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February 28, 2008
  
What to Do with Oliver Perez?

At the end of the 2008 season, the Mets will have just two members of their projected starting rotation under contract: Johan Santana and John Maine. Mike Pelfrey will be around to absorb one of the empty slots, probably Orlando Hernandez’s since the pair are already competing for the fifth spot in 2008. That will leave Pedro Martinez and Oliver Perez as tough walk-year decisions that the Mets will to face as the season comes to a close. Considering the recent trends in aging pitcher contracts, where established players such as Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens, Hernandez, and John Smoltz have taken less risky one- or two-year deals, I think it would probably be easier and smarter for the Mets to re-sign Martinez than Perez, so let’s assume that happens.

That would give the Mets three above-average starters and Pelfrey, who despite my repeated jabbing of his secondary pitches, may or may not blossom into an average starter. Where does Oliver Perez fit into the Mets long-term plans? A big factor on his Mets’ future will be the two words that make many sports fans cringe: Scott Boras. Boras will be sure to hold on for every last dollar on the free agent market, and while Perez doesn’t have an incredible track record, neither did Carlos Silva or Gil Meche, and you can argue that neither pitcher, prior to free agency, had ever had a season to match Perez’s two best.

But is Perez a $15-million-a-year pitcher? That’s what the free agent market seems to be coming to lately. In the days of yore, we’d have attractive free agent classes with huge names. In the 2004 offseason, for instance, the Mets were able to sign Martinez and Carlos Beltran, two legitimate Major League superstars. Since then, the free agent classes have simply gotten weaker and weaker, as Dan Scotto has explained. In 2006, the Cubs were able to sign Alfonso Soriano, a pretty good player but definitely not a star as a corner outfielder, for $126 million. The three other players who headlined that free agent class, Carlos Lee, J.D. Drew, and Barry Zito, were all capable players in their own right, but certainly not near the quality of Beltran or Martinez. In 2005, the best of the lot were Paul Konerko, Johnny Damon, Kevin Millwood, A.J. Burnett, and closers B.J. Ryan and Billy Wagner. Again, certainly all quality players, but none of superstar quality. This offseason, Alex Rodriguez was theoretically a free agent, but other than that, the best of the rest included Torii Hunter, Aaron Rowand, Mike Lowell, Andruw Jones, and Francisco Cordero.

See a pattern in those players? Let me take out everyone who isn’t a starting pitcher: A.J. Burnett, Barry Zito, and Kevin Millwood (I realize I’m cherry picking by leaving Daisuke Matsuzaka out, but he wasn’t technically a free agent, nor was he as good as he was hyped up to be in his first year anyway). Of those three, Zito had terrific ERA’s, but a terrible downward trend in his peripherals that has led to a somewhat predictable blowup for the Giants. Burnett has had health issues, but has otherwise been a pretty solid contract for the Blue Jays thus far. Millwood has completely imploded as a Ranger. If Perez hurls another quality season for the Mets this year, he would have a better track record than either of these three when you take health into account.

The dearth of starting pitchers on the market can be traced directly to teams being more proactive. Just in the past few years, dreams of a free agent classes that could include Carlos Zambrano, Roy Oswalt, Johan Santana, and Erik Bedard, among others, have been dashed by long-term extensions and trades. It’s hard to complain about the idea of Perez making $3 million more a season than Carlos Silva.

Assuming Perez can pitch his way to the top of the market with another solid season, the only players of comparable youth and skill are C.C. Sabathia, who will command Johan money, and Ben Sheets, who hasn’t pitched 200 innings since 2004. Perez could easily find himself with a 5-year, $75 million deal or better on the open market. Would such a deal be a good fit for the Mets?

There will be quite a few quality pitchers on the market, but most of them will be aging. Aside from Sheets and Sabathia, a plurality of the aging pitchers I listed earlier will be around, along with Derek Lowe, possibly Burnett if he opts out of his option, Mike Hampton, and Mark Prior. Putting wet dreams of a Santana/Sabathia combo on the backburner for now, Perez is probably as good as anyone else on the market, both short-term and long-term. One other name that I’d like to namedrop as an outside-the-box option would be Nippon Ham Fighter Yu Darvish, who would command a Matsuzaka-like payoff if he were posted.

It’s way too early to write anything in stone, but should Perez perform well enough in 2008 to get a big contract, the Mets would be wise to give it to him. Not only have the starting pitcher free agent markets been weak the last few years, but the cost to acquire a similar or weaker replacement starter through other means would probably be just as prohibitive. Trading for another starter, with the Mets system as depleted as it is from acquiring Santana, would prove difficult.

Perez is far from a perfect starting pitcher; he still walks too many hitters, he’s only had two good seasons so far, and he is somewhat homer-prone. But as long as he’s been around, it’s hard to believe that he’ll be just 26 this season. He was a very solid pitcher for the Mets last season, and outside of Sabathia and possibly Darvish, there aren’t any better long-term bets that the Mets could bring in next offseason. What say you, fellow Geeks? Is Perez worth it?


39 Responses to “What to Do with Oliver Perez?”

  1. Comment posted by littlefallsmets on February 28, 2008 at 1:08 am (#618254)

    He’s the actual #2 on this staff.

    Throw great gobs of money at him unless he really craps the bed in 2008.

  2. Comment posted by Dave in Spain on February 28, 2008 at 2:08 am (#618255)

    I´m worried about volatility/consistency with Ollie. If he can be consistent this year, then I´d be in favor, as long as the money doesn´t get ridiculous.

    Fallback options could be a Freddy Garcia type on a short contract, in the hopes that a guy like Jon Niese might be ready in 2010– this´ll be an important year for Niese.

  3. Comment posted by ITAC on February 28, 2008 at 3:53 am (#618256)

    I know I can be conservative with contracts, but if Perez were to only ask for 5 years 15 million (Oswalt type money), I’d give it to him. Anything more, eh. Sadly, if he has an ace-type season, he’ll get more.

  4. Comment posted by ITAC on February 28, 2008 at 4:02 am (#618257)

    BTW, this Darvish kid is huge for a Japanese ballplayer (it must be his Iranian genes). He’s 6′5″ and is only 22/23 years old. Too bad he only weighs 185 lbs. He needs to fill up. But it bears noting he has publically announced that he has no intention of leaving Japan for the US.

    Unlike Matsuzaka, Darvish has told the Japanese press that he has no intention of seeking a move to America anytime in the future.

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  6. Comment posted by Confused on February 28, 2008 at 9:01 am (#618271)

    trade his unworthy ass back to pitt and see how much money he makes then.

    selfish bastard.

    half kidding.

  7. Comment posted by Joe A. on February 28, 2008 at 9:10 am (#618279)

    I wouldn’t give Perez 5 years. I probably wouldn’t even give him 4 years.

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  9. Comment posted by Sky Kalkman on February 28, 2008 at 9:20 am (#618289)

    Anyone else notice Ollie gave up over 1 unearned run per 9 innings last year? Knocking that down to .3 (league-average) makes his ERA 4.25. That’s more in line with what his peripherals predict (FIP of 4.35) and his xFIP is in the high 4.00s.

  10. Comment posted by sheadenizen on February 28, 2008 at 10:00 am (#618335)

    It’s hard to draw any conclusions until we see Perez this season. We all know he has great stuff, but he also needs to prove his head is screwed on straight. He’s his own worst enemy. Perez needs to mature and not let every little thing throw him off his game…..no pun intended. Perez has everything to pitch for this season. Let’s see how he handles it.
    With the dearth of good pitching in the majors…as Chris has pointed out…Perez will definitely be in demand. And with a dearth of good pitching in the Mets system, this problem becomes more pronounced. I guess time will tell.

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  12. Comment posted by Dep on February 28, 2008 at 10:34 am (#618372)

    This year is huge for Ollie. 100% agree.

    I would love to keep him, I think he’s worth it in this day n age. Look at what mediocre pitchers are getting these days and Ollie is better than mediocre in my mind. he may be wildly inconsistent and prone to blowups, but he’s still better than mediocre in my mind.

    I would try to keep him for sure. I would pay the 5/75, but its not my money!

    I am pessimistic on our chances of retaining Ollie.

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  14. Comment posted by Jessica on February 28, 2008 at 10:36 am (#618374)

    One thing that possibly works in the Mets’ favor is that Ollie’s flyball tendencies (which aren’t a problem for a team that plays in a big pitchers’ park and has Carlos Beltran in centerfield) make him a poor fit for many teams, and if those teams have smart GMs they may not show a great deal of interest in him.

    That, and the likelihood that the one team that would be an even better fit than the Mets for Ollie (San Diego) probably can’t afford him/has more important needs than pitching.

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  16. Comment posted by Jessica on February 28, 2008 at 10:37 am (#618375)

    I wrote an article on the Ollie situation last week, if anyone is interested:
    http://mvn.com/mlb-mets/2008/02/23/oliver-perez-wins-arbitration-case-now-what/

  17. Comment posted by sheadenizen on February 28, 2008 at 10:43 am (#618380)

    and if those teams have smart GMs they may not show a great deal of interest in him.

    smart GMs…..there’s the caveat, Jessica!

  18. Comment posted by davidg on February 28, 2008 at 11:00 am (#618407)

    I think the potentially harder question is when do you make the decision to sign him or let him go.

    If he is doing reasonably well and is showing signs of progressing/maturing as a pitcher, I’d offer him a “market” deal in early July (5yrs/$70-75mm). But if he didn’t take it by the end of the month (and the Mets are in a comfortable position - in terms of a division lead and or a replacement for Perez), then serious consideration has to be given to trading him in mid-season. If his return value at that point is significantly greater than a 1st round and a supplemental 1st round draft choice, maybe it would be wise to re-stock the farm and take advantage of the potential opportunity in the trade market.

    I think a decision on keeping him may need to be made sooner rather than later…

  19. Comment posted by Joe A. on February 28, 2008 at 11:19 am (#618448)

    Perez is very unlikely to resign mid-season. Boras always pushes his clients not to resign until they reach free agency.

    And the Mets don’t have the pitching depth to trade Perez at the deadline if they are planning on reaching the post season this year.

  20. Comment posted by sheadenizen on February 28, 2008 at 11:32 am (#618476)

    Joe A….you’re are correct on both counts! Take a bow!

  21. Comment posted by mr.bmc on February 28, 2008 at 12:25 pm (#618534)

    Offer him arbitration. If he walks you get the first round picks. If he stays you get a reasonable price.

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  23. Comment posted by Dep on February 28, 2008 at 1:29 pm (#618580)

    he’s not eligible for arbitration anymore. 2008 was his last year.

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  25. Comment posted by Dep on February 28, 2008 at 1:44 pm (#618594)

    ha, i misunderstand what you meant. cancel that! lol

  26. Comment posted by griffyusc on February 28, 2008 at 1:59 pm (#618610)

    All I know Ollie is durable, getting better and I want him to retire a met.

    Batters hit .229 against Ollie last year, we just paid 137 million dollars for a player that the league hits .225 against in Santana. Ollie should of won at least 17-18 games last year as the defense behind him failed him. I think he only pitched in two bad games all of last year. If he wins 14-18 games this year. He needs to get paid and its that simple. I could not find more then 5-6 starters with over 100 ip then a better .baa then Perez. I think the only 2 NL pitchers with a better .baa is Chris young and jake peavy. Chris Young and Ollie are almost the same pitcher, both are very hard to hit, but walks keep them down.

  27. Comment posted by ajsmith on February 28, 2008 at 2:06 pm (#618616)

    He’s just 26 this year, he’s shown steady improvement since he arrived here and - health permitting - figures to keep getting better over the next 3-4 years, he’s a lefty, he’s already shown that he’s one of the toughest pitchers in baseball to hit off of and misses as many bats as anyone in the league, he has pitched some of his best games in big spots. Plus, he’s apparently a good kid who works hard.

    On the downside, he’s got terrible taste in agents.

    I think that barring an implosion this season, you have to do whatever is necessary to sign the kid. If you can set your rotation up for the next 4-5 years with Santana, Maine, and Perez, you do it.

  28. Comment posted by griffyusc on February 28, 2008 at 2:11 pm (#618624)

    I think we need Ollie to tell you the truth. left handers hit .206 against him. If you pitched him back to back with Santanta then the Phillies are grounded. 2 of their best two players Howard and his little butt buddy 2nd basebase man. You pitch Ollie and Santana agains the phillies the only one who can hurt us is Rollins and Burrell.

  29. Comment posted by griffyusc on February 28, 2008 at 2:19 pm (#618632)

    I’M not sure why the Mets wait so long to give contract extensions to their pitchers. Ollie and Maine should already have extensions of some kind, probably could of saved themselves millions of dollars by doing so. Good organizations should know what players are keepable and which one you should toss aside.

  30. Comment posted by Joe A. on February 28, 2008 at 2:23 pm (#618635)

    griffyusc - you can’t just look at last year and ignore the two years before where Perez was possibly the WORST pitcher in baseball.

    AJ - how has Perez “steadily improved”? He has pitched 1 season for the Mets and he was better in the 1st half than the second. He had 5 or more walks in 4 of his last 7 starts. Certainly he’s better than he was in 05 and 06, but I didn’t see anything last year to suggest that he will be better in 08 than he was in 07.

    I actually like Perez quite a bit and he’s a great option as our 3rd or 4th starter. But if you are counting on him improving over last year I think you’re going to be disappointed. I would be very happy if we get the same results as last year. And I am just not confident enough in him to perform from year to year to sign him long term.

    If he has a great 08, however, I’m sure I’ll change my mind.

  31. Comment posted by Joe A. on February 28, 2008 at 2:27 pm (#618639)

    ANd Perez faced the Phils 3 times last season and lost all 3.

  32. Comment posted by Joe A. on February 28, 2008 at 2:29 pm (#618640)

    …and he only lasted a total of 13 innings over those 3 starts and walked 14 Phils.

  33. Comment posted by littlefallsmets on February 28, 2008 at 2:33 pm (#618645)

    Maine’s a different case than Ollie in my book, though.

    Maine’s focus problems still give a dude The Heartburn, you know.

    If he’s the #4 starter, it’s not so bad that he can only look brilliant when forced to focus by pressure games but… if he’s looking for top of the rotation money, I am still afraid with ol’ Johnny Maine.

  34. Comment posted by Joe A. on February 28, 2008 at 2:37 pm (#618652)

    I have much more faith in Maine than Perez. But since Maine is locked up for several more years, the Mets don’t have to make any kind of decision on him.

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  36. Comment posted by Sky Kalkman on February 28, 2008 at 2:39 pm (#618657)

    Maine’s a different story because he’s still under team control for three more years, starting arbitration next off-season.

  37. Comment posted by Super T on February 28, 2008 at 3:11 pm (#618729)

    Of course 2008 will have to play out first before any final decisions are made, but knowing what we know at this point in time I find it head scratching that people are actually suggesting the Mets *first* offer a contract to Pedro Martinez before they offer one to Oliver Perez.

    Oliver is 26 y/o, Pedro is 36 y/o.
    Oliver pitched 177 innings last season, Pedro pitched 28 innings.
    Knock on wood…but Oliver is relatively healthy, and Pedro is coming off major surgery and has several medical ?’s (foot, arm, etc).

    Those reasons alone would make me want to lock up Oliver Perez first. Just like having Wright, Reyes, and Beltran all locked up for many years on offense, how great would it be to have Santana, Perez, and Maine all locked up as SP’s as well?

  38. Comment posted by sheadenizen on February 28, 2008 at 3:21 pm (#618751)

    I’M not sure why the Mets wait so long to give contract extensions to their pitchers. Ollie and Maine should already have extensions of some kind, probably could of saved themselves millions of dollars by doing so. Good organizations should know what players are keepable and which one you should toss aside.

    Hello….Perez’s agent is Scott Boras. He won’t allow it. Yo make it sound like the Mets didn’t ask. They did. And who are all these Mets pitchers you wanted to give extensions to that the Mets didn’t?

  39. Comment posted by sheadenizen on February 28, 2008 at 3:29 pm (#618764)

    Maine’s focus problems still give a dude The Heartburn, you know.

    And Perez’s don’t? If he himself or the defense makes an error, he’s toast. He loses all focus.

  40. Comment posted by coolpapabell on February 28, 2008 at 3:47 pm (#618813)

    I am so glad this was written. I was expecting Dave from Spain to submit this since he is always obsessing over pitching.

    I like O.P. a lot, and feel that he is improving as a picher, but I also feel that the Mets should have a limit. I would give him 4- 5yrs and top off at $15M. I think he really is worth $12-14, but the market has its inefficiencies. I think A.J. Burnett, Ben Sheets, Garland provide us with some options. I could also see the Mets go with Freddy Garcia and Pelfrey to fill the holes left by O.P. and Duque. With that savings, you can get yourself a Carl Crawford or maybe a Mark Texier(highly doubt it since teh Yanks will be all over him).

    Com to think about it…..how would you feel about this?
    Johan
    Pedro
    Maine
    Garland
    Pelfrey

    I think that would be pretty economical, but our rotation very right heavy. I really think there are plenty of options for the Mets next year. If C.C. tests the free agent waters, I think that will help the Mets greatly with regards to re-sign O.P.

  41. Comment posted by coolpapabell on February 28, 2008 at 3:55 pm (#618835)

    I would rather pay him $14M but find it easier to go up by an increment of one rather than two to $16M.

    I can’t wait for a Left Field for ‘09 post. A few interesting options for them with Dunn, Griffey and Crawford. Crawford being one that I have difficulty paying too much for a corner outfielder with little pop. But I sure would love his speed.

  42. Comment posted by Joe A. on February 28, 2008 at 4:49 pm (#618890)

    Crawford isn’t going to be a FA (TB has a cheap option) and I haven’t seen any signs that they would trade him (even if we had enough prospects to get him). I like Dunn but he is probably better suited for 1B.

  43. Comment posted by Joe A. on February 28, 2008 at 4:51 pm (#618892)

    As for Pedro v. Perez, its all about the years. Pedro for 2 years (if he stays relatively healthy this year) is much less of a risk than Perez for 5.

  44. Comment posted by Dave in Spain on February 28, 2008 at 5:33 pm (#618935)

    coolpapabell–thanks for the props! Yes, I do sometimes obsess about pitching.
    JoeA– I agree that it´s all about the years. I think the Wilpons will definately try to resign Pedro if he´s healthy this year.

    And Jess-

    One thing that possibly works in the Mets’ favor is that Ollie’s flyball tendencies (which aren’t a problem for a team that plays in a big pitchers’ park and has Carlos Beltran in centerfield) make him a poor fit for many teams, and if those teams have smart GMs they may not show a great deal of interest in him.

    The GM of the Reds signed Eric Milton. Wrong pitcher for the wrong ballpark, but that doesn´t seem to count once the feeding frenzy starts. And Ollie will probably go with the biggest offer, regardless of whether it´s a good fit for him or not.

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  46. Comment posted by Jessica on February 29, 2008 at 9:52 am (#618988)

    The GM of the Reds signed Eric Milton. Wrong pitcher for the wrong ballpark, but that doesn´t seem to count once the feeding frenzy starts.

    My thinking is that some of the free-agent pitching disasters of the recent past (particularly Milton and, to a lesser extent, Jeff Suppan [a contact-oriented groundball pitcher who went from a team with a very good infield defense to a team with a poor defensive infield and saw his ERA go up half a run]) have made GMs more wary about giving big money to pitchers who don’t fit their team well.

  47. Comment posted by e poc on February 29, 2008 at 2:28 pm (#619320)

    it would be nice to re-sign pedro, but i don’t think it makes sense for the mets. they won’t have enough depth in the rotation to cover for him if he’s hurt, and there’s a huge risk that he might be. they also have so many holes to fill next offseason that they have to be a little more economical with who they’re giving contracts to and for how much.

  48. Comment posted by coolpapabell on February 29, 2008 at 7:22 pm (#619719)

    Pedro’s Value all depends on what he does this year. If he can stay healthy for teh rest of the year, I can see them paying him two years at a fair price, say a Glavinesque $11M. Next year will be interesting. I would love to see what they end up doing for their corner OF spot and their rotation. I have a feeling that they will pick up Delgado’s option if he repeates last year’s performance. The good news is that we have a true ace so all we have to do is find a number two or three, something that is always in good supply. Thank goodness we have Mr. Santana.

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