After signing John Lannan to a minor-league deal with an invite to Spring Training, the Mets have added another name to the competition for the fifth slot in the starting rotation. Come Opening Day, either Lannan or Jenrry Mejia (and possibly Rafael Montero or Jacob deGrom) will join Zack Wheeler, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee, and Bartolo “Not Matt Harvey” Colon in New York’s starting staff.
Who knows, maybe Sandy Alderson isn’t done signing low-cost veteran starters; we might throw another one on the fire before it’s over. But assuming the acquisitions are done, and assuming Montero and deGrom will both start out 2014 in Triple-A Las Vegas, that means Lannan and Mejia will go head-to-head for the right to serve as back legs in the Mets’ hypothetical ten-legged pantomime horse costume. So who gets in?
The Case for Lannan
Aug 14, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher John Lannan (27) pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the second inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
- John Lannan has started 148 games over a seven-year major league career. He provides veteran leadership to a still-young starting staff.
- Lannan spent last year with the Phillies after six years with the Nationals. He brings a knowledge of the National League East unparalleled by any other free agent New York can bring in.
- Lannan would only be a placeholder until Noah Syndergaard arrives in the summer. If he breaks down and turns out to be mediocre at best, it won’t be for long.
The Case Against Lannan
- The Mets know what they can get from John Lannan: an average starter with recent injury troubles. For a team looking to the future, starting Lannan puts one eye to the past.
- While Lannan has a great knowledge of the NL East, so do veterans Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. Their combined experience and good scouting will do.
The Case for Mejia
Aug 6, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Jenrry Mejia (58) pitches during the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
- Jenrry Mejia was brilliant in five starts for the Mets in 2013. If he comes out 100 percent healthy after his minor elbow surgery and turns out to be just as good, he gives New York at least third-starter quality in the five-hole.
- If Mejia is too good to fire by the time Syndergaard comes up, he gives Sandy Alderson the flexibility to trade Mejia, Gee, or Bartolo Colon and bring in other pieces.
- The 24-year-old Mejia has been in the Mets organization since 2007 and finally got to show his potential last year, despite all the frustration and mismanagement he had to put up with on his way to the big leagues. If loyalty counts for anything, Mejia has earned the right to be a Mets starter.
The Case Against Mejia
- Mejia has a history of injury and has never thrown more than 100 innings in a professional season. He isn’t durable enough to last a full major league season and may not even last a half season.
Unless Mejia is not healthy enough and Lannan wows everyone in Spring Training, the Mets should stick to their apparent plan and insert Jenrry Mejia as their fifth starter. John Lannan is a reliable, average starting pitcher, but he also comes with an aftertaste of “been there, done that.” Yes, Mejia has had his injury troubles in the past and represents a higher risk, but the reward is great if he in any way performs like the blue-chip prospect of years past. And, lest we forget, he’s still just 24, still building to the prime of his career. Controlling for all other variables, going with Mejia is a no-brainer.
Knowing the wear and tear that goes along with the major league season (and knowing the Mets’ fortunes in recent years), there’s a chance we see John Lannan in the New York rotation at some point in 2014. But that appearance should come after Opening Day when the Mets trot out Jenrry Mejia with their starting rotation.