Inside Mr. Met's Head

January 20, 2010 10:08 PM

Mets Fans Can Breathe a Slight Sigh of Relief

Ben Sheets.jpgBengie Molina signs with the Giants. Joel Piniero inks a deal with the Angels. The past few days or so have been very good for the New York Mets simply because they didn't do anything drastic. It's always nice to see other GMs bail out their brethren especially in a situation where two players could have eaten up valuable money. This is the best non-deal since the Mets backed down from signing Barry Zito in 2007. 

Sometimes the best deals are the ones that don't get made. Kind of like the deal in the early 2000s that would have sent David Wright to the Reds for Barry Larkin. 

Mets fans should not lose any sleep about these two players not joining the Mets. Molina is an awful player who is terrible defensively, one of the slowest base runners in the game, completely unable get on base, and is past the twilight of his career. Considering he was only worth one win more than minimum wage earning Omir Santos, it didn't make any sense whatsoever to sign Molina for a multi year deal. Plus, it would be very, very dumb to block future catcher Josh Thole especially when he's essentially ready now.

Piniero had a decent year last year (his first since 2003) but he doesn't strike enough people out and had an unbelievable and unsustainable ground ball percentage around 60%. His xFIP shows that perhaps he was not as awful as he appeared (nerd translation: unlike ERA, FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, removes defense from a pitcher's performance since that's not his responsibility. xFIP, or Expected FIP, normalizes the issue that FIP has with home runs and is a better predictor of performance). Compared to his ERA, for a couple of his more awful years, his xFIP is a point or two lower. That being said, he's still due for a fairly substantial regression now that he's not under the tutelage of genius pitching coach Dave Duncan.

So what do the Metropolitans do now with the money they saved? 

There's a couple options out there still. Number one on the short list should be Ben Sheets, the oft-injured former Brewer. The righty recently pitched in front of scouts and they reported that he looked very good, although tired easily which is understandable considering he hasn't pitched in a major league baseball game since 2008 and has been recuperating from major surgery. Sure, he hasn't thrown more than 200 innings since 2004 but if he is healthy he will be worth every cent of the $7.5 million Brad Penny-esque contract he is requesting. All indications point to him being healthy considering the reports that he was hitting 91 with movement on all of his pitches. Remember Sheets is a career 3.55 xFIP pitcher worth 8 wins above replacement in his last season with more than 200 innings pitched. If he can replicate half of that he is all ready head and shoulders above anyone else the Mets can sign. At best he's at least a number two. At worst? He can't be any more terrible than Oliver Perez.

On the second tier below Sheets is John Smoltz, another name you will hear connected to the Mets. The major issue with Smoltz is feasibility -- I'm not entirely sure if he'll actually sign a contract with the Amazins but he should still be mentioned. Healthy after missing the majority of last season recovering from off season surgery, the Mets could do a lot worse than Smoltz. His peripherals were still very good despite his old age and inflated ERA at around a 3.84 xFIP. In his 15 starts he strike out nearly 8.5 over 9 innings. With the Red Sox his HR/9 was highly elevated (at a staggering 1.8) but once with the Cardinals in more of a pitchers park, it adjusted down to 0.71, about career average. He may still have it. His WAR last year at 1.5 would have been one of the better WARs on the Mets pitching staff. If that improves, he could be a nice choice for the Mets going forward for a year.

Below the Smoltz tier is Jon Garland, another pitcher who could make his way into Queens. He's an innings eater with a higher WAR than Smoltz simply because he pitched more innings. With an xFIP hovering around 4.63 and a K/9 almost as bad as Piniero's, Garland is not a very attractive pitcher considering the Mets needs. Perhaps Garland would work best as a complimentary piece combined with one of Sheets or Smoltz but the odds are that he will hold out for more money. I was originally very high on the Mets taking a flier on Erik Bedard but after doing some research it appears that his torn labrum will keep him out of action for all of 2010. Chien-Ming Wang should be considered only as a last case scenario. 

Any of these arms will seriously improve the team. Currently the Mets are hovering around a 83 win team according to WAR. If someone like Sheets or Smoltz can come to New York and put up a 4+ WAR (which is very possible) and the team can stay healthy for an entire season, the Mets have a real shot at putting up a very impressive win total.

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