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(No) Friends in Lowe Places

Mike SteffanosTuesday, January 13, 2009
By Mike Steffanos

Before I get into this, I wanted to take a moment to thank you guys for all the great comments over the past few days. It's been fun for me to read them -- even when you don't agree with me. Thanks, guys.

The news that Derek Lowe has signed with the Braves doesn't break my heart, but I am disappointed to see the Mets miss out on the pitcher who was clearly the best one out there. Oliver Perez now moves to the head of the class of what's left, and there's no guarantee that a team won't come out of the woodwork and place a higher value on him than the Mets have.

From what I could see, the reaction to Lowe's signing is somewhat mixed, but much of it is fairly critical of Minaya and the Mets. They have been accused of misreading the market, of trying to "lowball" their target, and even -- incredulously to me -- "punished" by Scott Boras for the temerity of not valuing the aging righty sinkerballer as high as he and his agent did.

Look, the truth of the matter is that the Mets had a value for Derek Lowe and the cost rose beyond that value. You can argue that their value was too low, but everyone works from a budget, and overpaying in one area inevitably will lead to skimping somewhere else. The Mets are working from a plan, and I won't criticize it until I see how everything plays out.

I do think, however, that Lowe was by far the Mets best chance of having a really good starting rotation. With him slotting behind Santana, everything seemed to fall into place in a manner that made sense. Now, even if they do re-sign Perez, who's the number two on this staff?

Based on last year it's Pelfrey -- if we see the Pelfrey that dominated in June, July and August before tiring and fading somewhat in September. Pelfrey (6.25) was the only Mets starter besides Santana to average more than 6 innings per start. Ollie Perez averaged only 5.7 in his 34 starts, and Maine 5.6.

Ideally with a healthy shoulder Maine should do better, but he's always been a pitcher that struggles with high pitch counts. Ollie is Forrest Gump's box of chocolates -- you never know whether it's going to be an 8-inning gem or a third inning shower. I mentioned a couple of days ago that Tim Redding has averaged 5.2 per start in his career.

Lowe was a guy that could get you into the seventh or eighth without chewing up your bullpen. If Pelfrey regresses and Maine and Perez don't step it up we can easily see a return to needing 3 or 4 relievers to finish up games, with predictable results by September.

So, it can only be hoped that when Omar and his crew were doing their evaluating of what Derek Lowe was really worth, they took that into account. Because Oliver Perez instead of Derek Lowe will most likely mean a few more innings from your bullpen.

I don't believe that missing out on Lowe portends disaster, but it will demand of level of creativity from Minaya and the front office. I think it could make sense to sign Perez and Randy Wolf, Pedro or another starter that is a cut above the usual Jose Limas and Brandon Knights on the food chain. Have some depth in the rotation and a long man capable of picking up the slack when one of the starters makes an early exit.

The last thing Minaya needs to do right now is to wind up overpaying Ollie Perez because he wasn't willing to overpay Lowe. He may have to look at the trade market to provide a backup plan. Maybe you sign Wolf and try to get Ben Sheets on a 1- or 2-year deal. Maybe you find another guy to make the bullpen even stronger and deeper.

I like Omar, but if the Mets wind up falling short this coming season because the starters can't pull their weight and the bullpen wears out, I'll find it hard to make a case for him deserving to stick around. He probably will, since he just signed the extension, but he might find himself sharing the "love" of the fans with Luis Castillo, one of last winter's errors in judgment. More tomorrow.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (4)

I tend to believe that John Maine is the #2 guy in the rotation until proven otherwise. It would surprise me not one bit to see him pitching better than last year with the bone spur thingie removed.

As for Lowe, my current feeling is that the Mets -- the front office, not Manuel and certainly not us -- have bigger fish to fry than securing a 35 year old groundball pitcher whose record, while good, certainly doesn't suffer from his most recent home park. Bigger fish, such as paying for this ballpark in an environment where corporate luxury box sales HAVE to be way, way down; bigger fish like coming out of a recession NOT crippled for the next half a decade. These guys own a business; they have to take the long view occasionally.

Take a look at television, I have. Last night I saw a commercial I've never seen before. It was a Target commercial, and instead of the recycled Beatles music and that androginous black model it had PRICES, the price of stuff they are offering for sale; THAT was their message, not the glam of designer stuff. Trust the retailers to tell you which way the wind blows.

I think the Yankees, to pick the obvious example, could win the American League Championship and still regret their signings this winter; those guys have a new ballpark too, with all the anticipated corporate sales currently at high risk. And supposing David Price, Pat Burrel, etc., put the Rays over the top again, suppose AJ Burnett falls apart, god forbid, this could be a year to live in infamy in the Bronx.

So, no, I don't begrudge the Mets showing a smattering of fiscal restraint. I would do it too in their place. Now to the hard task of putting a winning team in place; hello, Ollie!

To trade for a starter? who can we trade, we keep adding to the nobody wants list. We now have not only a second basemen, but a catcher as well, on that list. So who do we have to trade and for what in return?

It's not the end of the world, yes another quality pitcher is gone, but you never know what is behind doors # 2, 3, or 4. I don't think by far that he was the Mets only solution to building a solid rotation. I really don't believe he wanted to pitch for the Mets at all, just needed some leverage and got the Braves to pay his price, business 102 in effect. So now the Mets need to regroup and go after their next target (Ollie, Wolf, etc).

Why don't the Mets offer a 1 or 2 year contract to Andy Pettite? I would prefer him on my team than Lowe.

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