Yesterday, the Mets signed 29-year old free agent starting pitcher John Lannan to a minor league deal. It’s expected that Lannan will compete with Jenrry Mejia, Rafael Montero, and Jacob deGrom to be the fifth starter this season, but his role should really be that of an insurance policy.
Spring training numbers are as close to meaningless as it gets, so the idea that Lannan could win the job if he “out-performs” Mejia in March is a laughable one.
The fifth starter job should be determined by past performance, health, and potential, not a small sample size in meaningless games against a largely indifferent opposition.
Lannan has a longer track record than Mejia. However, over the last four seasons, it’s been one of mediocrity.
Lannan had solid campaigns in both 2008 and 2009 for Washington. Since then, his WHIP by year has been 1.56, 1.46, 1.43, and 1.52.
There is some concern about Mejia’s health, but he pitched brilliantly for the Mets in a brief stint last season (2.30 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.9 strikeouts per 9) before bone chips in his elbow that he had been pitching through led to him being shut down.
Mejia had minor surgery to clean out his elbow shortly after his season ended, and he’s already in Port St. Lucie preparing for the 2014 season.
Meanwhile, Lannan’s 2013 performance was poor and ended on August 16th when he was placed on the disabled list with a knee injury. Like Mejia, Lannan had surgery after his season ended (on the ligament in his knee). Unlike Mejia, Lannan first started baseball activity for the first time three days ago.
What Mejia lacks in experience, he makes up for with upside. Most feel that Mejia has top of the rotation potential, which is all that should matter aside from health. After being yanked back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen, Mejia seemed to put it all together last season.
If Mejia is healthy, there’s no good reason why he should start the season anywhere but in the rotation with the Mets.
People keep pushing the idea that the Mets may slide Mejia to the pen, but the Mets themselves stated a few days ago during a chat with fans that Mejia is being looked at solely as a starting pitcher.
The Mets have an opening in their rotation, and a 24-year old pitcher with an electric arm who has the chance to be a top of the rotation starter ready to fill it. You don’t shift that pitcher to to the pen, and you don’t bury him in the minors in order to make room for John Lannan.
If both Mejia and Lannan are healthy, Mejia is the one that gives the Mets the better chance to win. That’s really all that matters, and it’s what should dictate their decision.