Posted by Ernest Dove at 11:00 AM
As the Mets enter into the offseason, the one strength within the organization remains its pitching. Pitching at both the major league, and minor league levels. Today I wanted to further discuss the contributions, productive, trade value and availability of Jon Niese in the open market..
Jon Niese will be turning JUST 28 years old this month. For all the hyped fireballers that have made it to Citi Field, and are still on the way, there still remains an under 30yr old veteran, lefty, with a manageable and team friendly type contract (which never reaches over $11mil at any point in his contract).
Again, for Niese, the key word here is 'lefty'. Jon Niese is a legitimate lefty starter in this league. Despite some more ongoing nagging injuries, Niese just completed his best statistical season in regards to ERA of 3.40 (tied with 2012 season), and his second highest career innings pitched at 187.2 (behind that same 2012 season). Jon's BB rate of 2.2 was also the lowest of his major league career. The possible negatives may be his K rate, which over the past 2 years, at 6.6/9 are his lowest of his career. And, again, there are the nagging injuries. So, what do the Mets do with Niese?
Jon finished the season, once again, as the only lefty starter on the 25 man roster (I just thought of Johan Santana and smiled.....) The only possible projected legit lefty starter on the 40 man roster is Steven Matz. There is definitely a lot to like about this top pitching prospect. He has a higher velocity then Niese, a projected higher ceiling, and has given up a total of 8 home runs......... in 276 career innings, spanning 3 years of pro ball in the minors.
Many of us already know the story of Matz losing two seasons, following TJS. However, Matz just finished a second strong full season in a row. Well, maybe strong is not strong enough of a word, considering that Matz just ended his season by clinching a minor league title, and almost pitching a no hitter in doing so. Also, thanks to that last gem, Matz ended up going over the usual Mets organization theory of never hitting an additional 30 innings pitched, by allowing Steven that last start to go from 106 in 2013 to 140 in 2014. So, technically, if Matz were to immediately step into the Mets rotation come 2015, as an SP5, the team could probably skip his spot a couple of times, when team has a day off that week, to keep the other 4 guys at their usual rest days.
But, one must also consider the other factors: Number 1 (and primary in this organization/ownership) is he money. Should the Mets keep Matz in the minors, at least until mid summer, they can save money, and add extra years of team control. There's also the fact that Matz, through looking pretty darn good doing it, has only managed to dominate at the AA ball at this point. And number 2, although many fans, writers and bloggers are against a stint in the desert heat for Steven, the fact remains that it never hurts to build the confidence and development of a young pitcher by having him face all the higher talent levels he can, to work out all his pitches, placement and velocity, and see if the production continues.
There may be other alternatives, which would include the Mets 'killing 2 birds with 1 stone' by placing Matz as the second lefty out of the bullpen, come April 2015, and then enter the rotation after the trading deadline passes. However, based on Matz injury history, and high upside as a legit top of the rotating caliber pitcher, this may not be a rout the Mets would/should take with the 23 year old.
So, again, back to the main question at hand. Should Jon Niese be traded, specifically during the winter meetings. As we all know, for the most part (excluding guys having surgeries in the offseason) , ALL pitchers look healthy and productive during the winter months. And, with Niese throwing from that all mighty left hand side, he may or may not have the highest trade value of any veteran pitcher on the Mets 40 man roster. (please note the word veteran, so don't count wheeler, Harvey,etc)........
Jon Niese, as has his righty counterpart in Dillon Gee, has quietly been a stable force within this organization. He has been in the back of the rotation, and he has stepped in and assumed he ACE role, when asked to do so, to log innings and give this team a chance to win.
Matz, may most likely start 2015 in AAA Las Vegas, no matter what happens with Niese, for the earlier mentions reasoning. But again, Matz has pitched in the minor league spotlight. Niese has pitched and succeeded in the major league, New York spotlight. Plus, Niese is an absolute bulldog, Harvey like, in that he hates giving up runs with a passion, and hates being taken out of games, because he wants to succeed, and help his team in every way he can.
What say you readers? Jon Niese: Stay or Go ?????????????????????