Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Would You Have Done It? - Starting Pitchers

This week's Flushing University column is finally up and I already have an idea for next week's effort. If the St. Louis Cardinals cooperate, it will involve my first interview in a very long time. OK, enough teasing - let's play ...


Yes, Would You Have Done It?, where we look at the starting pitchers on the Mets' 25-man roster and pass judgment on whether or not adding them to the team was a good idea.

To play the game, you have to pretend that you're the general manager of the New York Mets. We're going to take you back in the time machine to a series of dates in the past 10 years. You'll have a choice - should you acquire the player or players available to you, or should you pass in search of a better offer. Ready? Let's begin!

December 12, 2004: Well, it's just money, right? And this is Pedro Martinez, the best pitcher of his generation. Sure, he's coming off his worst season since 1996, but that just means that he wasn't super-human. Besides, put him back in the National League, and he might look like Pedro circa 2000 again. But what about the rumors that his labrum is shot? You've heard whispers that Jayson Stark says it might be 90 percent torn. No one comes back from labrum surgery - maybe that's why no one else is offering more than three guaranteed years. Well, you can have him anyway - as long as you're willing to give the immensely proud Pedro a fourth year. Would You Have Done It?

My answer: Yup. That torn labrum rumor had been floating around since 2001 and it didn't seem to affect Pedro. In fact, it's easy to forget that he was dominant again in 2005 and unhittable for the first part of 2006 before his body broke down. Yes, the labrum finally became a problem and I still don't think Pedro will ever be the same again. But it was just money and you can add me to the list of people that the intangible value of adding a marquee pitcher like Pedro to a moribound Mets franchise signaled a chance in direction that was sorely needed.

June 7, 2005: You chose Philip Humber in the first round of the amateur draft last season and although the Devil Rays just grabbed his former Wade Townsend ahead of you this year, there's another college starter in your sites. Mike Pelfrey was a superstar at Wichita State and probably should've gone higher, but Scott Boras is his agent and there are signability concerns. Local product Craig Hansen is still on the board; he's so good that he could probably step off the mound at Jack Kaiser Field and step on the mound at Shea without missing a beat. But he's a reliever and doesn't have quite the upside of a starter like Pelfrey. Would You Have Done It?

My answer: Yes. Hansen just got back to the bigs and still has a future ahead of him, but even his former Redmen connections weren't enough to pass on Pelfrey. Signability concerns are for loser franchises - good teams lock up the best talent, period. Pelfrey was the best player still on the board and the Mets were right to take him. I'm still hoping it works out.

January 21, 2006: You've added Carlos Delgado and aul Lo Duca to fortify your lineup and most of your starting rotations is set. Pedro and Glavine at the top of the rotation, Kris Benson as your #3 and Steve Trachsel and Victor Zambrano round things out. It's not great, especially as you get past the 1-2 punch, but it's good enough to compete for a division title.

Then this happens.

Well, we can't have that in Flushing! This Benson guy, he's gotta go. Problem is, with two years and 15.5 million guaranteed left on his contract, Benson isn't exactly a bargain. So hear come the Orioles, offering super-arm Jorge Julio and little-known prospect John Maine. Julio has had some success, but there's whispers he's of the "10-cent head" variety. Maine put up good numbers in the low minors, but his late season cup of coffee ended with a few thrashings and the Orioles don't seem too high on him. It ain't much, but it frees up seven million dollars - and since Citi Field is still not quite on the horizon, the Mets can't be spending like drunk sailors all the time. Would You Have Done It?

My answer: Actually, no. I'm glad that Minaya pulled the trigger, because I'm a John Maine superfan now, but I thought that Jorge Julio wasn't much of an addition. Maine was being undervalued, but I'd be lying if I said that I thought he was worth trading Kris Benson, especially after a decent 2005 season. I can't imagine a scenario where Baltimore would've traded BJ Ryan, of course, but I might have accepted Steve Kline instead of Julio. In the end, it all worked out though - score one for Omar!

July 31, 2006: Your Mets are in first place and cruising toward a division title. But a freak taxi accident in Miami involves one of your top relievers and all of a sudden, Duaner Sanchez is out for the season. You're trolling around the league, hoping a bottom feeder will help you replace the valuable bullpen arm you just lost. And as usual, there are the Pirates, ready to cut loose a veteran in exchange for a player to help them in a tomorrow that never comes.

The Pirates have Roberto Hernandez, a familiar face from just last season, but they're asking for your right fielder Xavier Nady. Now that isn't going to happen, but Pittsburgh has something they think will sweeten the deal - failed starter Oliver Perez. Ollie has been abysmal for the last two seasons, but you watched him dominate the league as a 22-year-old in 2004 and can't help but wonder - can he do it again? Oh, and if you trade Nady, hotshot rookie Lastings Milledge will get the majority of starts in RF; is he ready to handle the bigs? So there it is - replace Sanchez with Hernandez at the expense of Nady. Maybe Perez will become something big again and maybe Milledge will hit like Gregg Jeffries, circa 1988. Would You Have Done It?

My answer: Tough call, but yes. The Mets didn't need Hernandez, regardless of Sanchez's injury, but Perez was still just 24 and worth the risk. Nady was just a good fourth outfielder; he wasn't a star in waiting people made him out to be. Milledge and Chavez would've made a good enough platoon, even after Minaya added Shawn Green a month later. It was a roll of a dice, but even the worst-case scenario (Hernandez and Perez flop) was no big deal for the Mets because Nady wasn't going to make them sorry.

January 29, 2008: You've danced all winter with rookie GM Bill Smith. He has a responsibility to get the best package of prospects possible for the Twins, and you have a fan base clamoring for you to get his top starter. Smith passes a piece of paper across the table and it contains four names: Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Deolis Guerra and Kevin Mulvey. If you shake his hand, you can acquire Johan Santana (provided you offer him 137 million for the next six seasons, of course.) Would You Have Done It?

My answer: It's a no-brainer. Lock up Santana, add the best pitcher in baseball and turn him loose on the National League. What Met GM could've possibly said no?

1 comment:

tim said...

Pedro is a big yes because of the intangibles wrought. I also think this team plays better when he's running out there every five days, not necessarily because he's good or bad, its the other four days in the locker room where he's invalueable.

Hindsight is the best sight and I don't remember how I felt about the Benson deal. I want to say puzzled but I didn't get weepy about it, I thought we had just seen the best we were going to get from him and his wife was a complete distraction. I'm not going to say I would have done it, but I know I wasn't broken up about it.

Regardless of the players involved I thought this was a knee jerk reaction to the accident, because leading up to the incident we were talking about getting a starting pitcher and maybe another bat to match, which it turned out wass exactly what we needed. I was against the deal then and I'm against today. That said, I agree about Nady, people are still making him out to be Clemente. Perez' 15 wins last year made the deal a steal and the fact that his price tag is low isn't bad either, but his time here is done. The quicker we can unload him to the American League for some middle of the road prospects the better.

Santana is indeed a no-brainer, even if he isn't performing quite the way a $26 mil a year pitcher should (too many walks and HRs) and although Carlos Gomez is having a fine season out there in Minnesota (He hit for the cycle yesterday but I'll take Church anyway) Humber and Mulvey didn't make the big club and won't see the light of the majors until at least September. Mulvey might haunt us a little but it won't sting like Kazmir knowing we have a cy young arm in the mix.