Two fabulous bits of news in one little story: ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin reports that the Mets are going to send Jenrry Mejia back to the minors to be stretched out for a return to starting duties and that they’re going to call up knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to take Wednesday’s start against the Nationals.
All of this is occasioned by the giant anvil that has been dropped on the Mets’ rotation as of late, what with Oliver Perez being kicked down to relief duties and John Niese tweaking his hamstring. In addition to Dickey being called in to start, Hisanori Takahashi is jointing the rotation as well and will take Friday’s start.
But no matter what’s occasioning all of this, they’re good moves. Mejia is the latest and perhaps the most regrettable recent example of a big league club taking a perfectly awesome starting pitcher and rushing him up to become a reliever in the majors. And just like Joba Chamberlain and Neftali Feliz before him, he’s been successful in the pen. Which shouldn’t be surprising, because it’s much easier to come in and throw one inning with your best gas and little need for secondary pitches.
The only problem is that teams appear to be confusing these guys’ success with “a reliever’s temperament” or some such nonsense, making them loathe to restore the guys back to the starting rotation where their skills can be put to better use. Thankfully the Mets have been forced into making the right move with Mejia. A guy who, if given the chance to develop his secondary pitches, gain a little strength and gain a little confidence, could turn into a top of the rotation starter.
Of course patience will be necessary for this to work out. If the plan is to send Mejia down to double A or something and let him spend the season starting in the minors, building arm strength and building confidence for the future, mazel tov. It’ll be another thing altogether, however, if the plan is to give him four weeks in Buffalo and then rush him back to New York to join the Mets’ rotation. If that happens he’s likely to get shelled, because really, it’s going to take longer than that for Mejia to get a feel for the changeup and curveball he really hasn’t had to use that much this year, and he’s going to need those pitches to be whip-smart if he expects to get major league hitters out with them two and three times in a single game.
But let’s leave our hand-wringing over that for another day. For today, be happy that the Mets are doing the right thing with their best pitching prospect since Doc Gooden. Oh, and that they’re calling up a knuckleballer, because that’s really cool.
New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.
Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.
The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.
It was reported Sunday that free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto had turned down a six-year, $120 million contract from the Diamondbacks. He’s hoping to land a bigger deal this winter and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has heard some chatter about what he’s looking for.
Jordan Zimmermann finalized a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers today, which works out to $22 million per season. Arizona’s offer to Cueto checked in at $20 million per season. A six-year offer to Cueto at the same AAV (average annual value) as Zimmermann would put him at $132 million, which is still a little shy of the figure stated by Crasnick. Of course, Cueto owns a 2.71 ERA (145 ERA+) over the last five seasons compared to a 3.14 ERA (123 ERA+) by Zimmermann during that same timespan, so there’s a case to be made that he should get more. Still, he’s the clear No. 3 starter on the market behind David Price and Zack Greinke.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the other teams who have interest in Cueto. One variable in his favor is that he is not attached to draft pick compensation, as he was traded from the Reds to the Royals during the 2015 season.
The rebuilding Braves have already been active on the trade market and they might not be done, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that right-hander Shelby Miller has been a very popular name. In fact, around 20 teams have checked in.
Nothing is considered close and the Braves have set a very high asking price, mostly centered around offense. They asked for right-hander Luis Severino in talks with the Yankees and would expect outfielder Marcell Ozuna among other pieces from the Marlins. The Diamondbacks and Giants are among the other interested clubs.
Miller is under team control through 2018, so there’s not necessarily a sense of urgency to move him, but anything is possible with the way the Braves are doing things right now. The 25-year-old is coming off a year where he went 6-17, but that was about really rotten luck more than anything else, as he had a fine 3.02 ERA and 171/73 K/BB ratio over 205 1/3 innings. The Braves gave him the worst run support of any starter in the majors.
Jenrry Mejia appeared in just seven games this past season due to a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets are expected to tender him a contract for 2016.
While the Mets were vocal about their disappointment in Mejia’s actions, it makes sense to keep him around as an option. Had he played a full season in 2015, he would have earned $2.595 million. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and figures to receive a contract similar to his 2015 figure, but he’ll only be paid for the games he plays. He still has 100 games to serve on his second PED suspension, which means that he’ll only be paid for 62 games in 2016. This likely puts his salary closer to $1 million, which is a small price to pay for someone who could prove useful during the second half and beyond. He also won’t count toward the team’s 40-man roster until he’s active.
Mejia, who turned 26 in October, owns a 3.68 ERA in the majors and saved 28 games for the Mets in 2014. He’s currently pitching as a starter in the Dominican Winter League.