The Battle For the Back End of the Rotation

Last week I wrote a piece on the position battle currently going on at second base. This week I will take a look at the back end of the Mets rotation. The Mets have four players who will be in the running for two spots.

The Contenders:

Chris Capuano- 4-4, 3.95 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 2.57 K/BB, 0.5 WAR, $1.5 million, 32 years old

Chris Young- 4-6, 5.21 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 1.25 K/BB, -0.5 WAR, $1.1 million, 32 years old (all stats from 2009)

The Darkhorse:

Dillon Gee- 2-2, 2.18 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 1.13 K/BB, 0.3 WAR, $400K, 25 years old

The Very Longshot:

Oliver Perez- 0-5, 6.80 ERA, 2.07 WHIP, 0.88 K/BB, -1.1 WAR, $12 million, 29 years old

It appears as if the Mets rotation is pretty much set going into the season, but there still is some uncertainty as to who will fill out the last two spots. It goes without saying that both Chris Capuano and Chris Young will make the Opening Day roster. However, it is definitely possible that one of them may actually pitch out of the bullpen.

Chris Capuano has now twice undergone Tommy John Surgery. Last year, Capuano appeared in 24 games and started only nine of them. However, he does have a track record of success when he is healthy. Capuano won 18 games in 2005 and was named to the All-Star team the following year. Capuano needs to prove that he is still healthy and that he can go deep into games if he wants to make the rotation.

Chris Young is another pitcher that has undergone surgery. Young had his shoulder repaired during the 2009 season. Young managed to pitch four games in 2010 and performed very well. He had a 0.90 ERA in those four starts. He also has the best track record of any pitcher on this list with a career 3.80 ERA. He appears to have the most solid hold on a rotation spot out of those in this group.

Dillon Gee was very impressive when he was called up to the majors late last season. However, Gee did struggle a bit in the minors. He posted a 4.96 ERA in 28 starts at Triple-A. At age 25, Gee is a bit old to be considered a prospect and now could be his chance to earn a spot with the big league team. He has a bit of a challenge ahead of him to make the roster, but with a good spring there is no reason that he can’t make the rotation.

There is only so much that can be said here about Oliver Perez. The only reason that he is even getting mentioned is because of a report that Perez has been promised a chance to make the starting rotation out of Spring Training. This seems highly unlikely however. Perez struggled in the Mexican League this winter and this is not a good sign for his chances of making the team. He will need to be lights out this spring to have any chance of making the roster, let alone the starting rotation.

It seems very likely that Chris Young will win the fourth spot in the rotation. If he proves that he is healthy during Spring Training, the spot should be his. If not, then things will get a bit more interesting.

Working under the assumption that Young is actually healthy, the fifth spot in the rotation is still up for grabs as well. The current favorite appears to be Capuano by a slim margin. Spring Training will be very important in determining who actually wins the spot. This may be going out on a limb here, but Dillon Gee will round out the Mets rotation come Opening Day.

The next questions are obviously what happens with Capuano and Perez. It makes sense that Capuano would serve as the long man out of the bullpen and he would also be the team’s spot starter. If Gee struggles early on, he can be moved into the rotation while Gee is sent down to the minors.

Oliver Perez obviously presents a much more pressing question: Will he be cut? This is a very difficult call to make based on the Wilpon’s current financial situation. While Perez’s contract is a sunk cost, the Wilpons may ask Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins to get some value out of their “asset”. It is difficult to see how this is possible. If Perez is willing to accept a minor league assignment than he will remain with the organization. If not, it appears that he may get cut.