Reese Kaplan -- With Harvey Out, Who Should Be In?

With the news about Matt Harvey’s shoulder problems perhaps responsible for his subpar performance this season, it put the Mets into a bit of a temporary quandary regarding what had always been their strength – starting pitching.  Now with Harvey on the shelf and Zack Wheeler far from ready, the team must decide what it plans to do to fill the void.  A lot, of course, depends on the Harvey prognosis but news trickled out Thursday suggesting it is indeed looking like Thoracic Outlet Syndrome with a recommendation for season-ending surgery.  The temporary internal reinforcements become far less palatable when you realize they may be needed for as much as half a season.  That development may force open the door to external resources.

The internal options are frankly not too exciting – a big change when it seemed the Mets had too many hurlers in the minors to ever hope to get them into Queens.  Now you have Rafael Montero who went rapidly from uber-prospect to head case and is definitely in Terry Collins’ doghouse.  Think of him as the pitching equivalent of Wilmer Flores – he would only get a chance when every other option had extensive opportunities to fail first. 

Then you have last year’s Cinderella Rule V pick – Sean Gilmartin – who started off like a house afire in AAA but rapidly descended into mediocrity.  His brief recall as a reliever did not likely win him any additional innings with the big club.

Seth Lugo was a surprising promotion when he got the call based upon his very pedestrian performance not only this season, but throughout his minor league career.  He acquitted himself well in his two innings in the majors but aside from a nice run in Savannah in 2013, he’s been a strikeout guy who has proven far too hittable when the pitches are over the plate.  His career record is 28-22, 4.26 with the highlight being 8.6 Ks per 9 IP.   Somehow I don’t think he’s going to morph into an All-Star. 

Logan Verrett has been arguably the Mets’ worst pitcher all year.  The ERA isn’t awful at 4.01, but he’s given up an astonishing 9 HRs in just 49 IP while sporting a K:BB ratio of just 1.55.  Ugh!

Untested Gabriel Ynoa is on the 40-man roster and is having a credible year in AAA.  However, the Mets have always been reluctant to give opportunities to young players, are wary of service time clocks ticking too soon, and may succumb to FUD -- fear, uncertainty and doubt -- while in the midst of a pennant race.  The fact he gets his job done -- 3.31 ERA for his minor league career -- without overpowering strikeout stuff is another mark against him.  

None of these options is very appealing, though based upon real world performance for the entire 2015 season I’d be in favor of giving Sean Gilmartin another look.  However, it would appear that the Mets are going to go with Logan Verrett to take Matt Harvey’s place.  Given the fact that Harvey himself was pitching to an ERA even worse than what Verrett has provided, maybe they’re simply hoping to tread water until Zack Wheeler returns.

Suppose, however, the Mets had a proactive GM who actually acted as if he wanted to win ballgames.  Then you’d think he’d be evaluating pitchers who are likely going to be relatively easy to acquire, such as pending free agents.  These pitchers would only put the Mets on the hook for the remainder of the year and would allow them to continue their long term plan of a rotation filled by Matt Harvey, Jacob de Grom, Noah Syndergard, Zack Wheeler and Steve Matz. Let’s take a look at some players who are on second tier teams who might be in sell mode right now.

The Mets have had a good trading relationship with the San Diego Padres over the past few years.  You win some – James Loney – and lose some – Alex Torres.  Right now Andrew Cashner is a pending FA and has delivered some quality years in the bigs already.  Although this year he has a 4.42 ERA, he’s a career 3.66 pitcher and these days that kind of quality is highly desirable.  He is currently earning $7.15 million.

A less obvious and desirable name, Jhoulys Chacin, toiled in the toughest pitching environment in baseball in Colorado before being moved to better environments where ironically he has not pitched as well.  For the Rockies he had a career ERA of 3.78 and it surely wouldn’t take much to dislodge him from the last place Angels.  He’s sporting an ugly 6.05 ERA but compare that to the 5 years of success in Colorado and it’s a gamble perhaps worth exploring. 

The Houston Astros are one of those teams who have to make the buy or sell decision very soon.  They’re 6.5 games back and since they are in striking distance they may not want to tinker.  However, Doug Fister is on a one year $7 million deal and he’s again pitching credibly.  He’s a 3.44 ERA for his career and during his time in Washington certainly proved he can win in the NL. 

The Philadelphia Phillies have exceeded some expectations this year by performing significantly better than the Atlanta Braves.  They currently stand 11 GB while Atlanta is 22.5.  Even though they are probably pretty happy in Philly, the fact remains they’re more than one piece away from contention.  Starter Jeremy Hellickson has done a fine job for them, pitching to a 3.92 ERA in a hitter’s ballpark.  Since he’s earning $7 million this year and slated to be a free agent, he’s likely going to be up for grabs in trade. 

My dark horse selection for the Mets to pursue is 36 year old lefty Rich Hill of Oakland.  The A’s have already fallen out of contention and they have a long history of moving players if they think they are not going to be part of the future (or will be too expensive to keep around).  Hill earns a modest $6 million.  He is striking out 10.3 per 9 IP, has a better than 3:1 K to BB ratio and has a very impressive 2.31 ERA.  He’s become something of a late bloomer having pitched quite well since 2014 for various teams.  I can’t see Oakland building around him for the future and since he’s set to depart as a free agent, he can likely be pried away in trade. 

The Tampa Bay Rays are allegedly considering full fire sale mode with players such as Jake Odorizzi already rumored to be in play with the Texas Rangers.  Even longtime stalwart Evan Longoria could be on the block.  However, there are two other pitchers worth exploring.  Matt Moore is a pending free agent who never quite lived up to his big year in 2013.  However, for his career he’s still sub 4.00 in ERA and guys in their final months before free agency had better keep their bags packed. 

My preference, however, would be the somewhat unheralded Drew Smyly who has quietly put together a nice little career.  He started off shuttling between the bullpen and rotation for the Detroit Tigers before making his way to Tampa.  The lefty owns a career 26-25 record with a 3.69 ERA, a 9K per 9 IP strikeout record and a nice WHIP of under 1.2.  This year he’s earning $3.75 million and is arbitration eligible for the first time next season, not a free agent until 2019.  He doesn’t fit the profile of the kind of players on this list and his price is modest enough that the Rays may hold a tight grip on him.  Names like Gavin Cecchini, Wuilmer Becerra, Gabriel Ynoa and even Zack Wheeler might get the conversation started (though I'd like the last one to be part of a monster deal to land Longoria as well). 

Another reunion possibility (though the bridges burned make it unlikely to happen) is the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Jon Niese.  He can also be a free agent next year for a modest buyout of his contract.  In the realm of pitchers on this list, he’s far from the top but he would likely provide better quality than Verrett or Lugo. 

With the Toronto Blue Jays only 2.5 games out of 1st, it’s unlikely they’re going to want to tamper with their current formula for success.  Many pundits have already suggested the Mets reach out for yet another reunion, this time for former Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.  Personally, I can’t see it happening as Toronto is not exactly flush with pitching and they have to be smarting mightily from the results Noah Syndergaard, minor leaguer Wuilmer Becerra and when he’s on the field, Travis d’Arnaud, have been providing. 

Finally, a crazy, outside the box idea that was shot down once before it ever came to fruition was when the Cincinnati Reds having toyed with converting then closer Aroldis Chapman into a starter.  He had been a starter in Cuba so it’s not like it would be new to him and the Yankees have been public about moving him in a deal.  I can’t see it happening, but it’s a nice pipe dream.  


Tom Brennan said...

Know has given up 80 hits in his last 58 games...not a good audition. There is a reason other teams did not take him last year.

Dillon Gee, anyone?

Rob Whelan would've been nice...2.20 in AA this year.

San Diego should like dealing with us...Brad Wieck is celebrating post-Met org life with 28 games of 1.44 ERA and 69 Ks in 43 IP, recently up to AA.

Luis Cessa and Michael Fulmer are pitching fine - oh, they're gone too.

John Gant? Sorry,gone too.

Arias? 20 Ks in his last 11 innings.

Did I forget anyone? Oh yeah, Casey Meisner post-trade is 0-12 this year...we did all right there.

Our minor league starting pitcher cupboard is bare.

Maybe someone would like Cecchini for one of the guys you mentioned. Or move Robles to the rotation and promote Smoker. Can't promote Akeel, he's gone too.

Tom Brennan said...

Forgive me for completely overlooking another departed prospect, Matt Bowman, who is pitching effectively in 27 outings for the St Louie Cardinals.

Kots of guys helping, or soon to help, other major league teams.

Reese, we can always call up Tyler Pill…we could use his bat.

Anonymous said...

The way Harvey pitched it is not that hard to put up those numbers. So Verrett, Gillmartin and/or Ynoa should do fine.


Tom Brennan said...

However, if Thor needs any major time off, with dead arm, it gets scary fast for 2016.

Tom Brennan said...

However, if Thor needs any major time off, with dead arm, it gets scary fast for 2016.

Anonymous said...

It would take forever to stretch Chapman into a starter. Wheeler in a trade for matt Moore umm no. Worst ideas ever. Get some sleep you seem to have sleep deprivation

Anonymous said...

It would take forever to stretch Chapman into a starter. Wheeler in a trade for matt Moore umm no. Worst ideas ever. Get some sleep you seem to have sleep deprivation

Reese Kaplan said...

It was Smyly I said I wanted and that Wheeler would be part of a huge package to get Longoria, too.

Unknown said...

HE'S OUT OF THE LINEUP AGAIN...........AMAZING but at least DeAza is starting .......

Reese Kaplan said...

How's that Verrett decision looking?

Reese Kaplan said...

How's that Verrett decision looking?

Tom Brennan said...

DE AZA is HOT...and Verrett did not pass the test. Next time, try someone else. But who? Rob Darling wanna pitch?

Flores should play today, right? Right?