The Mets have collected a few intriguing arms to compete for the fifth starter spot as we hit spring training. The job a few weeks ago looked like a sure thing for young Jenrry Mejia. Well now the right-hander has a little competition. Sandy Alderson has brought in John Lannan and resigned Daisuke Matsuzaka to minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training. The two will compete with Mejia along with Jacob DeGrom for the last spot in the Mets rotation. So who deserves the job?
Matsuzaka, 33, was decent with the Mets last year in 38 innings. He went 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA in 7 starts with the Mets. He looked better as he went along but he just takes so darn long to pitch, sometimes it’s tough to watch. Matsuzaka will make $1.5 million if he makes the team and can earn a little more money in incentives.
Lannan, 29, badly struggled last year with the Phillies before going down with a knee injury. The left-hander went 3-6 with a 5.33 ERA last season in 74 innings. The issue with Lannan is he really doesn’t strike anyone out and he has been homer prone in the past. However he has had a lot of success in the N.L. East as a member of the Washington Nationals so he can’t be counted out in this race. He is young enough to bounce back. Plus getting out of Citizens Bank Park to spacious Citi Field would benefit the pitcher a lot. Lannan will also make $1.5 million if he makes the team plus incentives. It would be nice to add a second lefty to the Mets rotation.
Mejia, 24, has the most upside by far of anyone in the Mets 5th starter race. The problem with Mejia is he just can’t stay healthy. He pitched just 27 innings with the Mets in 2013 before going down for the year with elbow problems. Mejia’s delivery is just so violent that it would be a surprise if he didn’t continue to have arm problems. I believe his best chance of success as a pitcher is to become a full time reliever. That doesn’t appear to be the plan however and as long as Mejia is healthy I believe he is the best man for the job. If he could just stay healthy he could easily be a #2 starter for the Mets going forward according to many scout and analysts.
If Mejia does not have a good spring training the Mets can send him down he has an option remaining.
The last candidate is probably the least likely to start the year in the rotation and that is Jacob DeGrom. DeGrom, 25, has moved through the minors very quickly and looks like he will make his major league debut in 2014 with the Mets. However he still has some work to do at the Triple A level so it looks like barring injury he will start the year in the minors.
Those are the four candidates for the job. It really will come down to performance and health in spring training and will be one of the top story lines to watch this March besides who wins the first base job.