Friday, January 6, 2012

What Options Do The Mets Have If Johan Santana Is Not Ready?

Yesterday while in a conference call with the New York media, Mets' GM Sandy Alderson stated that the team expects Johan Santana to be ready for spring training. Alderson explained that Santana is three weeks into his offseason throwing program, which at this point includes him throwing on consecutive days and from 75 feet. All of this sounds pretty good, but lets level with one another. Johan Santana is attempting to come back from a serious shoulder surgery and is basically floating in uncharted waters, as there are few before him who've made it back from this particular surgery.

Its for that reason, in his live chat yesterday, that I asked ESPN's Adam Rubin what type of fall back plan the Mets might have should Johan not be ready. He responded:

"If Johan cannot pitch, it would be catastrophic.  Sandy Alderson said last month he was still in the market for a "swing" pitcher who could go to the bullpen or Triple-A if Santana, Dickey, Niese, Pelfrey and Gee are all healthy.  Right now, aside from DJ Carrasco -- who is going to have an uphill battle to make the team, despite a $1.2 million salary -- there's Jeremy Hefner who was claimed off waivers as well as Garrett Olson and Chris Schwinden."
So with these options in mind, here is some information on each of what seem to be the most likely options to fill in should either Santana not be ready, or should one of the other pitchers eventually go down.

Jeremy Hefner:  Claimed off waivers by the Mets on December 12th, Hefner is coming off his fifth minor league season with the San Diego Padres since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 entry draft.  He features three pitches, including an 88-91 mph fastball, a sweeping slider and a heavy change up that he uses more effectively against left-handed hitters.  Though not overpowering, Hefner is described as a cerebral competitor who has a heightened concept of how to get hitters out.  Having pitched nearly 700 innings through every level minor league baseball has to offer, Hefner averages nearly eight strikeouts per nine innings and is not particularly susceptible to the long ball.

Garrett Olson:  Signed to a minor league contract on December 12th, Olson is a former first round pick of the Baltimore Orioles  in the 2005 entry drive.  He has some major league experience in each of the last five seasons, however his only "full" year of major league service was 2008, when he started 26 games for the Orioles, pitching 132.2 innings and pitching to a 9-10 record in the process.  Since that time, Olson has bounced back and forth between the majors and minors, acting prominently as a reliever whenever called up.  Originally thought to be a middle of the rotation caliber guy while in the Orioles organization, Olson no longer appears to be even a semi-long term fix at the major league level.

Chris Schwinden:  The only home grown option on Rubin's list, Schwinden was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2008 entry draft.  Probably the most realistic option of the group, Schwinden started four games for the Mets in the fall of 2011, going 0-2 while pitching to a 4.71 ERA and striking out more than seven batters per nine innings.  Ideally, Schwinden projects to be a Dillon Gee type of pitcher who could possibly aid in shoring up the back half of the Mets rotation in the event that someone goes down due to injury.  He will not be over powering, but it does appear that he can be effective.

This list could be one of the most important any Mets fan lays eyes on this offseason, as there is very little depth in terms of the team's starting rotation.  Its likely that we will see all three of these guys as the season progresses, with Schwinden being the organization's first option.  Chris Young, who Sandy Alderson also discussed yesterday may eventually find his way into this pool of quick fixes, however he too should not be considered a sure thing.  The Mets rotation is probably the team's weakest link, but they will also be its most important as the team tries to overcome yet another tumultuous offseason.

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