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Pitching For Starters

Mike SteffanosSunday, November 5, 2006
By Mike Steffanos


In today's Daily News, Bill Madden pens a column about the difficult task that both Omar Minaya and Brian Cashman will face trying to add pitching in a market that has soared out of control. It's not the sort of column that you usually see around here -- much more common is the typical Wallace Matthews brainless yet strident demand that Minaya pursue the superstar of his choice. Madden's thoughtful column does a nice job of pointing out all of the pitfalls of what is available to bolster the rotation next season.

Madden notes the obvious regarding Daisuke Matsuzaka, in that he is a complete unknown coming into American baseball. Beyond Matsuzaka, there is very little available as far as power pitchers in the market. Madden makes this point about Barry Zito:

On the surface, Barry Zito is an attraction, but he's not a power pitcher... And even though Zito has a history with Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, his rep, Scott (Avenging Agent) Boras is going to be seeking upwards of $14 million a year for him, more than the Mets are already paying Martinez. It's going to be way too much money and years for a pitcher who is good but not dominant, and only nine games over .500 since 2003.

To me, the biggest problem with Zito isn't even the dollar amount per year, it's the number of years that Boras will likely pry out of whatever team wins the Zito sweepstakes. Granted, Barry is still on the right side of 30, but this is a guy who has already logged 1,400 + major league innings, and has shown some signs of declining at an age when he should be peaking. Let's take a look at the numbers:

Barry Zito
YearAgeIPERAWHIPHits/9K/9BB/9HR/9
2001232143.491.237.78.63.40.8
2002242292.751.137.17.13.10.9
2003252323.301.187.25.73.40.7
2004262134.481.399.16.93.41.2
2005272283.861.207.26.73.51.0
2006282213.831.408.66.14.01.1

Zito's hits and walks given up (and of course WHIP) are trending up, as is the number of home runs given up. Certainly he's a guy who can benefit from moving to the National League, but it is somewhat worrisome that his numbers are heading in the wrong direction at an age when he should be at the apex of his career. What might be a reasonable gamble in money over the next 3 seasons might be prohibitive if he can get the 6 year contract Boras covets. It's a huge gamble, and a wrong guess can tie up a lot of payroll on an average-plus major league starter. If he develops a serious career-threatening injury, that could be a disaster.

I'm beginning to suspect that the Mets will find the starting pitching they require for 2007 from a less obvious source than the names that are currently being thrown around. I'm not trying to talk any of you out of wanting Zito if that's your feelings, but Madden makes some solid points here.

The problem with the current inflated starting pitching market is that nothing is going to change anytime soon. More teams are legitimate competitors for a playoff spot, and they all have money to spend for a commodity that usually separates the contenders from pretenders -- starting pitching. It's crucial that the Mets find a way to develop some of their young, talented arms into major league starters. That's why I could never personally be in favor of any trade that would send a truly promising young pitcher out of here -- including the young and proven Heilman -- and doesn't bring back a young pitcher in return. In the next few years, teams like the Red Sox who have a glut of attractive arms in their farm system will find it much easier to stay competitive on a yearly basis. Teams that don't will have to roll the dice and hope for the best from an increasingly thin and over-heated marketplace.

Mets Walkoffs: Collectibles
I love Mets Walkoffs' take on the true value of memorabilia in this excellent post.

Web sites to check out
It's Outta Here! is a web site that I recently added to my links. He seems to be posting several times a day and keeping up with the news, so I've moved the link from "Mets Blogs" to "Latest Mets News" on the sidebar.

I received an e-mail from Ben at TopProspectAlert.com yesterday:

Mike, I published our New York Mets Top 10 Prospect List as compiled by J.P Schwartz on our site today. Just wanted to pass along the info as I thought it may be of interest to your readers.

The site seems a little heavy on adds and somewhat light on content, but I don't begrudge anyone trying to make a living off the Internet. If you're one that enjoys new prospect lists, check it out.

On the road again
I'll be leaving later today to take a short vacation. I plan to take a few days, try to figure some things for my future and just generally relax. I'll be back by Thursday. If I get the chance, I'll try to post a time or two while I'm away. If not, I'll catch up on anything that happens when I return.

More Mets Stories:
SportsSpyder Mets

Continuous Mets Coverage:
MetsBlog
Hot Foot

Comments (4)

I like Zito but he shouldn't be viewed as an ace or a #1.
He could be viewed as a stopper though, which is just as important.
He's 28 and durable with no health issues at all, which is super solid.
With that said, although I do like him, I feel like Zito should be the last resort.
I think the order or priority should be:
1)Matsuzaka
2)trade
3)Zito

If 1 and 2 fail, then go after Zito, who should still be there by the time Omar has dealt with the first 2.

I don't think there are any particularly good options for starting pitcher via free agency. Zito may be the best of the class, but he's hardly a superstar. Matsuzaka is a crapshoot -- everyone was raving about Kaz Matsui, too -- and an expensive one at that.

It would make more sense to sign a LF or 2B (I'd hate to say it, but Soriano should be an option) and then trade for a pitcher. Heilman and Milledge might be a good package. If nothing is forthcoming, then maybe Heilman could switch to starter. But Pelfrey and Humber should be ready in 2008. I think they both need a year in New Orleans (gee, it's odd to say that after 30 years in Tidewater/Norfolk) -- before they're ready.

Mike - first, enjoy the vacation.

As for starters, I would be stunned if anyone gave Zito more than 4 years. Too many teams have been burned on long term deals in the past, so I think 4 is the max.

As for D-Mat, the money involved there is an awful lot for a guy who is basically a rookie.
I would rather spend $14 m on Zito. Or failing that, making a trade, the problem is, who is available, and at what cost.
I think you might be right, Omar is going to pull off a trade that no one is thinking of for a starter.

Benny - That makes sense. I think I'd still be nervous about giving him 6 years, though.
-----------------------------------
RealityChuck - I think Soriano is going to get a Beltran-type contract, and I don't think the Mets are going to be willing to go there. I'm with you in that I'd like to see Pelfrey and Humber spend at least most of the year in New Orleans. (Wish I could have spent a summer there when I was their age.)
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Ed - Thanks, so far so good on the vacation. I think Zito will get at least 5 and quite possibly 6 yrs. If a 4 yr deal would do it that would probably be a worthwhile gamble, though.

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