With all the speculation of where C.C. Sabathia is going after this season, one legitimate place
where he could land is in New York, but not with the Yankees, with the Mets. On the surface, it would appear to be unlikely that the Mets, having just doled out the richest contract ever for a pitcher in Johan Santana, would even consider bringing in another high-priced starting pitcher who’s going to demand a similar contract to that of Santana, but if it’s broken down, it makes a great deal of sense. Here are the reasons that it should be considered:
- A lot of money is coming off the books after this season:
Carlos Delgado, Pedro Martinez, Oliver Perez, Moises Alou and Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez are all going to be free agents following this season. If anyone’s counting, that’s $16 million for Delgado, $11 million for Martinez, $6.5 million for Perez, $7 million for El Duque and $7.5 million for Alou. Delgado, El Duque and Alou won’t be back; unless the Mets go back to their thoughtless, Al Leiter/John Franco-style sentimentality and give Martinez a contract extension, he won’t be back either; and after watching Perez today, it has become clear that for all of his talent, he’s one of those pitchers who might pitch a no-hitter or suddenly come down with Steve Blass/Rick Ankiel disease; he’s also represented by Scott Boras, which means a demand of a least $10-12 million a year for 5-8 years. Which would be more prudent? Paying that money to keep the flighty Perez or signing someone like Sabathia for an extra $6-7 million that should be available?
- Pitching Wins Championships:
Just imagine a starting rotation of Johan Santana (age 30); C.C. Sabathia (29); John Maine (28); and Mike Pelfrey (25). For years the Yankees and Braves made their living by having strong pitching. The Braves always preferred to find arms over bats and the Yankees made it a point to have six viable starting pitchers. The Red Sox are functioning in a similar way now and the results speak for themselves.
- He’s Been Durable:
Even though he’s struggled this year and had problems in the playoffs last year, I wouldn’t let that preclude me from signing him for that reason alone; the playoffs are hit or miss as far as individual performances go. Barry Zito got paid his massive contract from the Giants in part because of his successful start against Santana in the 2006 ALDS; to deny Sabathia a lucrative contract because of post-season failure (and he did pitch well in the 2001 ALDS, so he’s not a complete washout in the playoffs) would be just as silly as offering one because of a good performance. One game or series does not a career make. Sabathia has started at least 28 games every season he’s been in the majors and has averaged 34 per season. Moving to the National League would also improve his results and make his life easier than it would be pitching to the likes of the Tigers, Yankees and Angels.
- The Mets Would Need Three Starters Next Season To Replace The Dearly Departed:
Which would be a sounder financial investment, signing two or three mediocre starters to contracts far too rich for their respective skills, or signing an available star in his prime? The days of mediocre starters getting absurd paydays seemed to end this past off season as Kyle Lohse and Jeff Weaver (another pair of Boras <left> clients) have proven, but there’s always going to be one owner who’s going to be desperate and stupid enough to start the ball of financial insanity rolling down the hill again. The Mets could re-sign Perez and risk 5-7 years of an expensive roller coaster ride; they could bring back Pedro as some kind of severance for his personality and leadership; they could find another veteran starter to replace El Duque, or they could make a big splash and go after Sabathia.
It makes financial sense and it fits into the structure of the baseball operations. GM Omar Minaya prevailed on the ownership to sign the likes of Martinez and Carlos Beltran after the 2004 season; maybe if he started working on the idea now, had a reasonable bat to replace either Delgado and/or Alou (Josh Willingham anyone?) and presented his case intelligently, the Mets could put together a devastating starting rotation that no one is going to want to face; and what better way to enter a new ballpark than to be a prohibitive favorite to win a World Series?