The search for starting pitching is dominating the Mets rumor mill right now. Omar Minaya has reportedly shown interest in pitchers like Ben Sheets, Oliver Perez, Randy Wolf, Jon Garland, and Freddy Garcia. One name that hasn’t been widely discussed is Andy Pettitte. For whatever reason, Pettitte hasn’t been shown much love this offseason and I don’t understand why. I think he would be a perfect fit for the Mets. Let’s take a look at some of the factors surrounding a Pettitte-to-the-Mets scenario.
Here are the predicted 2009 stats for various pitchers, based on CHONE and Marcel projections:
Derek Lowe: 178 IP, 3.69 FIP
Andy Pettitte: 175 IP, 3.96 FIP
Oliver Perez: 171 IP, 4.75 FIP
Ben Sheets: 161 IP, 3.73 FIP
Pettitte is not as valuable as Lowe, but it’s pretty close. The 4.54 ERA Pettitte posted in 2008 is misleading, as the Yankees’ defense was pretty horrific. Pettitte’s BABIP of .339 was high as well. Look at the list of defensive stiffs who saw significant time in the field for the Yanks in 2008: Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu. The Mets defense is not spectacular, but Carlos Beltran is the best defensive CF in the game, David Wright is strong at 3B, and Jose Reyes projects to be better than his 2008 performance. For those who think it’s absolutely necessary to sign another lefty to deal with the Ryan Howard-Chase Utley-Raul Ibanez trio (for the record, I don’t), Pettitte meets that requirement. Additionally, he has a season’s worth of strong postseason experience, should the Mets make it that far: 218 IP, 4.18 FIP. I’m more concerned with the 162-game path to the playoffs, which Pettitte could be a big a big part of.
I would love to see the Mets sign Sheets, but I understand why Omar Minaya would be apprehensive to do so. Sheets has injury concerns, as do Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, and John Maine (in varying degrees). The missed starts of Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez over the last couple seasons might also make the Mets hesitant to sign a pitcher with such injury risk. Meanwhile, Pettitte has averaged 214 IP over the last four seasons, never throwing less than 204 IP during that span. This kind of consistency would be more than welcome in the Mets rotation, especially considering the high quality of all those innings. Yes, Pettitte is 36 years old and had elbow surgery in 2004, but he will probably not require any more than a two-year commitment. I think he’s a safe bet to remain injury free over the next two seasons.
3) He’s a “true Yankee”
I don’t buy this reasoning against signing Pettitte at all. The days of player loyalty to teams are long over (see: Jackie Robinson choosing to retire rather than accept a trade to the crosstown rival Giants). If Pettitte was some kind of outspoken Mets hater, or true Met villain a la Roger Clemens, Jimmy Rollins, or Chipper Jones, I would say no thank you. However, he’s a quiet, hard-working guy who doesn’t seek out the spotlight. The Mets signed Tom Glavine from the rival Braves, and he had a decent run in Flushing, his first and last starts notwithstanding. Yankees fans forgot Johnny Damon was a member of the Red Sox once they realized he’s still a valuable player. The Rays signed Pat Burrell, a member of the team they lost to in the World Series. The hardcore Yankee haters among Met fans may not be able to forget Pettitte’s eleven seasons in the Bronx, but I can.
Pettitte reportedly turned down the Yankees’ offer of one-year, $10 million. Yankees discount or not, this offer is much lower than Pettitte’s actual worth. Fangraphs pegged his 2009 value at about $15 million while Beyond the Boxscore says $14 million. Having offered Lowe three years, $36 million, I think the Mets could make an offer to Pettitte in the neighborhood of two years, $24 million, and he just might accept it.
Ollie Perez is apparently first on the Mets’ list of free agent starting pitchers, and I don’t understand why. He’s a fine pitcher, but he’s not worth more than a three-year, $27 million commitment. Having already offered him three years, $30 million, I think the Mets negotiations with Scott Boras will drive that already fair offer into the ridiculous stratosphere of $12-to-13 million per season. Why overpay for Perez when you can underpay for Pettitte? The 2009 Mets need consistency and high-quality starts from their starting pitchers. Andy Pettitte can provide that, at a reasonable price.