I know, when Mike Pelfrey went down at the end of April with his season-ending injury that required Tommy John surgery, we all seemed certain we would never see him in a Mets uniform again. For the 9th overall pick in the 2005 amateur draft, his development hasn’t exactly panned out the way the front office was hoping. Pelfrey has had an up-and-down career to say the least, going 50-54 with a 4.36 ERA in 153 games (149 starts). So, what would be the benefit of bringing him back in 2013?
Sandy Alderson will probably non-tender Pelfrey, who made $5.68 million through arbitration this past year. He’s eligible for arbitration again this season, and if the Mets tender him a contract, they’d have to pay him no less than 80% of this year’s salary, which would be an awful lot for someone coming off Tommy John surgery. However, once he’s non-tendered, Pelfrey becomes a free agent and can sign with any team, for any amount. Despite having the 2013 rotation already set, it would be great to have someone like Pelfrey waiting in the wings in case something happened, or as an option in the bullpen.
As of right now, it is projected that the Mets rotation will include Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee, and most likely, Matt Harvey. With Santana’s long-term health seemingly up in the air after the poor performance following his June 1st no-hitter, and Gee rehabbing from a repaired artery, there is a chance the rotation isn’t completely healthy, and the Mets could use a solid backup plan, much like what Chris Young was able to do this year.
I mentioned it before in today’s Diamond Notes, but Michael Baron of MetsBlog feels that Pelfrey would prefer to sign a minor league deal with New York, as he would like to continue his rehab with the organization he knows the best, with coaches and staff that he’s familiar with, which makes all the sense in the world. As long as he doesn’t have any setbacks, he’s projected to be ready for MLB competition around May 1st of next year.
Although he only threw 305 pitches this season, he could end up being a huge pickup for the Mets, at a fraction of the price. It looked as though Pelfrey was on his way to having a great year, as he was getting better and better with each of his starts, and his last one being the most impressive, giving up 1 run on 6 hits and 1 walk in 8 innings pitched. What was most surprising in his short season was the control he showed, only walking four batters in his three starts. Control has always been a problem for Pelfrey, who was walking at least three batters every nine innings from 2009-2011.
Either way, I think the Mets will need a backup plan when it comes to their rotation due to the question marks that remain. There have been rumors of bringing Chris Young (4-7, 4.48 ERA) back on another minor league deal, but with an 84 mph fastball that he throws 74% of the time, it’s hard to count on him to have pinpoint accuracy with his pitches, especially since it’s hard for him to do throughout an entire game as the lineup against him turns over a third time. Pelfrey not only will throw harder (92.4 mph career), but is more apt to get ground balls than Young (1.57 GB/FB career vs. 0.57 GB/FB career), which would fit into the rotation nicely, or even the bullpen, as Terry Collins is not opposed to bringing Big Pelf back in that capacity. If he can pound the strike zone and induce ground balls, he’d be a great fit.
On the flip side, if Pelfrey goes through his rehab assignment and shows he’s healthy, but the Mets have no place to put him, he would have much more value on the trade market than Young would. As a pitcher in his mid-30s that struggles with a sub-par fastball, there isn’t much upside left with Young. Yes, he has taken the ball every fifth day, but his performance hasn’t warranted him another contract in Flushing. This is the time for Pelfrey to finally prove himself, and I’d like to see him in a Mets uniform when he does.