What are the odds that 2011 is the last season Mike Pelfrey plays for the New York Mets? What are the odds that Pelfrey is an ex-Met by August 1st? Maybe a lot higher than you think. It might be time to seriously consider trading Mike Pelfrey.
Pelfrey is under team control for two more seasons after this one, hitting free agency for the first time after the 2013 season. And he WILL hit free agency, make no mistake. Mike Pelfrey employs Scott Boras as his agent, so there will be no long term extension. That’s Exhibit A on my evidence table.
Exhibit B is Mike Pelfrey himself. We know what he is. He’s a good #3 pitcher, with the potential to be a solid #2 if he can mature a little. Remember, he’s only 27 years old, so adding some maturity is certainly not out of the question. But Pelfrey doesn’t have the stuff to be an ace. He’s never posted a K/BB over two in his career and his career best WHIP is 1.36 (48 pitchers in baseball have averaged a better WHIP than that since 2008, Pelfrey’s first full season). Pelfrey’s tERA has been stable, hovering between 4.20 and 4.51 for his career, despite the drastic fluctuation in his ERA. He’s not as bad as he pitched in 2009 and he’s not as good as he pitched in 2008 or 2010. He’s a nice addition to any rotation, a guy that can pitch 200 innings, keep the team in the game and generally save a bullpen from overuse once every five days.
So why trade a guy like that?
To preface my thesis, I will say that there are some “ifs” involved and it’s way too soon to pull the trigger, but it’s not to soon to think about and plan ahead. Pelfrey is making $4 million this season, and if the offense stays healthy, Pelfrey might be able to notch 17 wins or so. Last season, that total would have put him tied for fourth in the league in that category. As it was, he finished in the top ten (tied for ninth, to be exact.) That might bump up his salary for 2012 to $6 million. And if he could do it again, Pelfrey could be looking at an $8-$10 million salary in 2013. And that’s just arbitration year salary. Remember exhibit A? Now Pelfrey could be going to into free agency with Exhibit A negotiating for him having at least doubled his salary in the last two seasons. You all know what that can lead to.
Is Pelfrey worth the kind of money Exhibit A will ask for? Probably not. Is anyone ever worth the kind of money Exhibit A asks for?
Exhibits C, D and E are Jenrry Mejia, Dillon Gee and Johan Santana. Gee would probably have been more than able to hold his own as a 5th starter this season, and Mejia has showed enough for most people to think just one more year of seasoning will have him major league-ready.. If Johan can come back at some point this season and throw well late in the year and go into the off season healthy for a change, those three pitchers would be in line to replace the likely departing Chris Young, Chris Capuano and………Mike Pelfrey?
The Mets would have to be offered quite a package to part with a #2.5 starter with two full years of team control left, but let’s be honest. Johan’s a far better pitcher than Pelfrey, and Mejia has just a ton of upside and potential. I don’t think many people would argue that Jon Niese also projects better than what Pelfrey is, and R.A. Dickey’s under contract for 2012 as well.
And let’s not dismiss Exhibit F, one Mark Cohoon. Mark took some solid steps last season in thirteen starts each for Savannah and Binghamton. He absolutely dominated A ball and, after a period of adjustment in AA, finished the season with a flourish. Mark’s on the Binghamton roster to start the 2011 season and, if he picks up where he left off last season, could be starting in AAA Buffalo by June. He could be ready for a shot at the rotation as early as next season if he’s not derailed.
Again, that’s far too many “ifs” to pull the trigger now. That would be irresponsible. But it’s not at all a long shot that Gee and Mejia could get some major league starts this season with what we know about Young and Capuano and their injury history. What if they impress? And what if Johan has a real solid September and is 100% healthy in November for the first time in his Mets career? What if Cohoon makes his final ten starts in Buffalo this season and impresses there, too? Would the Mets field offers this coming off season? Maybe they should. The further away from free agency Pelfrey is, the better package the Mets would receive in return. They’d get more back in December of 2011 than they would in December of 2012. And if all those “ifs” actually work out, it might actually be the smart thing to do.