Jan. 23 -- Mets Pitching Update -- Sheets, Perez, etc.

2:00 PM

(6) Comments

Over the past couple of days, I have talked with some Mets people and some people outside the organization familiar with their thinking, and here are some of the notes I've come up with:

-With the signing of Freddy Garcia, the Mets are taking their cue from the Red Sox and the way they've approached their off-season. Boston signed Brad Penny and John Smoltz to low-base, incentive-type deals because they're injury risks that could, if healthy, be spectacularly helpful. This is why the Mets haven't totally ruled out a Pedro Martinez return -- thinking that a rotation of Santana/Maine/Pelfrey plus two-of-three from the Garcia/Martinez/Redding group (depending upon who's healthy) isn't a terrible fallback if they can't get another big-name guy.

-However, they are still pursuing another big-game guy, and right now there's a lot of discussion about whether that guy should be Ben Sheets. Omar Minaya and other high-ranking officials are thought to prefer Oliver Perez, but there are people in the organization who think their money would be better spent on Sheets, since he's a real No. 1-caliber pitcher when healthy and Perez is, at best, a No. 2 or 3 (with the walk rate of a No. 5). The thinking is that, with Garcia and Redding in the fold and Jonathon Niese at Triple-A, the Mets could "baby" Sheets -- be ultra-protective of his arm, get him extra rest when possible and make sure they have him healthy for September and (hopefully) October. The pro-Sheets voices in the organization fantasize about a Santana/Sheets combo that would potentially be the best 1-2 rotation punch in the National League.

-One issue, of course, is what kind of contract Sheets wants. Back in December, the Yankees were kicking around the idea of a two-year, $26 million guarantee with two option years that would vest if he stayed healthy during the guarantee portion of the contract. Time having passed and the market having slowed to a halt, Sheets probably wouldn't require $13 million per year to sign now. But the Mets are reluctant so far to offer two years, given Sheets' injury history. Perhaps the Texas Rangers' apparent interest could spur them to offer more, though it might also spur them to up their offer to Perez, if that's the guy they decide they prefer.

-The other issue, according to one person who's been in contact with the Mets' front office, is the fear that Sheets wouldn't be the only pitcher the Mets would have to "baby." There's a feeling in the organization that John Maine's shoulder problems, coming as they did after the departure of former pitching coach Rick Peterson, were no coincidence. Peterson had a program that sought out extra days of rest for Maine when the schedule permitted (off-days, rainouts, All-Star break, etc.) because he feared Maine's delivery made him a breakdown candidate if he pitched every fifth day for months at a time. Maine did break down in the second half last year, and some wonder if they'll have to build in extra rest for him in 2009 to make sure he's healthy. There is a companion concern about Mike Pelfrey, who pitched more innings in 2008 than he ever did before, though that concern is based more on theory, since Pelfrey did not have Maine's injury issues last year.

You get the picture. If the rotation is Santana/Maine/Pelfrey/Sheets/Garcia, that's three guys with injury/health concerns that would have to get extra rest whenever possible. Perez, whatever else he is, is durable and wouldn't need to be "babied." Putting together a rotation with so many guys who have had arm problems could create a logistical and managerial nightmare.

But one thing that's come through consistently in the conversations I've had about the Mets is that they're in no rush. They love Garcia. They think Redding is going to be very useful. They think Niese is ready to help at the major-league level. Basically, they feel they have options at the back end of the rotation and that there's still enough starting pitching on the market (we haven't even mentioned Jon Garland and Randy Wolf here) that they'll be able to add one more guy to the front and/or middle. Spring training may only be three weeks away, but that timetable isn't pushing the Mets to panic into a move they don't want to make.

6 Responses to "Jan. 23 -- Mets Pitching Update -- Sheets, Perez, etc."

MTI79 said :
January 23, 2009 at 6:05 PM
If it's a choice between Ollie and Sheets, you have to get Sheets. The fact is that when he's healthy, he can be as dominant a pitcher as there is in baseball. And seeing as how he'd probably cost less than Ollie would, sign Ben now. If the Mets are so confident in Niese and Redding then having to give Sheets and possibly Maine an extra day off here and there shouldn't pose too much of a problem. Keep one in the bullpen and the other as your 5th starter. Give spot starts to either depending on the opponent. Maybe every 2 trips through the rotation, go with the other guy or use a 6th man that week to buy the guys(other than Santana) an extra day.

Santana-Sheets-Maine-Pelfrey-Redding
Santana-Sheets-Maine-Pelfrey-Redding
Santana-Niese-Sheets-Maine-Pelfrey
Santana-Sheets-Maine-Pelfrey-Redding

It could work and that's not even considering Garcia into the equation.
Christian said :
January 23, 2009 at 6:11 PM
Perez...while a lefty is always a risk anyway. Which Oliver Perez shows up is my concern...lights out or bombs away! When he's on he's fun to watch, but when he's off so is my TV!
As a fan I don't have confidence in him!
Greg said :
January 24, 2009 at 2:36 AM
The Mets seem to be deluding themselves about their rotation

1) Niese is not ready. He demonstrated that last year; when he doesn't have his best stuff, he can't get major league hitters out. He's hardly a potential ace even if he is ready; he projects as a 4th starter. I wouldn't be shocked if Brad Holt establishes himself as a major league starter before Niese does. The Mets might want to keep Niese in the bullpen and use him in long relief to get him some experience in the majors, however.

2 Garcia/Redding/Martinez are not Smoltz/Penny. The latter two have had great seasons as recently as 2007. None of the former 3 have approached that level in quite a while.

3) Perez may have more stamina than Sheets, but the Mets end up effectively babying him anyway, since you never know when he'll fall apart and has to frequently be removed early from games as a result

4) Pelfrey is very likely to regress. It's very hard to stay a successful starter while throwing 85% fastballs, and his inefficiency makes him a fairly likely candidate for injury.

This is a team with amazing little pitching depth (not that it has much offensive depth, either; there's a reason the Mets have had the one of the smallest 40-man rosters in baseball all winter). If nothing else, they absolutely need to end up with either Perez of Sheets - if not, they might as well just give up on the season. Even with Perez or Sheets, they are gambling quite a lot on the health of those starters.
Michael said :
January 24, 2009 at 12:11 PM
I was under the impression that Garcia reinjured his shoulder this offseason and barely got a contract last year with the Tigers. So, of course the Mets take a chance on him.

Sheets would be a nice bargain at this point, though on any other team I'd imagine him staying healthy all year long.

What about Adam Dunn? He has back-to-back-to-back 40 home run seasons with nice offensive stats that SABR people like. I guess the fans would hate all the strikeouts. His defense is brutal/Abreu-esque, but let's look at the three worst everyday outfielders in baseball: Burrell, Ibanez, and Manny, in that order. And they'll all be fine this off-season.

As a Yankees fan, I almost want the Yanks to sign Dunn and move Nady, since their price would be about the same.
rw6194 said :
January 25, 2009 at 11:49 AM
I think Sheets can be had for 2 years for as little as 7-8M per (plus a ton of incentives). To me, it's a no-brainer getting him over Perez. Better still, if you get Sheets at 8M, there's a decent chance the Mets can also add an outfielder (even if it's not Manny).
Drew Kerr said :
January 25, 2009 at 8:04 PM
Dan:

You really write great stuff.

Please do all your fans a favor and create an RSS feed for this blog so we can read you easily every time you post.

THANKS.


Drew

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