Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Options for the Rotation

Posted by JD on January 12, 2010

The Mets are still in the market for another starting pitcher and several options have been circulating through the blogosphere. Presented in no particular order, they are:

1. Sign Joel Piniero.
2. Trade for Aaron Harang or Bronson Arroyo.
3. Sign Jon Garland.
4. Sign Doug Davis.

I don’t have access to any “sources”  other than the mainstream media, bloggers, and Twitter, so it’s hard for me to quantify the free agents’ price tags. As I understand it Piniero is the market leader. He’s been angling for a three year deal, but it looks like the best he’ll be able to get is two years. As a result, Garland and Davis have been forced into a holding pattern: no team is going to sign them before Piniero unless they radically undercut him in terms of price, but they’d be crazy not to wait and maximize their value. The latest that I’ve seen (via @ed_price on Twitter, a/k/a Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse), has the Mets discussing a two-year, $15 million deal with Piniero, which leads me to believe that Garland or Davis could be had for about one year, $7/8 million. Forgive me if you disagree, but those are the contract terms that I’ll use for the sake of this comparison. That leaves us with the following breakdown (Arroyo’s and Harang’s contract information was provided by Cot’s Baseball Contracts):

Piniero: 2 years, 2010 = $7 millon, 2011 = $8 million
Arroyo: 1 year plus team option, 2010 = $11 million, 2011 = $11 million or $2 million buyout
Harang: 1 year plus team option, 2010 = $12 million, 2011 = $12.75 million or $2 million buyout (note: that option increases to $13 million if Harang pitches 210 innings in 2010)
Garland: 1 year, 2010 = $7.5 million (split the difference)
Davis: 1 year, 2010 = $7.5 million (ditto)

One final qualifier: the free agents cost nothing but money, but Arroyo and Harang will cost at least a player and a prospect (according to almost everything I’ve read). John Maine and Fernando Martinez? Angel Pagan and Jenry Mejia? Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez*? I have no way to weight these scenarios so for the purposes of this comparison, let’s consider the term “player & prospect” equals two assets that combine for approximately $4 million dollars in salary and 6 or fewer combined major league seasons of service time. I think that allows us some leeway in terms of the actual players included in the potential trade.

*This scenario is easily the most fanciful, because it involves the Mets acquiring Brandon Phillips as well. I’m not saying it will never happen, just that it involves too many moving pieces to be realistic. Now watch it happen…

Here are the relevant stats:

Piniero 32 214 105 27 11 118 1.145 3.89 1.1
Arroyo 33 220 127 65 31 112 1.266 1.95 2.7
Harang 26 162 142 43 24 102 1.411 3.3 2.4
Garland 33 204 109 61 23 111 1.402 1.79 2.8
Davis 34 203 146 103 25 111 1.505 1.42 4.6

(All stats are from Baseball Reference)

I used a quick and dirty formula to rank the rank the candidates: 5 points to the leader in each category, 1 point to the pitcher who finished last (45 points is the high score, 9 the low). Here are the results:

Piniero: 37 points
Arroyo: 28 points
Garland: 27 points
Harang: 24 points
Davis: 21 points

That’s pretty clear cut, no? Piniero is the leader and won’t cost anything but money. Arroyo is next, but when you factor in the player & prospect cost, isn’t Garland an equal, but cheaper, alternative? Seems fairly cut and dried to me, but I know what your saying: that’s only one year. Fair enough. I’ll take their career numbers in those categories and add one more: age (youngest gets 5 points, oldest gets 1). Here are the stats:

Piniero 285 1456.3 904 415 162 98 1.343 2.18 2.6 30
Arroyo 262 1460 997 450 181 108 1.334 2.22 2.8 32
Harang 218 1340 1123 369 181 104 1.325 3.04 2.5 31
Garland 311 1829.3 960 593 228 104 1.387 1.62 2.9 29
Davis 289 1631.67 1209 736 172 106 1.492 1.64 4.1 33

And the rankings (50 is the highest, 10 the lowest):

Harang: 35 points
Arroyo: 31 points
Piniero: 30 points
Garland: 28 points
Davis: 28 poimts

How do I interpret this? Well, Harang has the best track record, but had the worst 2009. He should be considered a good alternative if the player/prospect combination has a higher salary value*. Arroyo finished second in both rankings, which wouldn’t preclude me from acquiring him, but would make me think long and hard depending on the prospects involved. I would pass if the prospect involved appeared in any top five list published in 2010.

*For example, Harang becomes viable if Omar can convince Walt Jocketty to take back Oliver Perez or Luis Castillo. Anything less in terms of out-going salary would make it a riskier trade. And if you think he can do that, I have a fabulous bridge in Brooklyn that’s available for sale. Heck, if you call within the next 15 minutes I’ll throw in a second bridge for free.

On the free agent side, Piniero is super attractive when you limit your focus to 2009, but less so when you factor in his career totals. Again, I wouldn’t say no, but the fact that he might be a product of Dave Duncan’s rejuvenation machine would make me extremely reluctant to guarantee him two years. He’s due to regress back to the mean and I’d hate to see the Mets holding the bag when he does. Davis clearly lags behind the rest of the field and should only be considered if the other four targets are gone. That leaves Jon Garland, and if I were Omar Minaya, that’s exactly who I’d be targeting today.

Garland isn’t flashy, but he has a record of consistent, modest success. He’s certainly not an ace and he’s not a number two, but he could hold down the third slot in this rotation. He hasn’t pitched fewer than 191 innings in any of the past eight years and his ERA+ bottomed out at 90 during the same period. In other words, Garland is the safe choice. He’ll probably come within 10% (+/-) of the league average, limiting the down-side risk of the deal. The Mets already have two high risk/high reward prospects in their rotation (Ollie and John Maine). Signing Garland would ensure that (when paired with Mike Pelfrey) they’d have two solid starters to go with Johan Santana.

I’m not opposed to signing Piniero, I’d be okay with a trade for Harang if Ollie was headed the other way, I’d deal with a trade for Arroyo if the price tag wasn’t too exorbitant, and I’d be pissed if the Mets settled for Davis. But I’d be quietly satisfied if they signed Garland. Stability is undervalued, and that’s exactly what Garland brings to the equation. Well worth the $7/8 million dollar price tag, in my opinion.

What do you think?

Piniero 32 214 105 27 11 118 1.145 3.89 1.1
Arroyo 33 220 127 65 31 112 1.266 1.95 2.7
Harang 26 162 142 43 24 102 1.411 3.3 2.4
Garland 33 204 109 61 23 111 1.402 1.79 2.8
Davis 34 203 146 103 25 111 1.505 1.42 4.6

2 Responses to “Options for the Rotation”

  1. Paul said

    I don’t think that Piniero’s success will last with the Mets infield and without Dave Duncan.

    I’d rather sign Garland or Davis and see whether John Maine and a fringe prospect could get me Bronson Arroyo. (I’m guessing “no” on that trade proposal.)

  2. JD said

    I’m with you, though I’d be pissed if all they settle for Davis. That would mean that they didn’t move fast enough on Garland.

    Either way, I think we’ll see some movement this week. It feels like Piniero will chose between LA and NY soon…we’ll see.

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