With opening day only nine days away, the Mets have yet to decide on their fifth starter, and according to Marc Carig of Newsday, the battle between Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jenrry Mejia is expected to come down to the final days.
While Dice-K is the clear front runner, a person with knowledge of the situation told Carig on Friday that Mejia has an equal chance of seizing the job and that the competition remains wide open.
The veteran Matsuzaka brings plenty of experience and enjoyed a resurgence at the end of last season, which prompted the Mets to bring him back on a minor-league deal. But Mejia has better stuff and impressed Mets during his short stint last season, before elbow surgery ended his year.
The Mets have some flexibility in their decision since they can keep Matsuzaka in the minor leagues for about a month, even if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster.
Under that scenario, Matsuzaka would be owed a $100,000 retention bonus, a fee that the Mets would be willing to pay to retain control of the righthander. Matsuzaka doesn’t have an out clause in his contract until sometime in May.
Meanwhile, the source said the Mets remain unlikely to carry Mejia on the major league roster as a reliever.
Andy Martino of the Daily News spoke with two Mets insiders who told him that the Mets are strongly considering a plan that would have Jenrry Mejia begin the season in the major league bullpen, remain with the team through the year, and eventually become a starter.
Previously, the assumption had been that Mejia, 24, was competing for the fifth spot in the Mets’ starting rotation, but was more likely to begin as starter for Triple-A Las Vegas. But the team has lately been seriously discussing a different plan, one that would allow Mejia to help the Mets all season.
Now this is a plan I could live with…
Martino adds that the Mets have not yet chosen their fifth starter, but insiders say that Daisuke Matsuzaka is the clear frontrunner, with the team also impressed by John Lannan (Lannan could also be in the bullpen). Mejia has not been technically eliminated from that competition, but a different assignment now seems more likely for him.
Mejia has lost any value he’s had, so rebuilding him by starting in the bullpen wouldn’t be a bad idea. It will also allow him to pitch the whole season and not be shutdown due to an innings limit.
With using Montero in the bullpen the problem is threefold. First and foremost you’d lose a year of control, secondly he becomes arbitration eligible one year sooner, lastly I don’t trust Terry Collins one bit.
What a way to kill a prospect’s value… You would think they learned their lesson with Jenrry Mejia.
Could you imagine ignoring Montero’s Super 2 and also losing a year of control just so he could pitch a few innings of relief in the back of a bullpen managed by Terry Collins?
The Mets are likely concerned with Vic Black‘s spring as well as Niese’s injury and they just might be having a bit of temporary insanity. Hopefully calmer minds will prevail in the morning.
If Niese isn’t ready to begin the season by Opening Day, they should have Mejia in the rotation and stick with their plan to go with Lannan as the second lefty in the bullpen.
If Black starts the season in the minors, then bring back Jeff Walters from minor league camp and lets get a longer look at him before the season starts.