I took my bag into a grocer’s store
The price is higher than the time before
Old man asked me why is it more
Dumpster diving is more expensive than it used to be. To get a pitcher with a 6.65 ERA and 1.646 WHIP in 89.1 IP last year, the Mets had to pay Luis Severino $13 million, plus $2 million in incentives on a one-year deal with no team option. That seems, um, crazy. Without a doubt, the Mets need pitchers, both starters and relievers. And all of the deals so far for starting pitching have been for $10 million or more. No doubt some will just shrug and say that this is the going rate. It’s the going rate now. But will it be the going rate in late January?
The Mets were linked to Severino almost immediately, so you can say they got their guy. To which one might reply – be careful what you wish for because it might not be what you think. If you’ve been reading this site for any length of time, you know one of my pet peeves is the organization’s fascination with guys who were good on another team three or more years ago but who now stink.
It was one thing to employ this type of strategy when the budget was tight and the reclamation projects were cheap. It wasn’t good, mind you, but at least it was more defensible. Back in 2011, the Mets signed Chris Capuano as this type of pitcher for $1.5 million. Capuano had been an 18-game winner in 2005 and had a decent 2006. But 2007 was limited to 71.1 fewer innings than the year before and he missed all of 2008 and 2009. Capuano returned in 2010 and appeared in 66 innings and posted a 102 ERA+ in his last year before joining the Mets. In his one season in Queens, Capuano gave the Mets 186 IP and an 81 ERA+.
And this was a success story, as he made 31 starts.
The same offseason, the Mets signed future Rangers GM Chris Young. Between 2005-07, Young was 32-20 with a 117 ERA+. But he made just 36 appearances the next three years, with a 92 ERA+. The Mets signed him and he pitched in four games in 2011 before missing the rest of the season.
In 2013, the Mets went dumpster diving for Shaun Marcum, who gave them 78.1 IP and went 1-10 with a 68 ERA+ for $4 million. Later that year, the dumpster diving continued with Aaron Harang and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Harang was solid in four starts so they let him leave. Matsuzaka was worse in seven games (81 ERA+) so of course they brought him back for 2014, where he gave 83 IP at an 89 ERA+.
The Mets took a break from this type of starter for several years, as their farm system was cranking out pitchers and the one player they did sign to supplement the rotation was Bartolo Colon, who joined the team after throwing 190.1 IP with a 147 ERA+. He was both healthy and good in the immediate year before joining the Mets and not a dumpster signing.
But the Mets returned to that model in 2020, when they signed Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. Porcello won the CY Award in 2016 but had gotten worse every season since, with an 88 ERA+ in the year before joining the Mets. In 12 games during the Covid year, Porcello went 1-7 with a 76 ERA+ in what turned out to be his final year in the majors at age 31.
Wacha was a 17-game winner in 2015 but hadn’t matched that type of season the following four years. In his last season before joining the Mets, Wacha had an 88 ERA+ in 126.2 IP. He turned in a 65 ERA+ with a 1.559 WHIP in 34 IP for the Mets. Wacha was underwhelming the following year, too, for the Rays. But he’s been solid the past two seasons. Perhaps something was unlocked in Tampa.
Both Porcello and Wacha signed with the Mets for fewer than half the dollars they were making the previous year. That was still a hefty contract for Porcello, who pulled down $10 million. But at least he was healthy, having made 98 starts in the three seasons since winning the award for being the top pitcher.
Meanwhile, Severino is coming off a 4/$40 million contract, albeit one that was backloaded. Last year he pulled down $15 million. Unlike Porcello and Wacha, Severino is not coming in at a significantly reduced rate. If he reaches his incentives, it will be for the same money he made a season ago.
My opinion is that most Mets fans are in favor of this signing, with one slightly ridiculous caveat. The line read from multiple people across multiple platforms is that they like the deal if Severino is their fifth starter and not their 2/3. Who on earth thinks he’ll be their third starter, much less their second?
It’s a natural tendency to put more weight on performances that you’ve seen. With Severino coming from the Yankees, it’s likely that many people witnessed his 2017-18 peak. Combine that with the magic pixie dust of “being able to perform in New York,” and it’s understandable that most people favor this dumpster-diving move.
Just don’t put me in that category. My opinion is that this is a waste of money, which could be used better elsewhere. My hope is that this turns into a repeat of the Tommy Pham signing of a year ago, one that left me cold when it happened but turned around to the point where I wrote an article imploring the Mets to make him a starter.
But you won’t see me making a wager on that outcome.