Oct 03

Looking At Mets’ Free Agent Starting Pitching Options

GM Sandy Alderson said the New York Mets have the resources to shop this winter. However, it is more likely they will opt for several mid-tier free agents rather than cash it in on one number, such as it might take for Bartolo Colon or Tim Lincecum.

Given that, here’s his shopping list for this winter, beginning with the starting pitching. I will address the bullpen, catchers and position players over the next few days.

ARROYO: Interested in Mets.

ARROYO: Interested in Mets.

Everybody talks of the need for power, and I agree, but a bat is not as important as rounding out the rotation. History is dominated with slugging teams that didn’t win the World Series, or reach the playoffs.

When you consider the Mets’ postseason success, it has always been built on pitching over power.

With Matt Harvey a question, the free-agent market has several options of potential innings-eaters who could be had without breaking the bank, and I’m not talking about bringing back Johan Santana or Shaun Marcum, either.

While Alderson left the door open for Santana’s return, he likely said that as a courtesy. Santana is still rehabbing from a second surgery to repair a partially torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder. The first surgery came in September 2010, but after a 19-month recovery, he blew out his shoulder in a hissy fit by making an unauthorized throwing session.

Santana underwent a second surgery April 2.

Safer options are bringing back Aaron Harang, whom the Mets hold an option for 2014, and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Alderson didn’t dismiss either as a possibility earlier this week.

Bronson Arroyo has already expressed an interest in the Mets, so I suspect Alderson will contact him. Arroyo was 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA while pitching 202 innings over 32 starts for the Reds.

He’ll be 37 in spring training and made $8.25 million last season. However, as a contender, Cincinnati could be justified that expenditure. That might not be the case with the Mets, but Arroyo is an innings horse, having pitched at least 199 in every year since 2005.

Personally, although he had a miserable season, I believe Phil Hughes could benefit from a change of scenery and the larger confines of Citi Field. He’s only 27 and two years ago won 16 games. In 2010, he won 18.

The Mets said they want to stay away from injury reclamation projects, but Toronto’s Josh Johnson is one of the most intriguing name on the list.

He recently had bone spurs removed from his elbow. A short-term contract loaded with incentives is the likely way to go. If you’re going to roll the dice on an injury, go with the soon-to-be 30 Johnson over Santana.

Johnson was 2-8 with a 6.20 ERA for Toronto after consecutive down seasons with Miami. However, he led the NL with a 2.30 ERA while striking out 186 batters in 2010.

Sure, he’s a risk, but would you rather have the Mets call back Mike Pelfrey?

COMPLETE LIST

* Denotes club has option

Bronson Arroyo
Scott Baker
Erik Bedard
Nick Blackburn *
A.J. Burnett
Chris Capuano *
Chris Carpenter
Bruce Chen
Bartolo Colon
Aaron Cook
Jorge De La Rosa
Scott Feldman
Gavin Floyd
Jeff Francis
Armando Galarraga
Jon Garland
Matt Garza
Roy Halladay *
Jason Hammel
Aaron Harang *
Rich Harden
Dan Haren
Roberto Hernandez
Tim Hudson
Phil Hughes
Ubaldo Jimenez *
Josh Johnson
Jeff Karstens
Hiroki Kuroda
John Lannan
Jon Lester *
Colby Lewis
Ted Lilly
Tim Lincecum
Derek Lowe
Paul Maholm
Shaun Marcum
Jason Marquis
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Brett Myers *
Ricky Nolasco
Mike Pelfrey
Andy Pettitte
Wandy Rodriguez *
Jonathan Sanchez
Ervin Santana
Johan Santana *
Joe Saunders *
James Shields *
Tim Stauffer
Jason Vargas
Ryan Vogelsong *
Edinson Volquez
Tsuyoshi Wada *
Chien-Ming Wang
Chris Young
Barry Zito

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Sep 17

Matt Harvey Opts For Rehab Over Surgery; Mets Must Prepare To Not Have Him

The New York Mets haven’t said anything on Matt Harvey not having to undergo surgery other than it is his decision. Multiple news agencies report Harvey will opt for rehabilitation over surgery after getting a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews Monday in Alabama.

The plan is to rehab for up to two months to see how his elbow responds. After that, he’ll have another MRI, and then possibly opt for surgery at that time.

HARVEY: Taking a gamble.

HARVEY: Taking a gamble.

Whether he has surgery now or in two months, Harvey won’t be available until 2015.

Surgery, of course, has no guarantees, but neither does rehab. If I were Harvey, I’d have the surgery and be done with the issue. But, I am not, and I understand it is his decision on his career.

If he has it now, there could be a possibility of him being ready next September. Wouldn’t it be great to have him activated and help them compete for a wild card?

The risk Harvey is taking is not feeling discomfort in November, and making a decision based on that information. He will not be throwing under game conditions. So, if he’s ready to start the season, that’s great, but the gamble is he’ll stay healthy the entire season.

What if he doesn’t? What if there’s more pain and he further tears his ulnar collateral ligament? If he re-injures the elbow and has surgery next summer he would miss the rest of the 2014 season and all of 2015.

That adds another year to when he won’t be pitching.

I understand Harvey’s competitive nature and desire to pitch. It is admirable. I don’t believe he’s being selfish, but I wonder if he’s seeing the entire picture about potential lost time. Although there are no givens in surgery, the odds have greatly improved for undergoing the Tommy John procedure.

Whatever route Harvey chooses in two months the Mets must make starting pitching their priority, even over an outfield bat. Currently, the Mets are looking at their 2014 rotation consisting of Dillon Gee, the staff leader in victories; Zack Wheeler, who’ll be on an innings limit; and Jon Niese, who had his own injuries this year.

Jenrry Mejia underwent surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow. Noah Syndergaard will not be ready to start next season and Rafael Montero is questionable. The Mets can’t count on Montero to make the team coming out of spring training.

So, that leaves two starters to find for next year. We can safely say Shaun Marcum won’t be an option.

For all the talk of adding a power hitting outfielder and the Mets’ other voids, any chance they have for a winning season is dependent on their pitching. It has been that way for 100 years, and nothing has changed.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 11

Six-Man Rotation Might Benefit Mets And Jon Niese

Jon Niese will make his first start for the New York Mets in nearly two months this afternoon today in Phoenix. It is arguably one of the most important starts by a Met starter this season.

Those made by Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler generated more excitement, but for future planning, this is hugely important because it dictates their off-season objectives.

NIESE: What's he thinking?

NIESE: What’s he thinking?

Niese lasted just 3.1 innings in his last start, June 20, at Atlanta, after which it was discovered he had a partially-torn rotator cuff. He went on the disabled list two days later. Niese passed all the medical tests, so it is assumed he’s good to go.

The Mets need to test Niese with kid gloves for the remainder of the season, and figuring no further complications it would streamline the Mets’ off-season shopping list.

If Niese is reinjured, don’t expect an early return next year, and assume they will attempt to add another starter this winter. They could go again with Jeremy Hefner, who has hit the skids since the All-Star break, or they could add another solution like Shaun Marcum.

Yeah, I thought that might get your attention.

Niese gave up three runs on eight hits in that start against the Braves, with five strikeouts and no walks. The most important number is where he landed on the pain meter, which was pretty high.

With Niese’s return to the rotation, the Mets will continue with a six-man starter, which under these circumstances is a prudent move for several reasons: 1) it protects Niese; 2) it lengthens the time between Hefner starts; and 3) it allows the Mets to reduce the starts, and thereby innings, of Harvey and Wheeler.

Most importantly, it will give the Mets an understanding of where Niese stands physically and their off-season needs while protecting him. That’s their most important pitching objective for now, even more than reducing Harvey’s and Wheeler’s innings.

Nobody knows whether the Mets will need to reduce Harvey and Wheeler next season, but assuming they will, this experience can only help them in developing a between-starts routine.

In four games against Arizona, Niese is 1-2 with a 6.85 ERA, including an 11-5 loss last July. However, those numbers aren’t as important as the simple fact Niese is starting another game this season.

For those thinking the Mets have nothing to play for or learn the remainder of the season, guess again.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 08

Dillon Gee Continues Roll; Mets’ Rotation Looks Strong For Future

Never mind Matt Harvey for a moment, but the New York Mets must be thrilled with the continued solid production from Jenrry Mejia and Dillon Gee. If this season is about laying the groundwork for the future, then Mejia and Gee are good signs.

GEE: Superb again Thursday. (AP)

                                  GEE: Superb again Thursday. (AP)

Assuming they continue this run for the rest of the season, the Mets could enter the winter without the need to add another starter through free agency.

The Mets have several holes they must fill, and if another starting pitcher is not one of them, there would be resources for use elsewhere.

Gee was strong again today as the Mets completed a sweep of the Colorado Rockies. He is 6-2 with a 2.42 ERA in his last 13 starts, beginning with a May 30 victory over the Yankees. He’s proven durable from last year’s surgery and should go into spring training with a spot in the rotation. Gee got off to a slow start, perhaps attributable to the surgery, but is health is no longer an issue.

Of those 13 starts, 10 are defined as quality, which is giving up three or fewer runs in six innings. As a fourth or fifth starter, the Mets can’t ask for more. Mejia has a quality outing in each of his three starts.

Gee downplayed his numbers to reporters after the game: “I don’t worry about that stuff. At the end of the year, when you look up, you see what it’s been. I try to take it day by day, and hopefully we win the games.’’

The Mets’ pitching as been strong recently, and forecasting to next year, Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Gee and Mejia comprise a youthful rotation with potential. And, we haven’t even gotten to Rafael Montero.

The Mets began their season with Johan Santana and Shaun Marcum on the disabled list. Marcum is gone and Santana will never pitch again for the Mets. As bleak as that news was at the time, it turned out to be a fortunate break for the Mets.

METS MATTERS: The Mets’ catching is approaching a state of flux with John Buck to shortly leave the team for maternity leave. Buck’s wife was due to deliver several days ago. They could bring up Travis d’Arnaud for the allotted three-day period, or they could go elsewhere in their system. … Lucas Duda, on the DL with an intercostal strain, isn’t close to being recalled, and we might not see him until the rosters are expanded, Sept. 1. … Harvey, who took a liner off his knee Tuesday night, said he’s fine and his between starts routine should not be impacted. … The Mets’ bullpen has a 2.10 ERA dating back to July 1.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 10

Mets Figuring Out What To Do With Matt Harvey

The New York Mets shouldn’t skip Matt Harvey’s next game if the sole motivation is to have him available to start the All-Star Game. However, if the intent is to begin a program to give his blister a chance to heal and reduce his innings in the second half, then go for it.

HARVEY: What's the plan? (AP)

HARVEY: What’s the plan? (AP)

That the decision to cut his innings coincides with the break is a fortunate bit of timing for the Mets, as Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen will have some time to structure a schedule.

“Dan and I are talking about trying to figure out how to start to cut this guy back a little bit,’’ Collins told reporters yesterday in San Francisco. “We’ll have to decide what happens on Saturday.’’

It is beginning to look as if Harvey will miss the Pirates, but it might not have come to this had he and the Mets acted sooner. Harvey said after last night’s game he’s been bothered by the blister in his last three starts and skipped his between-starts bullpen session prior to Monday.

That is incredulous.

How do the Mets not sit Harvey for one of those games, especially if in the back of their minds they are contemplating cutting his innings? Presumably, he’s been getting treatment for the blister, but if he didn’t report it to the training staff, that’s incredibly stupid on his part. If that is the case, then he didn’t learn anything when he tweaked his back earlier this season.

If he reported the blister and the Mets still ran him out there, that’s irresponsible by them.

How can this be? How can the Mets be so bent on Harvey starting the All-Star Game, yet play fast and loose with him regarding his starts for them? What is the priority?

The best way to limit innings is to skip the occasional start and not piecemeal it an inning or two at a time. This is the route the Nationals did not take last year with Stephen Strasburg.

If Harvey doesn’t pitch Saturday, and with the likelihood of him not starting the first or second game coming out of the break, that would effectively take him out of two starts in July. Finding a game each in August and September shouldn’t be difficult. If this situation is big-pictured, one missed start a month over the course of a season would be six on the year, or 28 instead of 34. That’s something to think about next year.

Meanwhile, there are currently no plans to limit Zack Wheeler’s innings, but he’s already missed time with an injury and the call-up. Plus, in his four starts with the Mets, he’s worked six innings just once, and that was his debut.

However, with Wheeler the issue isn’t innings as much as it is pitches, with his lowest being 89 in a 4.2-inning outing against Washington. This comes with him not being polished and rushed to the majors. As it turns out, the Mets need these starts from Wheeler, because they are having issues with their rotation.

Jon Niese is on the disabled list with a slight tear in his rotator cuff and at least a month away. The Mets also announced Shaun Marcum will undergo season-ending surgery to repair an artery obstruction. The surgery is similar to what Dillon Gee had last year.

Carlos Torres will replace Marcum in the rotation, but could first start in place of Harvey.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos