What will happen, much akin to last year’s process with Chris Capuano and Chris Young, is that Sandy Alderson will look for the high upside guys, no matter their risk. With questions surrounding everyone in the Mets starting rotation outside of R.A Dickey, the Mets will try to add as much depth as possible.
Here are some guys I think they Mets could and should go after:
- Erik Bedard
- While Bedard’s price will most likely place him outside of the Mets range, on a one year, incentive laden contract, the Mets may have the money he is looking for. The reason Bedard is not cashing in like the C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrles of the world is not lack of success, but rather lack of durability. In 951 innings in the American League, he has a 3.70 ERA and 3.65 FIP, while Buehrle has a career 3.88 ERA and 4.13 FIP. The difference is Buehrle is a lock for 200+ innings and 10+ wins and Bedard is a lock for the DL and that is why Buehrle will fetch around $45 million and Bedard will be lucky to get $5 million. If the Mets could sign Bedard to the type of deal Capuano signed last year, with low guarantees starting around two or three million with incentives up to seven million, this could be a match. After all, this off-season Capuano turned a one year deal for $1.5M guaranteed into a two year deal for $10 million guaranteed, so Sandy can always use that as a reference point.
- Jeff Francis
- This is the guy who tops my list as the best value on the free agent market. Despite finishing 6-16 last season with the Royals, Francis generated a 2.6 WAR with a 4.10 FIP, pitching in the American League. A switch back to the NL should only help those numbers. For his career, outside of a couple injury plagued seasons from which he has since recovered, Francis has always been an innings eater that gets ground balls without walking a lot of hitters. In his first three full seasons as a starter, he won 44 games. In 2010 and 2011, he posted the two lowest FIPs (3.88 and 4.10 respectively) of his career. As a former first round pick, ninth overall in 2002, Francis has the type of upside the Mets should be looking for. He could sign and start the year as the fourth or fifth starter, but end up pitching like a number two or three. I think he can be had for a one year deal around two or three million, with a second year club option for four or five million, and would outperform his salary both years.
- Throughout most of his career, Marquis has been a consistent winner who eats innings. From 2004-2009, he won 11+ games every season, 80 wins in total, never throwing less than 167 innings. 2010 was the aberration as Marquis succumb to injury, but came back in 2011 with a very respectable 4.05 FIP. Not only has he been a solid starter, but Marquis has frequently mentioned how much he wants to play for the Mets. To acquire a player who wants to play for this franchise, especially in its current position is nothing to scoff at. He wants to pitch at home, and while he lacks the upside of others on this list, he would be a valuable starter capable of throwing 200 innings and winning ten games on a one year deal, and that in itself, has a lot of value.
- After disappearing for four years, the “D-Train” may have pulled back into the station. From 2003-2006 Willis was the site to see in baseball. He won 58 games with a 3.44 ERA and 1.30 WHIP over that span. Over the next four years however, he won only 13 games, with a 5.82 ERA and 1.75 WHIP. Although it may not look like it, this past season he returned to form. Despite the ugly record and ERA (1-6, 5.00 ERA), his peripherals were trending back to his glory days as a Marlin. His FIP was 4.10, and while he still walked to many hitters, and if you take out two starts where he gave up 12 runs in six innings, his ERA would have been around 4.43, a solid fourth or fifth starter. He should be available on a minor league deal, so when you also consider how good of a hitter he is and the fanfare he would draw, this is another low risk, high reward signing that I would love to see the Mets make (especially if he returns to form and beats the Marlins four or five times). It just depends whether or not he is a Sandy Alderson type player.
- This guy has always intrigued me as to how he would do out of Colorado. With a career 57.4 GB %, he is a ground ball machine. In fact, only three guys finished with a higher ground ball percentage last season. In addition, like Dontrelle Willis, despite some ugly looking numbers last season (3-10, 6.03 ERA), his peripherals were not bad. His FIP of 4.54 was right around his career average, which is an average major league ERA that could drop with a transition into Citi Field. The risk here is Cook’s health. His innings have steadily declined from 2008-2011, going from 211-158-127-97, and his ERA has been over five the past two seasons. However, Cook ended the season healthy, and the Rockies are showing interest in bringing him back, which tells me his health is not a concern at the moment. From 2006-2009, Cook was 44-37, never posting an ERA higher than 4.23, so there is some upside here. On a minor league deal with low guarantees and incentives, this could be another steal.
- McCarthy is still arbitration eligible with the Oakland Athletics, and as such, the Mets would have to trade for him. Brandon has always been troubled with shoulder injuries, but this past season he was outstanding, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and 2.86 FIP in 170 innings. Due to his injury plagued past, never throwing more than 101 innings in five major league seasons before 2011, his trade value is limited, so now could be the opportune time to strike a deal. A package built around Angel Pagan, maybe even a one-for-one deal, could help both parties. Both players are injury prone, each with only one year of success to this point in their careers, with Pagan being worth $21.8M in 2010, and McCarthy worth $21.2 in 2011 according to fangrpahs.com, so the injury risks could be negated. Oakland will need outfield help with former starting right-fielder David Dejesus departing for the Cubs, and center-fielder CoCo Crisp possibly leaving via free agency. With Pagan, Billy Beane acquires a center fielder that plays outstanding defense, and is capable of hitting .300 and stealing 50 bases. They also have a surplus of pitching, with Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, so while it is a risky deal for both sides, I think it is a win-win.
In addition to the names mentioned above, there are plenty of other options available. Guys like Brad Penny, Rich Harden, Livan Hernandez (yes the same Livan Hernandez), Kevin Millwood, Kyle Davies, and Joel Pinero are free agents.
These guys may all seem like washed up veterans, but if you look at their numbers from recent seasons, there is some potential there. Brad Penny had a 3.23 ERA for the Cards in 2010. Rich Harden still has the power stuff he always had, just cannot stay healthy. Livan Hernandez, has had a FIP under four each of the last two seasons and under five 11 out of the past 12 seasons! Kevin Millwood had a 3.98 ERA for the Rockies last season in August and September. Kyle Davies, despite an atrocious 1-9 record and 6.75 ERA, generated a 0.7 WAR in only 61 innings last season. Finally, Joel Pinero has had FIPs of 3.27, 3.84, and 4.43 the last three years, winning 32 games combined.
If you made it this far, you are probably thinking, “these are the people I should want the Mets to sign?”
To put it bluntly, YES!
While Jason Marquis and Aaron Cook aren’t big names, they are the type of guys that create the necessary depth playoff teams need. To prove to you why these types of deals are vital to a team’s success over the course of a 162 game season, unfortunately, I have to look across town.
Before the 2011 season, Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia were afterthoughts. Colon had thrown a combined 218 innings in the Major leagues from 2006-2010, an average of 43 innings a season. Freddy Garcia had thrown 129 innings combined from 2007-2009, not to mention an ineffective 2010 for the White Sox. However, after signing each of these pitchers to minor league contracts that were either unnoticed or made fun of, these two threw a combined for 311 innings for the Yankees last season, winnings 20 games for them. Without these two pitchers, they Yankees would not have beaten the Red Sox or the Rays to win the best division in baseball.
Injuries happen to every team, every season. The best teams, the ones that make the playoffs, are the ones that have the necessary depth to cover for when those injuries occur.
So yes, Aaron Cook might not work out. Dontrelle Willis may not have rediscovered his magic and fail in epic proportions.
But, while they may fail, the real question should be, what if they succeed?
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