter coming out of spring training. If he pitches well then SA can move him at trading deadline and bring up Syndegaard.

  7. Metsense
    January 11, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    The average NL starter pitches 6 innings. A starting pitcher should get 32 starts in a year or 192 innings. Gee, Niese and Colon have endured that seasonal workload at least once in their careers. The Mets usually add 30 innings of workload a season to their new pitchers so Wheeler’s 2013 169 innings with 30 added will also make the grade.
    The Mets need a 5th starter.
    Based on the Mets inning limit, Montero could go 185 innings, deGrom could go to 166 innings, Syndergaard could go to 148 innings, and Mejia could go 81 innings although Mejia in 2012 did pitch 109 innings so he could go out to 140 innings.
    So starting the season, if Mejia is the 5th starter, how long into the season will they allow him to pitch? Probably long enough so that Syndergaard takes his spot but only if they continue to limit Syndergaard to 5 innings a start at AAA.
    Montero is the starter who enters the rotation if there is an injury. deGrom should also be in AAA on the 5 inning plan in case he is needed later in the summer. All these young pitchers should get a taste of the big leagues in 2014. It is important for them to gain some major league experience and loose their rookie jitters in a season that the Mets will likely not contend. It will make 2015 easier.I have no problem signing any veteran to a minor league contract because you always need pitching injury insurance. I see no reason to sign a Dice-k like veteran pitcher to a MLB contract and hold back the young arms.

    • January 12, 2014 at 12:12 am

      These are the type of things that usually work themselves out with injuries. The last two years the Mets have only had two pitchers in each season clear 150 IP. I’m not too worried about our fifth starter maxing out his innings.

      But I’d love to be wrong here.

  8. TexasGusCC
    January 11, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    Very good points about Matsuzaka, but, what if the kids do well? The type of pitcher referred to in the above article must be willing to go to Las Vegas and be pitching as depth. No one is going to jump at that, so a signing will be closer to late January from someone left unsigned than right now. Harang is a possibility; so is Richard, Gaudin, Garland… You get the idea.

  9. Robby
    January 12, 2014 at 11:42 am

    would not be a bad idea at all as long as he would accept minor league assignment if he doesn’t make the team out of camp.

  10. Jerry Grote
    January 12, 2014 at 11:47 am

    I have my own reasons to not like Dice-K.

    My opinion is that you develop a culture, and you only accept pieces that fit into that culture. The only exceptions should be made for really good reasons.

    Seems to me that culture in Queens and throughout the organization is to throw strikes, and throw them relatively quickly. Walk few.

    I don’t see how Dice-K reinforces that culture.

    • TexasGusCC
      January 13, 2014 at 12:31 am

      Good point.

      • Patrick Albanesius
        January 13, 2014 at 3:47 pm

        Dice-K has never been the picture of health throughout his American career. I don’t trust him to throw 50 innings, let alone hand the rotation over the to the young guys come summer time.

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