Image by ddoyle1112 via Flickr
There’s only one certainty when it comes to the Mets starting pitchers for 2010: Johan Santana. As long as he’s healthy, there’s no reason to think he won’t be one of the best pitchers in baseball. He’s had some minor injury problems but I don’t expect to see any decline in his performance. After Santana, the situation gets very murky, very quickly. This is about to get ugly, so Mets fans hold onto your hats.
Mike Pelfrey– In 31 starts Pelfrey finished the season at 10-12 with a 5.03 ERA. 2009 was a serious regression for him from his 2008 line of 32 starts 13-11 and 3.72 ERA. Pelfrey had some disgusting performances like June 4th in Pittsburgh giving up 8 runs in 3.2 innings and giving up 9 runs in 4.1 innings in Atlanta on July 17th. There were other ugly games but you get the idea. Often Pelfrey looked uncomfortable and frustrated, but who wouldn’t be while pitching poorly? He had a bad year but the Mets have too much invested in him for him not to be back in the rotation. He’ll be there. You can bank on it. But I doubt that he’ll be considered the #2 starter. He should be demoted in the rotation. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t have a bounce-back year in 2010.
Oliver Perez– He was bothered by knee problems and only made 14 starts in 2009 going 3-4 with a 6.82 ERA. It was an inauspicious start to his 3-year/$36 million deal. Basically, he stole $12 million from the Wilpons this year. It’s not as much as Bernie Madoff stole, but still pretty significant. Expect Perez to be in the rotation again to start 2010 purely for financial reasons. This is a bad contract but the Mets owe him too much money to cut him loose, and he’s pitched too poorly to be traded. That’s all there is to it. Who knows what to expect from him in 2010? Your guess is as good as mine.
John Maine– This is where things start to get interesting. Maine has had two injury-plagued seasons in a row. That’s a bad sign for a 28 year-old pitcher. At some point you have to cut bait and this might be the time for the Mets to move on. You can’t have 20% of your starting rotation go down in flames two years in a row without some repercussions. That’s exactly what Maine did. He made 15 starts in 2009 and 25 starts in 2008. That’s just not good enough. Maine made $2.6 million in 2009 and he’s eligible for arbitration again this year. The Mets need to think long and hard about non-tendering Maine. I would. It’s time to move on.
The Rest– Tim Redding probably won’t be back again. He’s a free agent. 3-6 with a 5.10 ERA made me think that he’s more of the problem than the solution. Nelson Figueroa and Pat Misch should get a look but won’t be serious contenders for the rotation.
Free Agents– There are plenty of decent free agent options and you have to start the conversation with John Lackey. He’s a career 102-71 with a 3.81 ERA in the American League. What’s not to like about him? The problem is that he’s going to get #1 starter money. The Mets already have Santana getting big money. It’s unlikely that they would hand out another $100+ million contract for a starter. So don’t expect Lackey with the Mets. I definitely expect the Mets to be looking at some reclamation projects with a high upside like Ben Sheets and Erik Bedard. I’ll be shocked if the Mets aren’t strong contenders for Rich Harden. If the Dodgers don’t pick up Jon Garland’s $10 million option, I’d expect the Mets to be in on him as well. There are plenty of decent starters out there this offseason. Even Randy Wolf could be on the Mets radar despite his desire to stay on the west coast.
Trades– This conversation starts and ends with Roy Halladay. He’s only got one year left in Toronto and the Blue Jays don’t want to be left holding the bag when he becomes a free agent. He’ll move somewhere in a trade. For the Mets, it’s a matter of having the right minor league pieces to fit the Blue Jays’ needs. You never know what the Blue Jays are looking for. They’ve got a new management regime coming in. Keep your finger crossed that the Mets are able to pull off a deal. Omar Minaya may just need it to save his career in New York.
There are three givens for the rotation: Santana, Pelfrey, and Perez. That’s it. We can expect some big changes in the rotation next year. Let’s hope it works out better than it did in 2009.