The New York Mets could still use some pitching depth and free agent James Shields is someone they should take a look at.
While the New York Mets have made more big splashes than anyone expected they would going into this offseason, one position I feel that they could still make a move to help improve would be at starting pitcher.
As of now, we’re about a month away from the start of the season and the plan as of now is to go into the season with a starting rotation consisting of returning pitchers from last season.
Barring injury, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz are all locks to begin the season in the starting rotation, and veteran lefty Jason Vargas is the most likely to be the fifth starter.
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Like I said, as of now, this is likely to be the case “barring injury”, but the Mets have run into quite a few injuries over the years. I feel they lack any depth in case of one of our pitchers going down from one or performing inconsistently.
Just last season, Jason Vargas missed nearly a third of the season resulting from injury and even when he returned, he performed poorly, finishing the season with a 5.77 ERA. Syndergaard also missed all of his starts in the month of June last season and a few in July, after missing the majority of the 2017 season the year prior.
Matz and Wheeler both started the majority of their scheduled starts last season, but each of them has had a history of injuries over the previous few seasons, and each struggled at certain points over the course of the 2018 season.
In a fill-in role, rookie pitcher Corey Oswalt appeared in 17 games for the club last season, making 12 starts and finished the year with a 5.85 ERA.
These six are currently the options for New York as starting pitchers going into the 2019 season, so needless to say, while I would like to remain optimistic, I feel it is unrealistic to go into this year expecting all of these pitchers to stay healthy and perform consistently.
In particular, Vargas is the member of that group who has most Mets fans worried, due to both his inconsistent play last season, the time he spent on the disabled list and his salary of $8 million this coming season.
I feel it would be worthwhile for them to bring in another starter into Spring Training to provide depth to the group and be given the opportunity to compete for the job as a fifth starter.
My suggestion for who they should bring in is James Shields.
While there are more attractive options who could be brought in to compete, such as Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez, both of those two are holding out right now in order to get a high salary for this season, and after significantly raising their payroll for this coming season, I’m not sure that GM Brodie Van Wagenen is willing to offer any more large contracts.
However, if feel that we could acquire Shield’s services for a minor league contract with incentives should he make the major league team.
Shields was once one of the most dominant pitchers in the league and after a few poor seasons, he rebounded in 2018 and posted some very respectable numbers.
While the 37-year-old righty does not appear to be the “James Shields of old”, in his final season with the Chicago White Sox, he appeared in 34 games for the club, starting 33 of them, and recorded a 4.53 ERA over the course of 204.2 innings, pitching a 200+ inning season for the 10th time in his career and the first time since 2015.
As of now, were about a month away from Opening Day and Shields remains unsigned, with pretty much no buzz around him, so its practical that the Mets bring him in on a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training and give him another chance at pitching in the big leagues, while giving us another option for the rotation.
For those of you reading this thinking that its unreasonable to expect him to come into camp and provide an alternative for the Mets, our rival Atlanta Braves did something similar last season when they signed Anibal Sanchez to a minor league deal, and he ended up starting 24 games with Atlanta last year with a 2.83 ERA, good enough to earn him a 2-year $19 million contract with the Nationals.
Being able to get him on a minor league deal would be a low risk, potentially high reward deal which I believe would be advantageous for New York to pursue. They still lack depth at starting pitcher and bringing in Shields would not be a strain on the payroll. If he performs like he did last season and shows flashes of his old self, Shields would be a welcome addition to the team.
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If nothing else, Bartolo Colon hit his first home run off of James Shields back in 2016, so we probably still owe him for that.