Ranking The Potentially Available Pitchers

An article by posted on June 18, 2010

I decided last night that I am officially tired of Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt. Both of their trade sagas and rumors remind me of the Roy Halladay rumors that basically occurred for two full seasons. Granted, Halladay finally made his way out of Toronto (and not t Boston where everybody “knew” he’d end up.) However, it didn’t happen until the off-season, and realistically how many big name starting pitchers get traded away during the season. 

Let’s put all the chips on the table. I’m tired of hearing “let’s get this guy,” and ignoring what it really means to get that pitcher. This isn’t fantasy baseball, you can’t just add names. You need to add personalities, talent, and contracts. 

First, allow me to recognize the job done by R.A. Dickey, and Hisanori Takahashi. Both have pitched brilliantly. I for one am a believer than John Maine’s days in New York are numbered. I believe he is the key to the Mets trade market strategy. If he can come back healthy enough to show he can still pitch, I expect him to be a piece of a trade. I liked Maine, but I think it’s time for him to move on. I hope it’s to a place where he succeeds, I really do. 

For those naysayers who think everything is fine while looking through their rose colored glasses, first let me say this. Niese, and Dickey are 100% fine in the rotation. I still am expecting Dickey to hit a rough patch, but to his credit it has not happened. He’s a fine 5th starter because he can give you enough innings where you can continue to rest your bullpen if needed. 

With that said, the Mets need a #3 starter. You know, it’s a pretty amazing thing to need a #3 starter and not a #1 or #2, so take a second to count your blessings. 

Along with a #3 starter, the Mets absolutely need an 8th inning arm. They will get stronger in the 6th/7th inning type appearances with Takahashi returning to the bullpen. I am rooting for you Elmer Dessens, but you’re not a setup man. If the Mets can find a true setup man (Matt Thornton) and a #3 starter, then I believe this team has as good a chance as any to take the NL. There I said it. 

So here we go. I’m going to put it all on the table for you. All the starting pitchers that should be rumored to leave town and maybe some that haven’t been talked about. This way we don’t have to keep pulling names out of a hat. Let’s just talk about everybody, and figure out based on the data who fits the team the best. 

This is becoming a pitcher’s league, and I believe any team that is out of it that has pitching to sell will sell. They will get the highest value in prospects for their talent than they ever would have previously. Now is the time to sell. 

I know some if not most of you have to be tired of all this talk. First of all, none of us know what it would take to get any player. We can assume, but we’re not behind any closed door meeting. I believe Maine would be a key piece if he comes back and shows he is healthy enough because I don’t see where he’d wind up in the Mets rotation. Other than that, nobody knows what it takes to get a certain player. 

All we can do is look at what is or may be out there, and create a realistic wish list. So here is my top 10 in order based on talent, potential price, future with the team, and ability to fit into this team right now.

1. Mark Buehrle – I think by now everybody except Jerry Reinsdorf knows I love the idea of Buehrle. A lot about the White Sox future depends on the next week or so. If this team shows they can claw back into the AL Central race, then forget about any type of sale in Chicago. 

The thing about Chicago is they are a team that looks to re-tool, not rebuild. So if Maine can prove he’s worthy of a starting spot on a staff, then he could be very attractive to a guy like Kenny Williams. Buehrle has always been viewed as the White Sox #1 pitcher, but if you take an honest look at him, he’s a #2 at best, but realistically a #3. I believe he’s the type of player that would fit in perfectly with this roster. He wouldn’t demand the attention or spotlight, and he’s been in big situations before. 

He makes $14m this year, and another $14m next year. He also has a trade clause that if he is dealt before July 15th that he is given an extra $1m bonus, and a guaranteed 2012 season at $15m. He cannot be traded after July 15th without his permission. 

2. Dan Haren – Haren is a no brainer for the Mets to explore if he’s really available. He’s also probably the most valuable pitcher on the supposed market, simply because of his age, contract and talent. 

Josh Byrnes is one of the best GM’s in the game in my opinion, and he’s not going to get fleeced on a deal for Haren. They do not have to trade him.

Haren is making $8.25m this year, $12.75m next year, with a 2013 club option.

The Diamondbacks are clearly struggling, but that doesn’t mean they need to trade away the 29 year old. 

If he gets traded, I expect it’s going to be for a team’s best prospect. As much as I’d love to see him in the Mets rotation, I don’t see it happening. 

3. Ted Lilly – I watched his most recent start from the 7th inning on. This guy is a competitor. Last night on the chat I discussed him with a few veteran chatters. The one thing you need to be careful with Lilly is that if you look at his numbers in 2005, you’re not doing him any justice. 

I only care about what Lilly has done lately. His last 3 years in Chicago have been very good. His supposed poor 2nd half’s give him an ERA of under 3.00 in September over the last 3 years. In fact his ERA’s in July-September for the last 3 years are lower than April-June. So I’m not sure what’s so bad about his 2nd half? 

The problem with Lilly is he’s a free agent after this year. I’m not sure what he’d do. He’s coming to a point where he may just want a 1 or 2 year deal with the team he’s with if he has a chance to win. 

He’s been in New York before, and to me he is the type of personality this team would need. He’s a fighter, but he blends in. He doesn’t need to be the star of the team, even though he pitches like he should be a star. 

I’m very much in favor of checking in on the price tag of Ted Lilly. 

4. Roy Oswalt – I think the problem with Oswalt’s value is Houston a) doesn’t realize there are probably 10 pitchers on the market, and b) this isn’t 2007. 

Oswalt’s got name recognition, but is he the best fit? At one point I absolutely thought so. He’s the type of guy I feel you can hand the ball to and he’ll give you everything he’s got.

He’s making $16m next year with a 2012 club option. For some reason his contract scares people. See, I think I’m in the minority here. If the Mets are going to make a move right now, I don’t want to worry about who is in the top 3 rotation spots this winter. I’d rather know going into 2011 that the Mets don’t need a 3rd starter again. Besides, who else is going to fill that spot that won’t get as much $ for the talent? I personally would rather have two years of Oswalt than 5 years of Lee.

Oswalt’s value to the Mets is solely based on what the Astros demand. If the Astros price tag is too much (Mejia the only big leaguer avail,) then I say walk away and tell the Astros good luck. 

Oswalt is a low maintenance guy. He’s never made a stink about the Astros when they’ve struggled, and I don’t think he needs to be the #1 guy like I think Lee does. I think you get Roy Oswalt, you become the 2nd best team in the NL on paper. 

One of the biggest fibs about Oswalt is his health. Just for the record, he’s thrown over 200 innings 5 of the last 6 years. The only year he didn’t was last year, but he still had 30 starts. 

Sometimes you hear sources say the Mets don’t want him, other times you hear they have scouts in Houston. Who knows what to believe? For me, it’s all about the price tag. The only reason the Mets wouldn’t want him is if Houston’s demand is too high. 

If that’s the case, I expect Oswalt to be in Houston on August 1st

5. Cliff Lee – You’d be a fool to think he’s not a talented pitcher. My problem with Cliff Lee is there are too many reasons NOT to trade for him.

The first being that I believe he wants to hit the open market in the winter. It makes 0 sense for the “best free agent pitcher,” to not hit the open market for the first and only time in his career at his age. He’s never had a real home since his career ignited, and I think he’s going to look for one.

The Mariners want top prospects, at least one. They will get a top prospect if he leaves town, so it makes no sense for them to just give him away.

He also turns 32 years old this season. Let’s be conservative and say he only wants a 4 year deal (I think he wants 5.) Halfway through his contract he’ll be turning 35 years old. How many starting pitchers today are having solid seasons at 35 years old? Two of three tops (Andy P, Carpenter, Hudson.) Would you want any of those 3 on your team for the next two years for $20million? I’m not sure and I’ll tell you one thing, I think at least 2 out of those 3 are better pitchers than Lee. 

I also feel like Lee is going to go somewhere where he is the #1 pitcher. He’s not John Lackey, he’s not looking to blend in. He’s looking to be the guy that gets the ball in the big game. I’m sorry Cliff, but that isn’t happening in New York. 

The only reason to acquire Lee is that he’s really good. Well you know what? There are other very solid options out there, all of which don’t bring as many questions and as much baggage as Lee would. I hope he ends up in Minnesota, I think he’d fit nicely there. 

6. Jake Peavy – He’s not really being talked about that much. I’d be curious to see how he’d play back in the National League, especially in Citi Field. I remember when he went to Chicago, there were so many SABER graphs showing basically that he’d pitch exactly how he has. In all reality, he would probably be a good fit here, but I’m not sure about his personality. 

When he was rumored last year, you kept hearing about how he wants a team that plays in Central, USA. Is that a red flag that he knows he can’t handle it in New York, Boston or Los Angeles? I’m not sure. 

He does throw strikes, and he is the type of pitcher you expect to have success in Citi Field. High K’s, Low Walks, Flyball pitcher. He has some injury issues, so another red flag most likely. 

He’s making $15m this year, $16m next year and $17m in 2012 with a 2013 club option. He has a full no trade clause this season. 

7. Jeremy Guthrie – Guthrie is 31 years old and if we’re being honest is a way better Orioles option than Millwood. Guthrie was signed to a 1 year contract prior to the season to avoid arbitration. 

That leaves a big question mark as to where he ends up in 2011. One thing I don’t want to see this team do is trade for a guy who is just going to either walk away, or they can sign in the off-season. Guthrie though suffers way more than Millwood by being in Baltimore. He’s 3-8 with a 3.97 ERA.

He gives up fewer hits than innings pitched, but doesn’t strike out a ton of batters. I love his 1.17 WHIP, but again this is a guy based on his contract that you need to exhaust all other options first before talking about him. 

8. Fausto Carmona – Carmona is a guy to consider for sure. You never know who is really available, but if he was, Omar please take a look. Carmona is signed through 2011, making $4.9m this year and $6.1m next year. He also has club options through 2014 which is huge. 

The problem is, the Indians really don’t have to trade him. He isn’t the

Fausto Carmona of a few years back, so don’t expect a potential #2 starter here. He is however a solid option for the middle of the rotation. He hasn’t been the healthiest pitcher since his career year in 2007. 

That has to worry you. Overall his numbers this year are close to his 2007 campaign than his ugly 2008 and 2009 years. That is very nice to see, but again he’s got the injury red flag, and I wonder about his maturity to handle being thrown into a big spotlight. 

9. Kevin Millwood – Millwood is a 35 year old free agent who in my opinion has been overpaid since his days with Texas, and for some reason caught the eyes of many Mets fans early on this season. 

I think Mets fans as a whole think we could turn Millwood around. We saw that winless record and thought, hey he deserves better. You know, I think I saw enough of him against the Mets to know that he can’t do anything more than John Maine. He gives up a ton of hits, and he’s quickly showing us all that maybe he’s not that good of a pitcher anyway. 

To me, the only way you acquire Kevin Millwood is if you’ve exhausted all other trade options, and Maine has proven to be a bust. 

10. Ben Sheets – See I’m not sure I really like Sheets to be honest. I remember in 2008, he took himself out of a game against the Mets, and from that point on I knew he was soft. The A’s believe they figured out that he was tipping his curveball, but they are going to have to prove he’s “fixed” before anybody sends even 1 prospect to Oakland. 

The A’s may wait until the final bell to trade Sheets. The A’s cannot offer Sheets arbitration if he is a Type A free agent, so if he starts to show signs that he could end up that way, you’ll see Sheets dealt for anything. 

He just does nothing for me. He doesn’t have the strikeout stuff anymore, and every time I’ve seen him pitch I’ve been unimpressed. The A’s won’t get taken for a ride, and if the Mets are in a position that Sheets makes sense, then I can’t see an argument why Millwood, Guthrie or Westbrook make less sense. 

Honorable Mention: Jake Westbrook – Westbrook is an identical situation to Kevin Millwood. Some Mets fans loved him, and then we saw him pitch against our team. Now, we don’t love him so much. He doesn’t have the K/BB ratio that Millwood has but he gives up just as many hits, which has to put him at the bottom of the trade pool for me. He’s making $11m this year, and is a free agent. I don’t know what he can bring to this team that guys like Maine and Takahashi can’t. 

Honorable Mention: Brett Myers – Houston’s also got Brett Myers sitting there with a pretty good season so far, and he’s got a 2011 mutual option which I have to assume Myers would opt-out. 

To me though, Myers is a good pitcher, but he never worried me in Philadelphia. He’s a good guy to throw in the middle of the rotation I suppose, but to me he’s like a Jon Niese. He’s not a star, but he’s solid at the bottom of the rotation. 

In my opinion, the Mets don’t need a guy like Brett Myers. 

Wrap it Up! 

So okay, I know that was a lot to read, but there are a lot of potential fits out there. Omar Minaya has the ability to save his job in the court of public opinion with the right moves prior to July 31st. Some say that doesn’t matter, but based on the attendance, I’d say it does matter. 

I’ve never been a huge “prospect” guy. I think prospects come and go so quickly in this league that if you have a chance to get a proven commodity for some, you make the move if your team is good enough. 

There isn’t a minor leaguer (plus Mejia) I would deem untradeable if it meant going to the playoffs with Johan-Pelfrey-Solid #3, but it’s not my team. 

So there are my rankings, what are yours?

About the Author ()

Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.

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