sitemeter:

December 22, 2006
  
Evaluating the Plan B’s

Many this offseason have focused on the Mets’ starting pitching as the number one priority. The “best” pitcher of this offseason is still out there, and the Mets are rightfully talking to him. But it appears that the Mets’ offer to Barry Zito hinges on less tangible things than money: New York, playing on a winner, and self-marketing.

So what do the Mets do if Barry Zito decides he’d rather have money? Or that he’d rather be closer to home? The team’s starting rotation as of right now would probably look like this:

1. Tom Glavine
2. Orlando Hernandez
3. John Maine
4. Oliver Perez
5. Dave Williams/Jason Vargas/Mike Pelfrey/Philip Humber/Alay Soler

Clearly, I think the Mets would like to improve on that fifth slot. I think Dave Williams is ultimately slated to take over the role of the now-departed Darren Oliver as the long man out of the pen. Second, I think the team would much rather give Humber and Pelfrey at least a couple of months of Triple-A before giving them more permanent appointments. And Alay Soler was so unimpressive last year that many think he should move to relief.

That leaves Jason Vargas, who has a career ERA of 5.25 in 116 innings and change. His minor league totals, however, suggest he could pitch a little better. His ZiPS projection shows him finishing with a 5.01 ERA and an okay-but-not-great-or-even-good 1.70 K/BB ratio.

So, is there anyone else on the free agent market who would make a good (or even decent) Plan B? Here are the 23 pitchers, according to ESPN’s Free Agent Tracker still out there:

Name                Age    ERA+    K/9    BB/9    HR/9
Tony Armas           29      88   5.67    4.54    1.03
Bruce Chen           30      65   6.39    3.19    2.55
Shawn Estes          34      94   6.00    4.50    0.00
Rick Helling         36     109   8.23    3.86    1.54
Jason Johnson        33      74   4.23    2.74    1.10
Brian Moehler        35      66   4.28    2.80    1.40
Mark Mulder          29      62   4.82    3.38    1.83
Tomo Ohka            31      93   4.64    3.25    1.11
Ramon Ortiz          34      79   4.91    3.02    1.46
Russ Ortiz           33      57   6.29    5.71    2.57
Chan Ho Park         34      88   6.32    2.90    1.32
Joel Pineiro         28      68   4.73    3.48    1.25
Mark Redman          33      85   4.10    3.40    1.02
Aaron Sele           37     101   4.96    2.61    0.96
Jeff Suppan          32     107   4.93    3.27    0.99
John Thomson         33      91   5.15    3.59    1.23
Steve Trachsel       36      87   4.32    4.26    1.26
Jeff Weaver          30      76   5.60    2.46    1.78
David Wells          44     101   4.54    1.43    1.31
Jerome Williams      25      63   3.65    8.03    1.46
Paul Wilson          34      DID NOT PITCH
Jamey Wright         32      87   4.56    3.69    0.92
Victor Zambrano      31      64   6.33    4.64    2.11

Players’ ages might not match up with the ESPN tracker because the ones I used correspond with how old they’ll be next season according to Baseball-Reference.com. I also didn’t include Roger Clemens, who is off in his own world.

First off, the former Met count: 6. Second, many of these pitchers only pitched incomplete seasons. Only 12 of these 23 guys even threw 100 innings last year and five (Estes, Helling, Williams, Wilson, and Zambrano) threw fewer than 50. This isn’t the most durable bunch of guys.

The pitcher who will get the most attention of this bunch is Jeff Suppan. Suppan is basically a poor man’s Steve Trachsel at the same age. Don’t believe me? Take a look:

Pitcher            ERA+     K/9    BB/9    HR/9
Suppan, 2006        107    4.93    3.27    0.99
Trachsel, 2002      116    5.44    3.58    0.83

Trax had a couple more K’s, slightly fewer homers allowed, a couple more walks. Both outperformed their component ratios, and in both cases the homerun ratios were a little out of character. Trachsel fell off a little more each year until he was finally a below average pitcher in 2006. I see Suppan doing the same thing, making him a poor fit for a four-year deal. A GM could do worse, but it’s still not a great idea. You’d be buying high on a pitcher with very little upside.

The youngest guys on this list (other than Jerome Williams – a guy with good control but no ability to get the strikeout) are Joel Pineiro, Tony Armas, and Mark Mulder, the only guys under 30. Pineiro, who was non-tendered by Seattle, is a guy who really needs superb control to succeed and that just wasn’t the case in 2006. I think he’s ultimately too hittable.

Armas has been around a while now, and I think we can say two things about him. First, he’s injury prone (2006 was just the third time in his career he’d thrown 150 innings). Second, he’s not very good. His strikeout rate is mediocre, his walk rate is poor, and he doesn’t even particularly get ground balls.

Mulder is a good idea for some team to sign to an incentive-laden, two-year deal, but I don’t know what he can be counted on for next year. Mulder, who underwent rotator cuff surgery was awful in 2006 and likely wouldn’t be ready until May at the earliest.

The best of the rest, in my opinion, are Jeff Weaver and Chan Ho Park. Both guys had okay 2006’s if you use the word liberally, but most importantly both will require less of a time commitment from their future employer. Both also have some chance of outperforming their 2006 campaigns.

Weaver is younger and has very good control. His big problem in 2006 was the homerun. He allowed 34 in 172 innings, which is probably not going to last to that extreme. Pitchers really can’t control how many of their outfield flies stay in the park, and Weaver was just particularly unlucky last year. The bad news is that his strikeout ratios have been falling slightly, but that’s true of just about every pitcher on this list.

Park, on the other hand, is a little older, but he gets more strikeouts and was slightly better at keeping the ball in the park in 2006. Like Weaver his control is okay, but he has two problems of his own. First, he was better at PETCO than on the road (4.17 ERA at home, 5.45 away). The second problem is Park’s health. He’s had plenty of injuries over the years and had problems in 2006 with intestinal bleeding which caused him to miss significant time from August onward.

They aren’t good pitchers, but these two will come cheaper in both monetary and time commitments than Suppan. Suppan might be the better pitcher, but likely not worth the money it will take to sign him. The next best buys probably include David Wells and Jason Johnson, but those are last resorts. The rest look like minor league deals to me. In the end, the trade market might be more attractive, and Omar Minaya will likely look there before acquiring any free agents.


24 Responses to “Evaluating the Plan B’s”

  1. Comment posted by argonbunnies on December 22, 2006 at 1:12 am (#199569)

    Chan Ho’s stock is so low right now that he’s probably worth what little it would take to sign him. I know he’s been awful for years now, but his breaking stuff is pretty nasty and I think the fastball is still at least average. If Peterson could help him improve his command and control a little… (Yeah, I know, shades of Vic Z…)

    I doubt the Mets will feel like adding someone so unreliable, but I kinda feel like if we have 10 options for our 5th starter, one of them will probably pan out. And I’d rather pay Park $2 mil than some other schuck off this list $8 mil.

  2. Comment posted by argonbunnies on December 22, 2006 at 1:15 am (#199571)

    Bruce Chen, a good control pitcher coming off a lousy 2006 ERA, might be a safer bet, also at a reasonable price. His flyball tendencies won’t produce that ridiculous 2.5 HRs/9 at Shea.

  3. Comment posted by bmc on December 22, 2006 at 3:24 am (#199579)

    David Wells.

    Lefty veteran control artist with post-season experience available for a short term deal.

  4. Comment posted by Erick on December 22, 2006 at 5:09 am (#199580)

    David Wells.
    Lefty veteran control artist with post-season experience available for a short term deal.

    A team with David Wells, AND Orlando Hernandez, AND Pedro Martinez… I dunno. I say, after signing Zito, sign Shawn Estes, too, and put him in the pen — bring him in whenever you need to send a message that you just can’t hit one of our guys in the head on purpose without getting brushed forward.

  5. Gravatar
  6. Comment posted by elliot on December 22, 2006 at 8:16 am (#199583)

    HEY! I’ve got a crazy idea! How about letting Aaron Heilman get a shot at the #5 starter position?

    Seriously - Aaron is a better option than anyone on the list in that he at least has an upside. With Sanchez coming back, Heilman would be fighting for 8th inning time. This list shows how poor the available FA options are right now for starting pitchers, so why not try and get someone to replace Heilman in the pen instead? If Heilman doesn’t work out, then the Mets gave him his shot, he can go back to the pen (having been given a chance to start) or get traded. If, later in the season, the Mets need to fill a pitching spot from the trade market, it will most likely be no worse than it is now, and will likely be better due to unforeseen circumstances on other teams helping to shake loose SPs as trade bait.

    Plus, the Mets are not only looking for a #5 pitcher. They have to protect against injury to Glavine or El Duque, and the possible melt-down of Maine and/or Perez. So, I like the idea of getting a starting pitcher internally.

    Oh, by the way, Argonbunnies, in your rush to become post #1, you used the term “schuck” to describe the pathetic overpaid “pitchers” on this list. I think that you meant “schmuck”, but you might have also meant dweeb, loser, reprobate, salami vendor, dufus, clunker or palooka.

  7. Comment posted by Gabe on December 22, 2006 at 8:16 am (#199584)

    I’ve always had a soft spot for Chen, and he was actually quite good for Baltimore in 2005. I’d be okay with a gamble on him at a dirt-cheap price. The other names like Suppan, Mulder, etc–players who will cost REAL cash and are average at best–must be avoided at all costs. Minaya has shown that he won’t sign someone just to publicly appear like he’s being proactive, so I’m not concerned on this front.

  8. Comment posted by Gabe on December 22, 2006 at 8:18 am (#199585)

    As for Heilman, I think it’s clear at this point that the Mets simply view him as a more effective reliever than starter. Also, note that if they start him and he’s terrible, he loses a chunk of trade value. I think it’s in our best interest to trade Heilman now, since he currently has excellent value and we should be able to package him to get a good young player.

  9. Gravatar
  10. Comment posted by met fan austria on December 22, 2006 at 8:21 am (#199586)

    i’d say zito or bust, from this list none is better than dw2, pelfrey or humber
    get baked!

    ad carmela: Steve Nash in the Washington Post about ’Melo’s punch on Mardy Collins: “Typical NBA punch. In hockey, your own team would beat you up for that.”

  11. Comment posted by Nick in Westchester on December 22, 2006 at 8:31 am (#199587)

    Morning everyone. Looks like Boras will drag out these negotiations until suppan has already signed with somebody. He’ll make the Mets pass on Suppan if they are going after Zito and put them in an impossible position. What a nice guy.

  12. Comment posted by BryanB on December 22, 2006 at 8:31 am (#199588)

    pitchers who will start for the Mets before Heilman-
    Williams, Pelfrey, Vargas, Humber, Bostick, Devaney, Soler, Guerra, Neise, Stoner, ….
    Seaver, Koosman, Sid Fernandez, Cy Young, ….
    Three kids on my son’s lottle league team.

    get over heilman starting for the Mets, not happening.

  13. Comment posted by BryanB on December 22, 2006 at 8:38 am (#199590)

    wamp wamp?

  14. Comment posted by Mr. Nice Gaius on December 22, 2006 at 8:44 am (#199593)

    Technical question–I usually post under the moniker of “Nick in Wetchester” but this site isn’t showing my messages when I post them. Uh, does that mean I’ve been accidentally banned or something?

  15. Comment posted by Brian on December 22, 2006 at 8:47 am (#199594)

    Wow - Rick Helling is still pitching. Even started a couple of games last year.

    How come Lima isn’t on that list?

  16. Comment posted by Brian on December 22, 2006 at 8:50 am (#199595)

    Poster formerlly known as “Nick in Wetchester” - Does the new name mean you’ve been watching HBOS’s ROME?

  17. Comment posted by Brian on December 22, 2006 at 8:51 am (#199596)

    That should say HBO

  18. Comment posted by Mr. Nice Gaius on December 22, 2006 at 8:52 am (#199597)

    Yeah, I have, and its fantastic. I just like my old handle, and want to be able to post under it again damnit.

  19. Gravatar
  20. Comment posted by Alex Nelson on December 22, 2006 at 9:34 am (#199606)

    Bruce Chen, a good control pitcher coming off a lousy 2006 ERA, might be a safer bet, also at a reasonable price. His flyball tendencies won’t produce that ridiculous 2.5 HRs/9 at Shea.

    Chen’s not a horrible idea to take a flier on. I think he may have to settle for a minor league deal, though. He’s only had 3 seasons in his career where he threw more than 100 innings. Fair or not, that becomes a label. I wouldn’t be upset if the Mets brought him back.

    How come Lima isn’t on that list?

    Apparently ESPN doesn’t consider Jose Lima to be worth their time anymore.

    Technical question–I usually post under the moniker of “Nick in Wetchester” but this site isn’t showing my messages when I post them. Uh, does that mean I’ve been accidentally banned or something?

    I’ll look into it.

  21. Comment posted by john on December 22, 2006 at 9:41 am (#199607)

    Mr. Nice Gaius,
    See post #9. There’s ol’ St. Nick.

  22. Comment posted by Nick in Westchester on December 22, 2006 at 9:45 am (#199608)

    looks like they fixed it, yeah

  23. Gravatar
  24. Comment posted by Mr. Met on December 22, 2006 at 11:02 am (#199622)

    A team with David Wells, AND Orlando Hernandez, AND Pedro Martinez… I dunno. I say, after signing Zito, sign Shawn Estes, too, and put him in the pen — bring him in whenever you need to send a message that you just can’t hit one of our guys in the head on purpose without getting brushed forward.

    LOL

  25. Comment posted by Dave in Spain on December 22, 2006 at 3:55 pm (#199812)

    We don´t need a starter who only pitches 100-120 innings; we need a younger guy with some experience who can throw close to 200 innings in a reasonably dependable fashion. While it would be nice, we don´t need an ace, but we do need to take some of the heat off the bullpen so that they can survive the year, and so that they can let the older guys like Glavine and Duque come out a little earlier if they have the lead. And trading for someone later in the year doesn´t help much if we´ve already lost a lot of games we might have won with a better pitcher.
    If not Zito, then a trade is the best bet, even if it has to wait til spring training. Best case is if Vargas/Perez/Williams or some other non-Pelfrey/Humber pitches well in FL and we can package them for someone with some more experience.
    Merry Christmas all, or best wishes for whatever your current holiday….

  26. Comment posted by Ray S. on December 23, 2006 at 3:55 am (#199950)

    I don’t understand why the ‘06 crop of FA’s is so weak. I agree, we should get baked, but I dont like it that he hasnt yet come to NY (Fred - did you invite him?). Zito needs the wine & dine weekend in the city thing. He likes beaches/surfing? OK, a night or two down in AC. Get his a$$ to the east, then sit down again with that JO Boras.

  27. Comment posted by AJ on December 23, 2006 at 9:31 am (#199956)

    long time no visit for me. glad to see you geeks again for the first time after my post-playoffs depression.

    pineiro is largely a sinkerball pitcher, right? seems like that would be trouble in shea’s alleys. basically i think out of a fifth starter we should be looking for a guy who can just get the ball over the plate and give us 160 innings, with spot starts thrown in by williams and vargas. would any of these signings really be better than just givin the ball to pelfrey as the fifth starter??? i mean you get him some serious big league experience, and i feel he’s ready.

  28. Comment posted by robert griffin on December 23, 2006 at 10:53 pm (#200090)

    I wouldn’t mind Shawn Estes, he has pretty good stuff, but what gets him is his location, not that he walks a lot of people, but you can still have poor location even though you throw stikes inside of the strikezone. The two years he played as a met he constantly would miss the target in the strikezone and get hammered. Maybe “jacket” can help him with that.

rss/syndication: