Jenrry Mejia Rumors

NL Notes: Niese, D’backs, Pirates, Marlins, Dodgers

Mets left-hander Jon Niese was removed from his start today after only two innings and 35 pitches with what the club calls left elbow discomfort. Niese had been wearing a neoprene sleve on his left arm the past few days, tweets Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. "It's the Spring Training from hell," Niese told reporters (as quoted by ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin). Niese also said he hyperextended the elbow, which first flared up during an intrasquad game 10 days ago, and has been taking anti-inflammatory medication and undergoing rehab since. Niese added the discomfort is in the back of the elbow, not in the ligament area (the focus of Tommy John surgery). The Mets are flying the 27-year-old to New York tonight with a MRI, his second in less than three weeks, scheduled for tomorrow, tweets Marc Carig of Newsday

Elsewhere in the National League:


NL East Notes: Matsuzaka, Lannan, Burnett, Medlen

In case you missed it over the weekend, the Braves inked Cuban backstop Yenier Bello to a minor league deal and invited him to Spring Training. Bello is likely ticketed to begin his career here in the minors, but he adds some critical catcher depth to the Braves, who of course lost Brian McCann to the Yankees this offseason. More from the NL East to kick off your Monday morning…

  • Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters, including Newsday's Marc Carig (Twitter link) that Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan are the favorites to win the fifth spot in his rotation. MLB.com's Marty Noble writes that Collins is still considering Jenrry Mejia, though the youngster is more likely to be used in a long relief role out of Spring Training. Noble writes that the Mets feel that role would allow Mejia to continue to build arm strength and can also serve as a developmental tool.
  • ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin writes that Mike Piazza is in Mets camp to serve as a special instructor but says he's not looking to get into coaching on a full-time basis anytime soon. Piazza says he has a seven-month old son, so his focus appears to be on his family. Travis d'Arnaud calls Piazza's tutelage "a dream," as the Long Beach, Calif. native grew up idolizing Piazza as a Dodgers fan.
  • New Phillies hurler A.J. Burnett made his Spring Training debut over the weekend, and it came against his former club, the Pirates, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and Burnett himself both told Biertempfel that there was nothing weird about Burnett pitching against the Bucs instead of for them, and neither hinted at any ill will. Hurdle simply called the change "part of the game," and Burnett offered nothing but respect for his former club.
  • ESPN's Jayson Stark writes that although the Braves lost Tim Hudson to the Giants via free agency, talk that the club lacks an ace is overblown, as Kris Medlen has developed into that type of pitcher for the team. Assistant GM John Coppolella said of Medlen: "Look, the fact that he’s not 6 feet tall and that fact that he doesn't throw 95 [mph] makes it seem like he’s not a power guy, but he’s very good with what he does. … He’s a huge part of our staff. And we hope he will be for a long time."

Gio Gonzalez Rumors: Friday

No MLB pitcher has walked more opponents in the past two seasons than Gio Gonzalez and he's about to get expensive through arbitration, yet the Athletics are drawing strong interest in the left-hander. In fairness to Gonzalez, he has reached the 200-inning plateau in each of the past two seasons without posting an ERA above 3.23 and capable pitchers aren't easy to find (though Dave Cameron of FanGraphs has an alternative for teams who don't like the asking price on Gonzalez). Here are the latest rumors on Gonzalez:

  • The Nationals are "all but out" of the Gonzalez sweepstakes, according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com. The Athletics' asking price is "way out of line," Ladson hears.
  • The Mets told the A's they won't include Jonathon Niese, Ike Davis, Matt Harvey, Jenrry Mejia or Jeurys Familia in a deal for Gio Gonzalez, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
  • The Tigers are on the "outskirts" of the Gonzalez sweepstakes, tweets ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick. They aren't upbeat about their chances of trading for him.
  • The A's would love to get a future third baseman in a deal for Gonzalez, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Rangers prospect Mike Olt is one possibility.
  • The A's continue seeking a huge package for Gonzalez, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. Though the Yankees "love" him, they aren't eager to surrender prospects such as Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances.
  • The Rangers, who are pursuing Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey, can be expected to try to trade for Gonzalez or Matt Garza if they don't win the bidding on Yu Darvish, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • ESPN.com's Buster Olney also reports that the Rangers are likely to pursue Gonzalez if they miss out on Darvish. He tweets that 20-year-old left-hander Martin Perez would "almost have to be" in a deal between the A's and Rangers.
  • The market for Gonzalez and John Danks may pick up once the winner in the Darvish bidding is announced and the Rays decide which of their starting pitchers are available, tweets ESPN.com's Jayson Stark.


Mets Notes: Young, Mejia, Selig

The Mets announced bad news for a key member of the current team (Chris Young), and an integral part of future Mets teams (Jenrry Mejia). Here are the details on the pitchers, plus a note on the club's financial issues:

  • Young has an anterior capsule tear in his throwing shoulder – the same injury Johan Santana had – according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com (Twitter links). Young faces surgery or lots of rehab.
  • As Rubin pointed out earlier today, Young won't reach any of the incentives in his contract if he doesn’t pitch again this season. In that case, the Mets will only be responsible for his $1.1MM base salary. 
  • Mejia will have Tommy John surgery, according to Rubin (on Twitter). The Mets announced last week that Mejia, their top prospect, has a complete MCL tear of the right elbow.
  • Commissioner Bud Selig told The Mike Lupica Show that the Dodgers need to be tracked carefully and that the Mets are working toward a solution for their financial problems. Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com has the details and audio from ESPN New York 1050.

Quick Hits: Rangers, Mejia, Bell

May 2nd was a busy day for transactions 25 years ago, back in 1986. Current Red Sox manager Terry Francona signed with the Cubs and the Yankees signed Tommy John as a free agent. Here’s the latest from around the league…

  • Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin is working out at extended Spring Training in Arizona and his deal with the Rangers should be completed this week, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
  • The Mets announced that top pitching prospect Jenrry Mejia has a complete MCL tear of the right elbow. Though surgery has been recommended, Mejia will likely seek a second opinion before having an operation.
  • Heath Bell told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that he helps his kids with their homework instead of reading trade rumors. Unfortunately for Bell, the rumors will really be heating up in July once school’s out. Of course trade rumors are nothing new for the Padres’ All-Star closer.

Mets Notes: Feliciano, Collins, Mejia

The latest on the Mets after wrapping up a doubleheader against the Rockies at Citi Field…

  • Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (via Twitter) says that reliever Boof Bonser will undergo Tommy John surgery next week.  The 29-year-old was one of the team's top insurance options in Triple-A Buffalo.
  • Pedro Feliciano has a 'damaged' shoulder, but Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News says "nobody should be blaming the Mets for this injury." The Yankees had the chance to look into the left-hander's medical reports before signing him and Feliciano didn't have problems early in Spring Training.
  • New Mets manager Terry Collins went "ballistic" in a team-only meeting after last night's loss, one player told Mike Puma of the New York Post. David Wright said the message will help prevent the 4-7 Mets from getting emotionally deflated.
  • Help may be on its way. Pitching prospect Jenrry Mejia says he's becoming a pitcher, rather than a thrower, according to Robert Emrich of MiLB.com. The 21-year-old has allowed no runs, five walks and six hits through 12 2/3 Triple-A innings so far in 2011, striking out 11.
  • A bit of Mets history: though we think of recently-deceased Hall of Famer Duke Snider as a lifelong Dodger, the Giants purchased him from the Mets on this date in 1964.

The Mets’ 2011 Rotation

It seems like an odd thing to say about a team currently sitting at 67-71, but next year's version of the New York Mets may not have room at the inn for additional acquisitions.

Currently starting for the Mets are four pitchers who have certainly performed well enough to be relied upon in 2011, while a fifth, currently auditioning, has the best stuff of any of them. Furthermore, all five are under team control for next year.

Let's break the staff down:

Next year's Opening Day starter is likely to be Johan Santana, who has weathered an alarming early-season slide to become the Santana the Mets expected when they signed him to a six-year, $137.5MM contract after trading for him in in February 2008. Through the end of June, Santana pitched to a respectable 3.55 ERA, but that masked a strikeout rate on the season of just 5.7 K/9, down more than two per nine from his 2008-2009 levels.

Since July 1, however, Santana has a 2.37 ERA, with a far stronger 7.4 K/9. It appears that temporary dip may have been Santana recovering from elbow surgery – Santana appears to believe that's the case. It is certainly a relief to the Mets, who owe Santana $22.5MM in 2011, $24MM in 2012 and $25MM in 2013.

Meanwhile, the best ERA among the starters belongs not to Santana, but to R.A. Dickey, who actually began the year in Triple-A. And while it is tempting to believe a 2.91 ERA from a 35-year-old pitcher who entered the season with a career 5.43 ERA is a fluke, there are plenty of reasons to believe otherwise in this case.

For one thing, Dickey has only been relying on his knuckleball for five years and his minor league performance has improved steadily since. For another, his peripherals are quite good, particularly his 2.2 walks per nine innings, despite throwing a huge majority of knucklers, a notoriously hard pitch to control.

With his limited time in the major leagues, Dickey has yet to accrue enough service time for free agency, so the Mets control him merely by offering arbitration. The smart money here is on the two sides agreeing to a multi-year deal that avoids arbitration and provides Dickey with some security. Remember: Phil Niekro had 12 200-plus inning seasons after age 35. The clock is different with knuckleball pitchers.

Another mainstay for 2011 is Jon Niese, who has impressed all year long and now has a 3.85 ERA with 3.0 walks and 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings. His numbers are actually skewed by three recent poor starts; the Mets have left Niese in games until he looked fatigued, rather than managing his workload more cautiously. 

The fourth horseman for the Mets is Mike Pelfrey, who seems to constantly be disappointing people who are waiting for him to be something other than a reliable innings-eater. Pelfrey's fluctuating ERA- 3.72 in 2008, 5.03 in 2009, 3.96 in 2010- is almost entirely a function of luck and defense, with peripherals staying ludicrously consistent in all three seasons. Even during his 10-2, 2.93 ERA start in 2010, his strikeout rate never reached six per nine innings. Pelfrey will almost certainly be offered arbitration and remain in the rotation in 2011.

That leaves the fifth spot, and Jenrry Mejia, the 20-year-old with the blazing fastball and intermittent command of his secondary pitches, aims to fill the role. He made his first major league start last Saturday, after his lone Triple-A start.

It is nearly impossible to know exactly what Mejia can give the Mets in 2011. His upside is certainly high, with terrific movement on his curveball and changeup to go along with a major league fastball that sits in the mid-nineties. But he is also an inexperienced pitcher with no track record of starting success, aside from a combined 17 starts above Single-A.

Still, with plenty of other holes and signals from the team that very little money will be spent this offseason, Mejia will likely get the opportunity to learn on the job.

One can imagine the only opportunities New York will have for starters in 2011 will be in the area of organizational depth. If Mejia falters, or one of the other four pitchers gets injured, the only Plan Bs available right now are the underwhelming Dillon Gee (who starts tonight) and Tobi Stoner, or the much-maligned Oliver Perez, who will head to the Mexican League after the season and try to find his fastball.


What The Mariners Wanted For Cliff Lee

Annoyed your favorite team didn't strike a deal with the Mariners for Cliff Lee?  At least consider the details of Jack Zduriencik's high asking price, as reported by Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

According to Sherman, the Mariners general manager set out to acquire "an interested organization's best position prospect with less than one year of service."  He was offered none better than the Rangers' Justin Smoak.  The Yankees' Jesus Montero was apparently the next-best position prospect offered.  Zduriencik also targeted players such as Ike Davis of the Mets, Desmond Jennings of the Rays, Domonic Brown of the Phillies, Gordon Beckham of the White Sox, and Brett Lawrie (who would've had to have come from the Brewers in a three-way deal).  Sherman notes that the Mets never offered a player better than Fernando Martinez; Jenrry Mejia and Wilmer Flores "were never part of discussions."

Sherman also gets into the failed Yankees-Lee deal like only he can.  He gathered that the Yankees and Mariners had a deal in principle, at which point teams expect you to stop talking to other clubs.  Sherman expects the bad blood to linger, making the Yanks unwilling to deal with the Mariners in the future.  The Yankees were also apparently "rankled" by Seattle's confusingly high asking price for Jarrod Washburn last summer.  Another thought: an executive recently wondered aloud to me how Kevin Towers was involved in the Lee trade talks.  Towers has a close relationship with both Brian Cashman and Zduriencik.

From the Rangers' point of view, GM Jon Daniels indicated today to The Ticket's Norm Hitzges that he continually had an open dialogue with the Mariners.  Daniels felt that the Rangers were in second place Friday morning, until he adjusted his offer.


Cliff Lee Rumors: Wednesday

9:25pm: An AL GM told ESPN.com's Buster Olney that he believes the Twins could acquire Lee with a package built around prospect Wilson Ramos. Rival GMs believe the Rangers may be better off holding onto their prospects than acquiring Lee.

4:15pm: The Mariners have not started making counter offers for Lee, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney. Rival executives remind Olney that the Mariners may want to deal soon, since an injury would deflate Lee's trade value (all Twitter links)

3:37pm: The Mets, Yankees, Rangers and Phillies appeared to be the only teams scouting Lee last night, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Twins and Dodgers were among the interested teams that did not attend, but it is early and Lee is a known commodity, so the lack of scouts hardly means there's a lack of interest.

10:11am: The Mariners will require a blue-chip prospect in a Cliff Lee trade, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post, even though the last two Lee trades may not have included one.  Sherman suggests the Mets want Lee badly, while the Yankees would just like the Ms to "keep them posted."

Sherman explains that the Mariners like, but don't love, Mets pitching prospect Jenrry Mejia.  He feels that a Mets trade would have to be built around Mejia or Wilmer Flores.  The Mets are willing to trade Flores in a Lee deal, reports Matthew Cerrone of MetsBlog.  They're reluctant to part with other top prospects.  The Mets would like to trade for a starting pitcher as soon as possible, but Cerrone says the Mariners prefer to wait until after the All-Star break to trade Lee.

From the Yankees side, Sherman recommends they make Jesus Montero available.  They've done so before when Lee and Roy Halladay were on the trade market.  Sherman also notes that the Mariners like Yankees Double A second baseman David Adams.  Baseball America ranked Adams 22nd among Yankees prospects heading into the season, and he sports a .309/.393/.507 line at Trenton.  Should the Yanks prefer to pursue Lee as a free agent, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News learned that old friend C.C. Sabathia would be happy to help recruit.

In a longer blog post, Sherman elaborates on what Lee would mean for the Mets, what the Mariners will require, and how prospects are overvalued these days.


Could Mets Acquire Cliff Lee Without Mejia?

Will Jenrry Mejia's posterior cuff strain prevent the Mets from trading for Mariners ace Cliff Lee?  GM Omar Minaya obviously could not talk specifically about Lee when asked by Kevin Kernan of the New York Post "if the Mejia setback is a setback to trade possibilities."  But Minaya kept a brave face and replied, "I don’t think so because I think we have other very good possibilities."  At least one of Minaya's current players does think the team lost its chance to acquire Lee with Mejia's injury, according to Kernan.

Maybe there is a chance, given Ken Rosenthal's June 19th report for FOX Sports suggesting the Mariners want young hitters in return for Lee.  At that time Rosenthal didn't think the Mets would be willing to give up Ike Davis to rent Lee.  John Hickey of AOL FanHouse wrote yesterday about a consensus among Mariners insiders that the team should add talent around the Double A level in a Lee deal.  More specifically, outfielders and lefthanded starters would be a good fit.

In my opinion, the Mets probably couldn't swing a Lee trade with Fernando Martinez as the centerpiece. He's hitting .248/.299/.397 at Triple A currently.  Starter Brad Holt is struggling at Double A, though second baseman Reese Havens was raking before hitting the DL with an oblique injury.  We heard from Rosenthal on June 7th that the Mets are high on infielder Ruben Tejada, enough that they would be reluctant to include him in a Roy Oswalt trade.  In a June 23rd article, Mark Hale of the New York Post found the Mets unlikely to include Mejia, Davis, or Jonathon Niese in a Lee offer.  He opined that the Mets would have to build the deal around names like Tejada, Martinez, Wilmer Flores, Jeurys Familia, and Josh Thole.  From where I'm sitting, the Mets don't seem like the team that will ultimately make the best offer for Lee.