Has Mike Pelfrey Thrown His Final Pitch As A Met?

By Unknown author

Mike Pelfrey‘s most recent start was one his best as a member of the New York Mets.  It also might be his last.  Yesterday, it was revealed that Big Pelf has a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, an injury that requires surgery and would cost the righty the remainder of the season, and there is a strong chance that Pelfrey might never pitch for the Mets again.

Pelfrey’s career has been a roller coaster ride, to say the least.  He struggled in 2007, found moderate success in 2008 and regressed in 2009.  He seemed poised for a breakout season in 2010 after going 10-2 with a 2.71 ERA and 1.224 WHIP over his first 16 games, but then hit a month-long snag before finishing the season on a high note.  Tabbed as the Opening Day starter last year, Pelfrey again struggled to find consistency and was dropped to the number four slot in the rotation this year.  His first two starts of the season were decent, but last Saturday’s start against the San Francisco Giants was great.  In that outing, Pelfrey tossed eight innings, surrendering just one run on six hits and one walk, striking out three.  Armed with a new delivery, Pelfrey is throwing harder and generating ground balls with a heavy sinker.  He might not be a stud, but the tall right-hander looked like he could be the innings-eater, ground ball pitcher that the Mets brass and fans want him to be.

And then yesterday, Pelfrey suffered a tremendous setback, landing on the disabled list with what was initially termed “swelling” in his right elbow, but later revealed to be a UCL tear.  Pelfrey will get a second opinion, but he looks headed for surgery, which would sideline him for the rest of the year.  Given the timing of this injury, it is very conceivable that Pelfrey will never don a Mets uniform again.

There are a couple of reasons why Pelfrey might never again wear the blue and orange, the first of which involves his salary.  Pelfrey is earning $5.6875 million this season with one more round of arbitration to go.  If Pelfrey were to pitch a full season, he would likely have earned a raise, maybe a substantial one if he pitched well.  Even with missing the rest of the year, Pelfrey cannot earn less than 80% of his 2012 salary through arbitration, meaning he would make at least $4.55 million in 2013-probably more.  It is unlikely Sandy Alderson would want to pay that much to a player with an inconsistent past, coming off major surgery.

The second reason involves the team’s young arms.  While the Mets didn’t call up any high-level prospects to fill out the roster (they instead went with Binghamton reliever, Robert Carson), Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia are on track to debut in the near future (possibly as September call-ups, or perhaps sooner if they dominate at Buffalo), with Zack Wheeler not far behind (don’t forget about Jenrry Mejia either).  Johan Santana and Jon Niese are locks for next year’s rotation, with R.A. Dickey highly likely as well (the Mets hold a team option which they will probably exercise unless Dickey struggles the entire season).  That leaves two spots up for grabs to be filled among the aforementioned prospects and Dillon Gee, all of whom will cost far less than Pelfrey and have at least the same level of talent.

There is always a chance Pelfrey gets non-tendered and then brought back for less than his arbitration cost.  However, it is likelier that some other teams will court him and drive up the price high enough so that the Mets won’t shell out the dough for an inconsistent innings-eater who is unpopular among the fans.  If indeed Pelfrey has thrown his final pitch for the Amazins, it would be the end of an unsatisfying journey for the former number nine overall pick, unsatisfying for Pelfrey, the Mets front office, and the fans.

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