Oliver Perez is quickly becoming the new Luis Castillo. Last year, Mets fans and journalists routinely ridiculed Mets GM, Omar Minaya, for giving Castillo a lucrative four year deal that was worth $25 million.
This season Minaya is drawing similar criticism for the three year, $36 million deal that he gave to Perez. It’s hard to back Minaya up on this signing as Perez has been pretty much awful this season. However, count me in as one of those who were in favor of signing Perez over the other pitcher, Derek Lowe, whom the Mets coveted this past off-season.
On paper it seemed like the better route to go. Perez, who turns 28 today, is a full eight years younger than Lowe and was already familiar with pitching in the electric atmosphere in New York City.
However, the signing turned out to be anything but perfect for the Mets. While not on the disabled list, Ollie has proven to be vastly ineffective in his starts.
With the Mets falling further and further into irrelevance it is time to look to 2010 and build a winning ball club that is capable of competing well into October.
One of the key components to any winning team is a strong starting rotation. This year despite a couple of solid outings, Perez has not proven himself to be worthy of a spot in such a rotation. So the question still remains, what should the Mets do with Oliver Perez?
In my opinion there are three ways the Mets can handle the situation. One route they could choose to take is to outright release Perez following the season. I don’t see the Mets going this path as it isn’t practical at all. Perez still has two years and about $24 million left on his deal so I doubt very much that the Mets would just let him go without any compensation, especially given their lack of finances.
Another option would be to attempt to trade him. But in reality, the Mets would get very little in return if anything in return for Perez. They’d also have to pay at least part of his salary anyways to get rid of him. One possible swap of bad contracts that may actually benefit the Mets would be a trade for Juan Pierre.
In my opinion, Pierre would be a good fit in the Mets lineup and has a great deal of speed to complement Jose Reyes in the two hole. He also hit pretty well with the absence of Manny Ramirez early this year.
Like Perez, Pierre has two years remaining on his contract and is owed $18.5 million according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. I’d imagine if the Dodgers were interested in dealing Pierre for Perez, the Mets would have to kick in about $4 million to balance out the salaries.
As nice as this sounds I’m not so sure the Dodgers would be willing to give up a solid fourth outfielder, like Pierre, in exchange for an erratic starting pitcher.
The third and final route the Mets can take is to keep Perez and try to work with him on his consistency. I know it is easier said than done, but at this point the Mets are pretty much out of options.
Maybe without the pre-season interruption of the World Baseball Classic, Ollie will be more focused and ready to go in time for Opening Day than he was this year.
Rather than ignore the issue, the Mets should prepare themselves for Perez’s struggles by building up pitching depth, similarly to how the Yankees acquired Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin. While those guys may not be stars they helped keep the starting rotation from falling apart following a season-ending injury to Chien-Ming Wang.
The 2010 free agent pitching market includes a number of new faces that could help sure up the pitching staff and minimize the strain on the ball club caused by Perez’s struggles. These names include the likes of Brad Penny, Randy Wolf, Joel Pineiro and Jason Marquis, who is coming off a stellar year with the Rockies.
The team cannot rely on him to be anything more than a fifth starter until he can prove he can pitch on average six effective innings per start.
I’m sure come this time next year we will once again be revisiting the talks over whether or not Ollie stays or goes, but for now I’d say its pretty much a lock that he will be a New York Met in 2010.