Yesterday, I suggested the Mets should kick the tires on Ben Sheets since Derek Lowe is in no hurry to sign.  Here I follow up on that thought.

Ben Sheets is a free agent pitcher and to the best of my knowledge, there have been no rumors of the Mets being interested in him whatsoever.  Sheets offers an interesting mix of talent and risk and I am just a little surprised that the club has not been at least a little curious about seeing what it would take to get him to come to Queens.

Sheets has tremendous stuff but unfortunately for him he has struggled with injuries most of the last four seasons.  Last year, it looked like he was finally going to pitch a full season at a most opportune time – while in the last year of his contract.  And if the season ended on September 6, there’s little doubt he would have already signed and been a very wealthy man.

After winning a complete-game shutout over the Padres, 1-0, on that date, Sheets’ line looked like this:

13-7, 2.82 ERA with 151 strikeouts and 42 walks in 188 innings.

But we know the season lasts longer than that and Sheets came down with an elbow injury which limited him to just three starts the rest of the season.  And those starts were terrible.  In his final three appearances, Sheets went 0-2 with a 7.84 ERA.  He allowed 10 runs (9 ER) in 10.1 IP and gave up five walks and three home runs.

So, Sheets added an elbow injury to his laundry list of ailments in recent years, which includes hamstring, finger, shoulder, back and ear injuries since signing his last contract prior to the 2005 season.

It’s easy to see why the Mets made Derek Lowe their top choice once C.C. Sabathia was off the board.  While Sheets has made just 94 starts the past four seasons, Lowe checks in with 137.  That’s a huge difference and not one to be dismissed lightly.

But along with his durability, Lowe is also five years older than Sheets.  This is not a difference that we should dismiss lightly, either.

And as we saw yesterday, Lowe is a pitcher who depends on his infield defense to be a successful pitcher.  Sheets is a power pitcher who gets strikeouts and fly balls.  He recorded 240 ground balls outs last year, compared to 243 fly ball outs and 158 strikeouts.  The raw strikeout totals were similar between the two pitchers last year, but Lowe pitched more innings.  Sheets averaged nearly a full strikeout per nine higher than Lowe and for his career the difference is nearly 1 ¾ per nine.

According to Casey Close, the agent for Sheets, the prognosis for his client is good.

“I guess the best way to describe it is, it’s like a hamstring pull in your elbow,” Close told ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick back in November. “There’s no structural damage, and [the doctors] don’t look for any long-term negative impact to the elbow. But the bottom line is, you have to give it the necessary rest and time to heal.”

For the Mets, the bottom line is that Sheets has a ton of talent and he is someone they should investigate.  When healthy, he throws in the lower to mid-90s with his fastball and has a devastating curveball.  He also occasionally throws a change but is primarily a two-pitch guy.  It’s an indication how good his stuff is that he can be an All-Star caliber pitcher with just a fastball and a curve.

Because of his durability concerns, the Mets would need to have a caddy for Sheets, a role that would be perfect for Jon Niese.  If the club signed Sheets, they would need a reliable fifth starter.  Since he would likely come at a cheaper rate than Lowe, the Mets could conceivable add two starting pitchers to fill out their rotation.

One guy who makes a lot of sense for the club would be free agent Jon Garland.  A 14-game winner for the Angels last year, he was not offered arbitration and would not cost the Mets a draft pick to sign.  Garland does not have great stuff but he has thrown at least 190 innings the past seven seasons and is still only 29-years old.

A rotation with Johan Santana, Ben Sheets, Mike Pelfrey, John Maine and Jon Garland would be one of the top pitching staffs in the game.  This also allows the Mets to give Jon Niese some additional time in the minors.  I think Niese has a great future, but he has only pitched seven games at Triple-A in his career.  I feel much better about him being the first pitcher to add to the rotation rather than having him start in the fifth slot.

Clearly, the Mets view Lowe as their top option.  But since Lowe is not ready to sign for what the club has offered him, the team would be remiss not to explore what it would take to add Sheets.

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