Weekend Opinions: Considering Arroyo and Kazmir, Thoughts on Abreu and 1B, and Pondering Backman's Future
The more one thinks about it, the more one likes the idea of Bronson Arroyo.
Incredibly durable, gives 30 starts every year, has gotten better with age, has spent his entire career in hitter’s parks, and sure seems to epitomize the diametric opposite of the recent Met culture of never seeing a DL one doesn't like.
Arroyo turns 37 this winter, has a million miles on his arm, and made 16M last year and an average of about 12M over the last 5 years. What would it take to sign him? 3/36?
No, he is not a fireballer, and he surely is at the age when pitchers on all ends of the velocity spectrum lose some MPH, but remember—he would be coming to Citi Field.
The Mets in recent years have taken risks with pitchers like Chris Young and Shaun Marcum. While Arroyo would cost much more in terms of years and dollars, he also quite clearly represents a much better risk. There’s always a chance that a pitcher with this many innings behind him will all of a sudden start to break down—and with recent Met pitching history, who can blame fans for thinking this way? But Arroyo also very possibly could simply have a physical makeup which allows him to throw so many innings and perhaps also a tolerance for pain which recent Mets seem to be allergic to.
While Arroyo is not one of the very best pitchers of his era, he certainly is good. He is incredibly reliable, has played for winning teams with successful franchises, and by many accounts, he is a good guy as well.
And he is an accomplished musician who has covered Alice in Chains. This ex-Seattleite thinks this fact alone might put him at the head of this year’s FA class of pitchers.
Then there’s Scott Kazmir. One of the most famous names in recent Met history is a free agent.
Yes, he sure would be a risk, but anyone who caught any of his awesome performance again the Mets this year can attest to the fact that this guy can still pitch. Amazingly, he won’t be 30 until January, and considering the light workload he has had over the last three years, he might have a lot of mileage left on his arm, assuming he really is back and ready to continue getting that fastball into the low-to-mid-90s with regularity again—and his control this year was surprisingly good as well.
Despite the Mets’ middling mediocrity, Citi Field is a pitcher’s park to be sure, and Kazmir might love the idea of returning to NY and finishing the job he never had the chance to start after Jim Duquette made one of the worst trades in Met history. After all, how cool would his succeeding in a Met uni be? From 2005—2008 Kazmir was one of the better LHP in the game, and it remains brutally tantalizing to consider what might have been from 2006—2008 had he been a Met.
But we digress. What would Kazmir cost? 2/16? Something like that? What if the team signed Arroyo AND Kazmir? Then we would not have to pretend that Mejia can stay healthy for more than 15 minutes, we could be patient with Syndergaard, and maybe trade one or more of Gee/Montero for a SS or a 1B or a RF.
Assuming they all stay healthy, 2014 could have a rotation of Wheeler/Niese/Arroyo/Kazmir/Syndergaard by late in the season, and spring 2015 could see Harvey/Wheeler/Syndergaard/Kazmir/Arroyo, with possible trade bait of Niese and who might be left/healthy of Gee and Montero.
The more one thinks about this, the more amazing it sounds. Arroyo is reliable and Kazmir is a great risk. If these two simply pitch in 2014 as they did this year, this gives the Mets a pretty fantastic rotation and allows them to consider trading Gee and Montero, which they cannot right now. The cost of these two would be considerably lower in overall contract dollars than, say, Choo, and would, again, give them the ability to finally trade from strength, without having to rely on someone like Marcum or Batista.
It also would give the team enough starting pitching to possibly be much more competitive in 2014, and should Kazmir pan out, at the trade deadline, you have every team calling about Gee and Montero as you prepare to promote Syndergaard. Then you really might get a good bat, and as you have not handed out $68 M for Abreu or even more for Choo, you have the ability to spend to take on a contract, or to go after a serious FA next offseason.
Everyone says we need offense, and everyone is right. But if you build a rotation like the one suggested here, you may lose 1-0 and 2-0 games, but you definitely will win some too. And you can afford to “trade from strength” without totally devastating that strength, which the current Mets would do by trading just about any of their current rotation hopefuls.
Going for Arroyo and Kazmir would be outside the box perhaps, but it also would create an incredible stable of pitchers, incredibly diverse in all ways—style, velocity, strengths, L/R, age/experience, and more. This could be a great way for the Mets to go this offseason. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Well, to the surprise of no one, Abreu shall not be a Met. When one considers the contract he received—well, it WAS from a big-market team, after all—one cannot be too upset. That is a lot of dough for a question mark. The feeling here remains that had the money been available for the Wilpons to spend—or if Omar was still in charge—that this would have been a wonderful risk. But with the Wilpon financial storm still just getting warmed up, it is neither surprising nor mystifying why Abreu will not be hitting HRs in Queens.
As of now, we remain saddled with an incredibly depressing 1B situation, and while this writer detests the ridiculous saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (it’s really not the definition of insanity; sorry Albert), while it may not be insanity, it surely is the Met way of dealing with 1B. Duda’s supporters are becoming as numerous as the list of accomplishments on Jeff Wilpon’s resume, and Valley Fever may have ruined Ike Davis’ career. Josh Satin may have the eyebrows of a Muppet, but he’s not an everyday—or a platoon—MLB player. Flores is just 22 and did improve as he moved through the system, so perhaps there is consideration of his somehow filling the right side of the IF along with Murph. At least you’d have the proven production of Murphy and the potential of Flores. Right now, Duda/Ike/Satin seem like a 3-headed 1B monster that would not scare Alfred Ogilvie.
Abreu’s 6/68 is an awful lot of money, and dwarfs the contracts of Chapman and Cespedes, and even that of Puig. Assuming the Mets do spend some significant money elsewhere, they cannot be too harshly criticized for not going after Abreu. Reality states rather loudly that right now the Mets are not a big-market team, and cannot afford Abreu and also other serious improvements. While this writer strongly felt that Abreu was a great risk due to the numerous factors previously enumerated (power, playing 1B, costing only $$$ and not prospects or a draft pick, potential revenue from Cuban/Hispanic fans), not giving him 6/68 can be understandable, assuming the money is spent elsewhere. If it is not, then it was not a judgment call of a team with limited revenue; it was just window shopping with zero intent to buy.
Will Abreu live up to the deal? Perhaps the one positive the Mets can take from this is that if he does excel, at least we won’t suffer from it much unless we see the White Sox in the World Series.
This writer still likes Wally Backman. No, not just due to a fetish for 1986ers; not at all, aside from what being a significant part of that great team adds to Backman's pedigree.
Backman was a player who clearly maximized his talent. He played for Davey Johnson, Tom Kelly, Jim Leyland, and Lou Piniella. How many winning teams have those four been involved with as players and managers? Obviously, players who become managers and are passionate about it are paying close attention to their skippers as players, and assuming that this was the case with Wally, he sure had the opportunity to learn a tremendous amount.
We all know the situation with the DBacks, and based on media reports, Backman was indeed a very irresponsible man back then, deserving of punishment. But years have passed, and he seems today to be a lawful citizen, if a hothead on the field.
His players supposedly would run through the proverbial wall for him, and reports are that he is a fine MIL manager. This writer is a frequent Las Vegas visitor, and sports reporters there worship him and Met fans in Las Vegas feel that Backman did a great job this year, as the Mets constantly raided his roster and the team kept winning.
The feeling here is that the stench of Valdespin is what may have doomed Backman this time. The incident where the comically childish player with an ego that would shame both Donald Trump and 1960s-era Muhammad Ali once again displayed his ridiculous HR antics caused Backman to act wildly on the field and receive a suspension. It really could be that this incident caused the Mets—and others—to shy away from Backman again.
This is a shame. Earl Weaver, Billy Martin, and others sometimes behaved like large, old children, but they also won. A lot.
It’s hard to debate Backman’s MIL strategies, as, while winning is of course always important, in the minors teaching is too. Judging pitching changes, lineups, bunting or not bunting, etc., in the minors is not fair, as MIL managers have a job to teach—to challenge their players, to see what they can do in certain situations, to make them tougher and better. A minor league manager might leave a pitcher in a game in a certain spot to see how he will do where an MLB manager might not, as the job in the majors is to just win.
Backman defended his player when Valdespin was once again targeted for being an immature fool, and while this is admirable to some degree to be sure, Wally should have slowed things down and realized how someone with his history would be viewed here—as a hopeless hothead who could never be trusted with an MLB job, especially on a stage like NY and for owners like the Wilpons.
Backman surely will have a top MIL job for as long as he wants, but much like the prisoner who gets into a fight in the yard 3 months before probable parole only to have his sentence lengthened, Backman probably was in line for a big league job in 2014 until Vadly’s antics and his own temper intervened once again.
With the way the Wilpons quite clearly love the vanilla, Backman’s fate as Collins’ successor may have been sealed, unless Wally is willing to manage in Las Vegas for another two years.
And while spending time in July at the Bellagio or Wynn or Cosmopolitan pool enjoying Mojitos and America’s best eye candy might be the world’s best way to while away 115 degree days, spending them on a minor league baseball field just might be a tad less fulfilling.
Here’s hoping that one day Backman gives all of his many supporters and his many detractors the chance to see just what he can do with a major league roster.