Posted by Reese Kaplan at 11:00 AM
There are times when you have to juxtapose the need to win with the business realities of running a baseball franchise. From every business reason it makes sense to slot Dillon Gee into the now vacant starting rotation slot created by the Zack Wheeler injury. He’s being paid $5.3 million this year. Playing him as a starter increases his trade value. There is a better than league average track record for performance. All of these things are indisputable.
All winter you knew the Mets were supposedly trying to trade one of their starters and most concluded Gee was the likely target to be pushed out the door. Then a funny thing happened. No one really wanted him (or at least not for a price Sandy Alderson deemed reasonable). If you take a look at his track record, you’ll see it’s rather pedestrian. His career ERA hovers near 4.00. His WHIP is nothing special. He’s not a power pitcher that strikes people out and to top it off he’s also had trouble staying healthy. It’s a tough sell.
If the team was forced to go with a stop gap he’s a fine choice for a fifth starter but he’s not going to be an improvement over Zack Wheeler’s production. In fact, he’s likely going to make the team somewhat weaker in that role. If you look at his minor league numbers He’s essentially the same pitcher. The ERA and WHIP were a tad lower and the strikeouts a tad higher but what you saw then is what you got in the majors. Minor league numbers are not necessarily a guarantee of major league success, but they are a reasonable barometer.
Consequently, I would suggest that if I had a pitcher whose minor league numbers were a 34-20 record with a 2.69 ERA, a minuscule 1.066 WHIP and a 4:1 K to BB ratio, I would think he would have greater potential to succeed at the major league level if given the chance to do so. Not everyone comes out of the gate like Matt Harvey. Some take several starts to adjust. That may indeed be the case with Rafael Montero who has become somewhat of a forgotten man between the current rotation and the future stardom predicted for Noah Syndergaard and Steve Matz.
A lot of people are quick to point out he was “awful” in his trial as a starter last year. First of all, remember he had an oblique muscle issue that crept up early in the season that put him on the shelf for awhile. Could that have affected his delivery? I think it’s a reasonable assumption that it did. After all, when he healed and came back in September he hurled two starts in which he surrendered a total of just 1 earned run. That’s the kind of pitcher he showed in the minor leagues when he was healthy.
Even in his so-called bad debut of 2014 his final ERA was 4.06. Want to know what Dillon Gee delivered? 4.00. The difference is that Gee has had 4 seasons to show what he can do. He’s serviceable. Montero has not had that opportunity yet but has the potential to deliver the stepped up level of pitching that Zach Wheeler was projected to provide.
Now from a business standpoint it’s a tough sell. You have a $5.3 million arm in the bullpen in a role that’s brand new to him and you’re likely making it doubly difficult to deal him away given his price and the fact that you are telling the rest of the league you don’t deem him worthy to be in your rotation. I’m tired of people being granted starting positions on the team based more upon payroll than upon ability. It’s a tough pill to swallow when something becomes a sunk cost but Dillon Gee is not earning Jason Bay type money nor Luis Castillo type money nor Oliver Perez type money nor Chris Young type money. My answer to that is to just suck it up and deal with it. He earned his raise based upon what he’s done thus far in his career. You could always non-tender him at the end of the year as they once did with Mike Pelfrey who had gotten to a similar point in his career – rather expensive for the mediocrity he delivered.
In the interim Gee is still there as insurance should there be any other starting pitching injuries for the staff, but I don’t think he should be Plan A. Montero’s meteoric rise through the ranks shouldn’t be forgotten simply because he stuttered a bit when first facing major league hitters. Let there be a true open competition and don’t just revert to the familiar or to whomever is making the most money. Choose the person most likely to help you win ballgames.
I understand the rationale to give Noah Syndergaard more time to master his game (and to wait out the Super Two deadline). Steve Matz needs time at AAA and more innings in general to prepare for his debut (and ditto the Super Two thing). Montero is already on the 40-man roster. It simply makes sense.