Jason Collette, Troy Patterson, David Golebiewski, Rhett Oldham, Eric Stashin and Jon Williams weigh in on the Mets moves this off-season.

Recently I asked some friends and colleagues about how they thought the Mets off-season had gone.  I thought it would be interesting to get some outside perspective, although at least one of these guys roots for the blue and orange.  Click on their links to see some of their work and you will see that these guys are really smart and bring a lot to the table.

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Jason Collette – fanball.com

The Mets offseason has not been boring, but it has taken some interesting twists and turns. It started off with a bang with the signing of Francisco Rodriguez and the trade for J.J. Putz. Those two moves instantly upgrades the disastrous bullpen that killed the Mets down the stretch last year but now you have two closer egos in the same bullpen. Rodriguez has the big contract but Putz wants his chance to pitch for his next contract. There is no way the Mets are picking up Putz’s 8.6m option for 2010 unless K-Rod’s arm falls off. I worry that some in-fighting in the locker-room may have Jerry Manuel giving Putz a few more save opportunities thus taking away from K-Rod. There is also the worry about K-Rod’s velocity loss last year to keep an eye on. Rodriguez is still a front-line closer but he is also the biggest risk for that top group in my opinion for 2009.

They closed out 2008 with another bullpen addition that I think will be helpful in picking up Connor Robertson. Robertson is one of those guys that has spent most of his career in the minors but he could end up being a solid 7th inning guy this year and possibly moving into Putz’s role for 2010. Robertson has a career strikeout rate in the minors of 10.7 and a strikeout to walk ratio of over 3.0. He is a groundball type pitcher who should be able to keep the ball inside the spacious Citi Field. He has been particularly tough against righties in his career striking out 11.6 per nine while holding them to a .232 average. This has a chance of being one of those little blips on the radar people look back at mid-season and wonder where he came from.

Most recently, the Mets inexplicably signed Tim Redding to challenge for the 5th spot. His 4.95 ERA was supported by an equally poor 4.93 FIP. He has a 1.9 strikeout to walk ratio and has always posted high homerun rates. Frankly, I don’t see anything he does any better than Jon Niese would do as a 5th starter. I say these guys are fighting it out for the 5th spot because I believe either Oliver Perez comes back or Ben Sheets gets a short-term deal with incentives to come to this rotation after the Mets lost out on Derek Lowe today.

None of these moves address the issue in left-field that a certain dreadlocked outfielder could easily solve. I’d much rather see the Mets bite the bullet on Luis Castillo’s contract and move Daniel Murphy to second base to make room for a free agent left-fielder. Until that situation is resolved, I have to give the Mets a solid B for their off-season efforts. I was worried about the lack of a reserve infielder on the roster but as I close up shop tonight, I read the Mets have inked Alex Cora to a one year deal which is a great fit for what they need. The bullpen moves were tremendous but the bottom half of the rotation and left-field remain unanswered with 31 days until pitchers and catchers report.

Troy Patterson – Roto Savants

The signing of Francisco Rodriguez was not surprising, but at the amount I thought the deal was pretty good.  The problem was it did not address the team’s real issue with middle relief.  This made the JJ Putz move that much more impressive.  The 1-2 punch of Putz and K-Rod should insure leads that get to the 8th are locked down.  Moving Heilman was also good as his numbers and attitude was not improving.

They then lost that good feeling with the signing of Tim Redding and leaving me questioning their talent evaluation.  Jon Niese should press him for the 5th spot, as Redding is not a very good pitcher.  Overall the team did well to sure up the bullpen, but need to find another pitcher.

Free Agent Target remaining: If it were my choice I would take a run at Ben Sheets.  2 years could get it done and he would make an elite top two with Johan.  More than likely the Mets appear headed to resigning Oliver Perez.  An interesting signing would be to steal the New York headlines and sign Andy Pettitte.

David Golebiewski – FanGraphs

Considering that the Mets finished 24th in the majors in reliever Win Probability Added and lost the services of Billy Wagner, I entered the offseason more or less expecting the club to make a splashy, high-profile bullpen acquisition or two. And, to be honest, I was sort of cringing at the prospect of such a move. I’m a big believer in cobbling together a relief corps without tying down a significant portion of your payroll to a particular reliever. Relief pitching performance is inherently volatile (a poor performance here or there can really skew a player’s numbers when he only tosses something like 60-80 innings), and there are plenty of possible routes to acquire an effective bullpen arm, be it converting a starter, making a lower-profile trade, signing someone through minor league free agency or making a selection in the Rule V Draft.

All of that being said, I actually don’t mind the acquisitions of Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz. I was expecting K-Rod to land an exorbitant long-term deal, but I think that what the Mets are paying him during the three guaranteed years of his contract ($37 million) probably isn’t that far off his fair market value. I think that there are some reasons to be concerned (a 3 MPH dip in velocity over the past few seasons, and a rising walk rate), so it’s not exactly a slam-dunk move. But, given’s the Mets’ place on the win and revenue curve (each additional win added to the roster brings them significantly closer to a playoff berth, and they can afford to pay more for those wins), adding K-Rod was a defensible move.

As for Putz, the Mets acquired a guy not all that far removed from a two year stretch of dominance, where he punched out 10-11 batters per nine innings and issues few walks. Control eluded Putz in 2008, as he dealt with an elbow ailment. I’m not a doctor, and I cannot speak to the health of his arm. But if he’s physically well, and his dastardly splitter is on, I think it’s reasonable to expect a bounceback for him. As for what they surrendered to get Putz? I think that for the most part, they surrendered pieces that don’t really alter the team’s infrastructure. Joe Smith is a decent right-handed specialist who generates grounders, but the Mets acquired a similar talent in the Putz deal in Sean Green. Endy Chavez is a wonderful defender, but he’s certainly more of a complementary piece than a key contributor, and Jeremy Reed is adequate with the leather. Aaron Heilman had been a pretty good reliever prior to 2008, and perhaps he could be again if he scraps his slider and returns to his fastball/change mix. Mike Carp is a mid-range first base prospect, and Jason Vargas’ career has been sidetracked by a hip injury. Ezequiel Carrera and particularly Maikel Cleto are further away and may hold more promise, but it’s very difficult to say just what they’ll become.

While I’m generally in favor of what the Mets have done in the bullpen, I can’t really say the same for the rotation, at least not to this point. We know that Johan Santana, if not the unstoppable force of his Minnesota days, is still an excellent starter. But I think there are legitimate questions about some of the other guys. How healthy is John Maine? Can Mike Pelfrey strike out more than 5 batters per nine innings? I think John Niese looks like a solid back-of-the rotation starter, but there are few certainties past Santana. In a vacuum, signing a guy like Tim Redding is a thoroughly defensible move- there is value in having a 5th starter who simply isn’t below replacement level. But if the Mets enter the season with the rotation as it currently is, then I think they will have settled as opposed to taking strides to significantly improve themselves. I mentioned earlier about the club being high on the win and revenue curve, and I think that certainly applies here. The club has the resources and incentive to add a high-quality starter, and I thought that Derek Lowe would have been an excellent fit. With Lowe apparently headed to Atlanta, I think the Mets missed the boat on that one. The Mets might re-sign Oliver Perez instead, but the difference between a volatile pitcher like Perez and a consistently stellar starter like Lowe is significant- Lowe has been worth an average of 3.9 Wins Above Replacement over the past three years. Perez has been worth an average of one WAR per year. Even if Lowe declines somewhat during the course of his deal, his value certainly figures to surpass that of Perez. If the Mets are willing to take a risk, Ben Sheets is still out there. While his health is anything but assured, he could be the sort of impact starter that the Mets need, and he would likely receive no more than two guaranteed years. The Mets need to aim high here and accumulate depth (no team goes through the season using just starters 1-5), and not just settle for the Tim Reddings of the world.

Rhett Oldham – FantasyPros911.com

The Mets continue to defy logic and not commit any resources to the suspect corner outfield positions.  While I praise them for the nice work at the end of the bullpen the rest of the bullpen leaves alot to be desired.  The Mets need to stop making headlines with rumors and start making headlines with signings.

Ryan Church and Daniel Murphy are not striking fear in the hearts of anyone and Adam Dunn would be a great fit especially considering he could move to first base when Delgado is gone.  If not Dunn then Bobby Abreu would be a nice alternative as well.  The rotation has a nice three man start but Tim Redding is a head scratcher to say the least.  Resigning Oliver Perez does make an awful lot of sense to me.  Finally, show me a reliever in the Mets pen not named Putz and KROD that has an ERA under 4.00.  Signing a low risk veteran such as Chad Cordero, Jason Isringhausen, or the best option in Juan Cruz would bolster what continues to be the biggest weakness of the Metropolitans.

Eric Stashin – Rotoprofessor

To me, the Mets have had a somewhat successful off-season.  They certainly rehauled the bullpen with the additions of Francisco Rodriguez & J.J. Putz, but as I’ve previously said, I don’t think the job there should be considered complete.  One more arm is needed in the bullpen, most likely a talented lefty, so they are protected from an injury or ineffectiveness.  Yes, they’ve added Sean Green as well as two pitchers through the Rule 5 draft, but those aren’t the arms that I want to see routinely pitching the seventh inning, or the eighth when Putz needs a day off.  Finish the job.  Finish the overhaul.

Outside of that, what have they done?  Tim Redding?  Alex Cora?  Complimentary players at best.  The offense hasn’t been touched, so we are entering the season with Luis Castillo at 2B, Daniel Murphy/Fernando Tatis in LF and Brian Schneider/Ramon Castro at C.  That leaves them potentially exposed at 3 positions, as well as 1B, because I think we would all agree that Carlos Delgado is likely to regress from his performance last season.  A move needs to be made, and I’m not even going to suggest Manny Ramirez or someone that high profile.  Just a steady performer along the lines of a Raul Ibanez (still don’t understand why they didn’t go after him harder).

Oh yeah, did I mention that they still need a starting pitcher?  I’m bracing myself for 3 more seasons of the ups and downs of Oliver Perez but they need to ante up and get it done before someone else sneaks in.  Would that really surprise anyone at this point?  Basically, the Mets decided to upgrade the bullpen and nothing else if Perez is tabbed to finalize the rotation.  What makes us think that this season is going to be any different then the past 3?

Jon Williams – RotoExperts

The New York Mets offseason began great. They waited out the closer market and signed their number one target, Francisco Rodriguez. Then they traded Aaron Heilman, Endy Chavez, and a collection of faceless prospects for former closer J.J. Putz and middle reliever Sean Green. Then they failed to sign Derek Lowe. The Mets rotation is more fragile than it appears on the surface. Johan Santana is coming off knee surgery. John Maine is coming off shoulder surgery. Mike Pelfry has had exactly one successful season in the major leagues. The newly signed Tim Redding has never been successful in the majors. And rookie Jon Niese has exactly three starts in the major leagues. Bolstering the rotation is a necessity.

Now the Mets really only have one option that makes sense, Ben Sheets. The Mets should offer Ben Sheets an incentive laden contract that comes close to the money they were willing to give Derek Lowe. Ben Sheets has not been a very durable pitcher but he is probably the most talented of all the pitchers that were on the market this offseason. Sheets when healthy is one of the better pitchers in baseball. The Mets seem to prefer re-signing Oliver Perez but Perez while talented is also inconsistent. The Mets need a rock but there is not one available. So they should go after the greatest pitching talent available and that belongs to Ben Sheets.

There are some that would suggest the Mets sign an outfielder but they can afford to wait. The Mets should find out if Dan Murphy could be an everyday starter for them. The Mets have also refused to part with outfield prospect Fernando Martinez who would be part of the Mets 2010 outfield if all goes well. Signing Manny Ramirez or Adam Dunn would not only be expensive but it would block the Mets’ younger players. If Ramirez and Dunn become bargains that the Mets can’t resist they should go for Dunn rather than Ramirez. Dunn at the very least can be moved to first base in 2010 when Carlos Delgado becomes a free agent.

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Thanks to everyone above for participating in this roundtable.  And thanks to all of the readers who made it to the end of this post.

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