Once the Mets agreed upon a trade to send R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, a hole in their starting rotation was created. Due to Sandy Alderson’s unwillingness to spend on the pitching market (since he believes it’s overpriced), he is not expecting to fill the 20-win, 2.73 ERA void the knuckler is leaving with his departure. However, he’s trying to find an innings-eater to take pressure off the bullpen. Since New York is in the market for a back-end of the rotation kind of guy, I understand them looking in to just about everyone, but it’s when they’re scouting Javier Vazquez and “keeping an eye” on Brandon Webb that gives me concern.
Before the Dickey trade became official, there were reports saying young righty Jenrry Mejia would be given the first opportunity to win that spot in the rotation, but the team would plan on bringing in some outside competition. When they signed Aaron Laffey to a minor league deal, including an invite to Big League camp, I figured that would be Mejia’s competition, but Alderson’s tune changed rather quick.
Soon after that, the Mets were being linked to free agent hurlers such as Joe Saunders, Carl Pavano, Chris Young, and Shaun Marcum. Although he wasn’t offering any deal over one year, Sandy has been using three things to try and lure a pitcher in to play for the Mets; the pitcher friendly confines of Citi Field, their market of New York City, and a guaranteed spot in the rotation to showcase their skills on a one-year deal. So, it looks as though Mejia is the fallback option for the rotation if none of these pitchers work out, as he should be after showing more inconsistency on the mound during the Dominican Winter League.
With the new objective to find a Major League starting pitcher that can make up the 233 innings pitched they’re losing from 2012, the last ones Alderson should be interested in are Vazquez and Webb. Yes, Vazquez has been known to be an innings eater throughout his career (11 years of 190+ IP), but he didn’t pitch at all in 2012 after spending 2011 with the Marlins, as he put together a 13-11 record and 3.69 ERA in 192 innings pitched. In addition to taking a year off, he’s still not feeling 100% and is 36-years-old. This guy shouldn’t be the one they lean on to try and eat up some innings in 2013.
As for Brandon Webb, there are several teams keeping an eye on him, including most of the NL East. Webb has one Cy Young, three straight All-Star selections, one 20-win season, and five years of 200+ IP to his name, but arm problems have kept him off a Big League mound since 2009. The last time he pitched in the minors was 2011 for the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate in the Texas League, and he got lit up in 4 starts, going 0-2 with a 9.75 ERA in 12 innings pitched.
Whether Webb has a clean bill of health or not, he shouldn’t be trusted with giving 25-30 starts this season. I’m not saying these two pitchers are a focus for Alderson, but hearing reports surface this week about his interest in both Webb and Vazquez before he’s signed a legit starter to plug into the rotation concerns me. I’d be happy if he puts a full court press on Marcum, as he’s the youngest on the free agent market and has the most upside out of the remaining available pitchers.
I have no problem watching New York take a flyer on either Vazquez or Webb with a minor league deal. They can work they way up through the minors to build up their endurance, and act as an insurance policy in case any of the starters in New York’s rotation gets injured (or traded).
However, don’t….I repeat, don’t go after one of these untrustworthy options before giving that last rotation spot away to someone who is more of a guarantee to provide the innings the Amazins desperately need, especially since no team is in hot pursuit of either one of them. In all honesty, there are enough young, internal options available to not give one of these guys a chance, but a team can never have enough pitching going into a 162-game season.