Potential Off-Season Targets: Michael Wuertz

With the 2011 season over, the old saying, “There’s always next season,” instantly becomes all Mets fan’s credo. But before we can think about riding the 7-train out to Flushing again, there is a whole off-season to project and pontificate about. Considering the amount of holes the Mets will have, this coming off-season holds a lot of importance.

In this new on-going series, Rising Apple will analyze potential off-season targets for the New York Mets. Today’s target at-hand is soon to be free agent reliever Michael Wuertz.

After Michael Wuertz posted a 2.63 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 4.43 K/BB in 78.6 innings during 2009 for the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane’s decision to grant him an extension was more than justified. And the two-year, $5.25 contract Wuertz received was about half of what he was worth in 2009 alone (2.4 fWAR or $10.8 million). But unfortunately for both Wuertz and the Athletics, the reliever couldn’t duplicate his 2009 success in 2010.

Wuertz started 2010 on the disabled list with soreness in his pitching shoulder. Despite the team’s hope for a quick return, the right-hander was out until May 4. But even when he finally returned to action (though he also missed about two weeks in September with a thumb injury), Wuertz didn’t look like the same hurler. In total, the reliever posted a 4.31 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, and 1.90 K/BB in 39.6 innings during 2010. Gone was his good control (from 2.63 BB/9 to 4.76 BB/9), sky-high strikeouts (from 11.67 K/9 to 9.08 K/9), and incredible slider (from 21.2 RAA to 0.9 RAA). To Wuertz’s credit, the reliever did own a 3.16 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 2.23 K/BB from July-onward, so it’s possible his first two months (6.43 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, 0.80 K/BB) were an adjustment period post-shoulder injury. Regardless, Wuertz needed an injury-free 2011 to prove his 2009 was re-attainable.

Yet again, in 2011, Wuertz caught the injury bug. The reliever lost about all of April due to a hamstring injury he experienced during Spring Training. The 32 year-old returned to his duties on April 25, but couldn’t quite muster his old self (5.04 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 1.27 K/BB from April 25 to July 29). As if his season couldn’t get any worse, Wuertz developed tendinitis in his right thumb, which knocked him out from July 30 to September 5. Upon his return, the battered righty surrendered a whopping 9 hits, 4 walks, and 8 earned-runs in just 2.3 innings of work. On the whole, Wuertz’s 2011 season was pretty ugly–6.68 ERA, 1.87 WHIP, and 1.23 K/BB in 33.6 innings. Also, it’s important to note that his average fastball’s velocity dropped noticeably over the last three seasons (from 91 MPH to 89.6 MPH to 88.7 MPH). And while it’s difficult to find any positives in his dreadful 2011 season, the righty did have a more respectable 4.87 xFIP and endured a high .327 BABIP (career .286 BABIP). It’s also possible his poor control (6.95 BB/9) had something to do with his bum thumb.

The Athletics decision to release Michael Wuertz a few days ago made sense and was a little predictable, as paying him $3.25 million in 2012 (as his team option stated) would be a little to rich for the penny-pinching A’s. Then again, after pitching like a subpar reliever in both 2010 and 2011, it wouldn’t make much sense for any team (rich or not) to pick-up that option. But, that doesn’t mean Wuertz doesn’t have value to a Major League bullpen. If signed on a more team-friendly deal (like a one-year, $1-2 million deal, for instance), Michael Wuertz could prove himself again as a solid 7th or 8th inning option. In addition to needing a closer, the New York Mets also need such a reliever. Given his leverage-less disposition, Wuertz could very well be an off-season target for the Mets.

Tags: Athletics Michael Wuertz Athletics Wuertz Ben Berkon Mets Mets Michael Wuertz Mets Wuertz Michael Wuertz New York New York Mets New York Mets Michael Wuertz New York Mets Wuertz Oakland Athletics Potential Off-Season Targets Potential Off-Season Targets Michael Wuertz Potential Off-Season Targets Wuertz Rising Apple

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