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Smoltz & the Internal Options



By Mike Silva ~ January 27th, 2010. Filed under: Mike Silva, Offseason Speculation.

It looks like the Mets will sign John Smoltz, and rely on numerous in house candidates for the rotation.

Personally, I wanted Ben Sheets. As I predicted, it was going to take about $10 million dollars plus incentives to sign the righty. All winter we have told fans the Mets did not want to take on risky arms, electing for innings. Jon Garland, another option, was never really an option. Maybe Sheets at $10 million is worth the risk, but the Mets are probably thinking they can acquire a better pitcher, for a similar price, at some point during the season. 

I don’t mind signing Smoltz, but this is a five inning pitcher. Outside of Santana and Pelfrey, you might see the Mets in the bullpen by the sixth inning every other day. That is why, even if Smoltz does sign, I believe some of the internal options have a great shot to win a job. 

Here are my thoughts on who remains: 

Nelson Figueroa – Might be the best option. Last September he pitched to a 3.76 ERA and struck out just under a batter an inning. He very well could give you better performance by Smoltz, as well as provide more innings. He might be the favorite to land the spot. This would make our very own Howard Megdal happy. There is no one more deserving of a chance to succeed than Figueroa. 

Jonathan Niese- I get the feeling the Mets want him to start the season in AAA. He is coming off a serious hamstring injury, and already was positioned as unlikely by the manager. Having Niese on call is good depth for the organization. It’s a far cry from the days of relying on journeyman, like Brian Lawrence, to make important starts

Fernando Nieve – Did a decent job last season. His winter ball numbers are impressive (3 walks in 26 innings, 2.42 ERA) as well. If he is able to throw strikes, cut down his walks, and go deep into games, he might be the most talented of all the options. His ability to throw hard makes him a tempting bullpen option, but with Green, Parnell, Igarachi, Escobar, and Dessens it doesn’t appear like there is much room at the inn.

Tobi Stoner – He allows batters to put the ball in play. His minor league numbers were good, but he has “league average” written all over him. As Jed pointed out earlier this off season he did pitch well in winter ball (3.10 ERA in 9 starts). This is good depth, but doesn’t overly excite me.

R.A. Dickey – I love knuckleballer’s, but this was a move for AAA depth. Maybe he pitches well enough for the long man role, but he never has shown the ability to pitch well out of the rotation throughout his career.

Kelvim Escobar- Remember he was a starter before he got hurt. No chance he goes to the rotation as Omar Minaya said he was brought in to be a reliever. If he is healthy, and the Mets are desperate, there might be a small opening. I had to at least put him on the list.

Bobby Parnell – I think we already saw why Parnell (7.93 ERA as a starter) shouldn’t even be considered. Throwing hard out of the pen is where his value is.

Dillon Gee – The Mets compared him to Rick Reed last year. He spent a majority of the year injured (labrum surgery), so I think 2010 puts him back on the development track at AAA. Wouldn’t count on him.

Pedro Martinez – Had to put him in the mix. He said during his appearance on “Joe Buck Live” that he would like a chance to pitch a full season again. The Mets appear to have moved on from Pedro, and probably will get similar performance from Smoltz.

If the Mets sign Smoltz there is a good chance he will be their fifth starter. I do like the depth they have with Stoner, Dickey, Niese, and Figueroa. In 2007, his last full season, Smoltz pitched to a 140 ERA+, won 13 games, and pitched 200 innings at the age of 40. He has the potential to provide the Mets with “top of the rotation” outings, but reads more of an aging 5 inning pitcher. Perez, Pelfrey, and Maine are going to have to step up and have good years behind Santana for this team to succeed.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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3 Responses to Smoltz & the Internal Options

  1. hdarvick

    For those not familar with what Nelson Figueroa has been doing since he pitched the only Mets complete game shutout at Citi Field on October 4, 2009:

    As of this morning, Nelson Figueroa’s ERA in 23.1 innings pitched so far in the Dominican Winter League is 0.64. After pitching in relief in four games with a 0.93 ERA, he has started two games, lowering his ERA to 0.64. His manager is Ken Oberkfell, former Mets coach and current AAA Buffalo Bisons manager, so Jeff Wilpon and Omar Minaya know exactly how he’s doing.

    When he finally got into the Mets rotation in mid-August, in Santana’s spot, he pitched in 8 games with an ERA of 3.38 and a 2-6 record; in his 6 losses, the Mets scored a total of 11 runs. If you eliminate his first start against Atlanta, he had a 2.23 ERA in 7 games. In his last three 2009 starts, Figueroa pitched 22 innings (7+ innings per game) and had a 1.64 ERA. Even his 4.09 ERA is better than half the NL starters in 2009. He led the Mets pitching staff in strikeouts in September.

    By the way, with his two DFAs to Buffalo, he pitched 112 innings for the Bisons with a 2.25 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP. If he had pitched just 3 more innings in Triple A to qualify, Nelson Figueroa would have led the International League in both categories instead of Carlos Torres (2.39 ERA in 128 innings and Justin Lehr (1.17 WHIP in 117 innings). He was the IL’s Pitcher of the Week twice and was selected for and pitched in the 2009 Triple A All-Star Game against the Pacific Coast League.

    In 2009, Nelson Figueroa averaged 6+ innings pitched per game (count his Buffalo stats and it’s 7 innings per game). He is not and has never been a 5 inning pitcher like John Smoltz is now.

    Nelson Figueroa has continued his superlative pitching in the Dominican Winter League with his two starts coming in the Dominican World Series now under way. There is no reason to believe he will not continue in 2010.

    Why not take a poll? In which starting pitcher, other than Santana, would you have more confidence in as he walks to the mound in the first inning? (alphabetically): Figueroa, Maine, Niese, Nieve, Pelfrey, Perez, or Smoltz.

  2. Steve

    So much excitement over adding another 5th starter at best. The strategy of “let’s just load up a bunch of arms” continues; as does the IFs – “Well, IF Perez comes around, and IF Pelfrey does better, and IF Maine is not injured then maybe we’ll play .500..” Sounds familiar… When will the Mets realize you need two #1 starter types to win big?? Another non-championship year coming up….

  3. Ryan

    Gee did not have surgery last year and is healthy. I hope he can make a strong push to get a call at some point this summer.

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