Jenrry Mejia Rumors

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. 


Mets’ Targets Include Cliff Lee, Ted Lilly

The Mets will be in on Seattle ace Cliff Lee – that appears certain.  Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Omar Minaya has notified Jack Zduriencik of his interest, and the Mets are scouting Lee's starts.

Contrary to a Kevin Burkhardt report last night, Sherman says the Mets "would not need a negotiating window to sign Lee long-term even if it includes top prospect Jenrry Mejia in a package."  However, between the injuries to potential trade chips Mejia and Angel Pagan and the ownership approval needed to pull the trigger, Minaya faces hurdles in acquiring Lee.

Sherman writes "the Mets have little interest" in Roy Oswalt and Fausto Carmona.  Instead, Cubs southpaw Ted Lilly might head up their list of Lee alternatives.  Lilly has been excellent since signing a four-year, $40MM deal with the Cubs in December of '06.  The contract has about $6.4MM remaining.  Though Lilly profiles as a Type A free agent after the season, an arbitration offer is in question.  I doubt Lilly's limited no-trade provision will be an obstacle, as he's probably eager to return to the playoffs.  The Cubs have about a month to decide whether to cash in their chips, and Lilly is their best one. 


Mets Won’t Deal Mejia Without Negotiating Window

The Mets aren't ready to deal Jenrry Mejia in a package for Cliff Lee unless Lee gives them a negotiating window, according to Kevin Burkhardt of SNY (via Twitter).  Recently, it was reported that the Mets would be unlikely to deal Mejia, Jonathon Niese, or Ike Davis for the 2008 Cy Young winner.

Burkhardt adds (also via Twitter) that the Mets could change their minds on the matter.  However, if Seattle is willing to deal Lee sooner rather than later, there may not be much time to have a change of heart.  The Twins and Dodgers are also said to be in the mix for Lee and could beat GM Omar Minaya to the punch.  Many feel that Minnesota is the front-runner in the Lee sweepstakes.


Mets Willing To Rent Lee From Mariners

The Mets are willing to deal for Cliff Lee without requiring a negotiating window to sign him to an extension, a source with knowledge of the team's thinking told Mark Hale of the New York Post.  Two years ago, when the Mets agreed to trade for Johan Santana, they secured a 72-hour negotiating window with the ace.

The source also told Hale that the club would be unlikely to trade Jenrry Mejia, Jonathon Niese, or Ike Davis for Lee.  Without those three in a deal, the Mets could offer the M's a package built around prospects such as Ruben Tejada, Fernando Martinez, Wilmer Flores, Jeurys Familia, and Josh Thole.

Meanwhile, several Mets officials said that the Mariners have not yet made Lee available, according to Andy Martino of the Daily News.  The same officials say that there are no untouchables in the minor league system, though Angel Pagan is now "virtually untouchable" with Carlos Beltran's health so uncertain.


Mets Notes: Santana, Millwood, Westbrook, Beltran

While we ponder if the Jerry Seinfeld/Lady Gaga feud will reach the heights of Seinfeld's rivalry with Newman, here are a few news items concerning the Big Apple's NL side…

  • Bob Klapisch of FOXSports.com wonders if the Mets should be worried about Johan Santana given a few shaky starts and some declining peripheral numbers.  Klapisch notes that the Mets might look at Cliff Lee if they're worried about not having a top-tier ace to match against other clubs' best arms.  It's way too soon to panic about Santana given his still-solid 3.31 ERA and 2.00 K-BB ratio, though when a team has at least $88MM invested in a pitcher through 2013, it's probably not wrong to be concerned about any dip in form.
  • Klapisch also quotes senior team officials who say that Jon Niese wouldn't be moved in a hypothetical Lee deal, and an unnamed Mets player who doesn't think adding Kevin Millwood or Jake Westbrook would help the team.
  • ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand writes that with Angel Pagan playing so well in place of the injured Carlos Beltran, the dispute between the Mets and Beltran's agent Scott Boras over "the timing and authorization of Beltran's offseason knee surgery" could be "a converging storm."  Beltran is owed approximately $28MM over the rest of this season and 2011, and it was announced today that he is expected back playing by July 15.
  • Jenrry Mejia's demotion to Double-A and conversion back into starting pitching means the Mets will probably get an extra year of control over his rights, says Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.

Mets Will Transition Mejia To Starting

ESPN's Adam Rubin reports that the Mets have optioned Jenrry Mejia to Double-A Binghamton, where he will make the transition back into a starting pitcher.

Mejia, still just 20 years old, worked exclusively as a starter across two minor league levels last season, posting a 3.14 ERA in 94.2 innings (19 starts) and notching an 8.7 K/9 to go along with a 3.7 BB/9. So far, pitching out of the New York bullpen in 2010, he's held his own, though he hasn't pitched quite as well as his 3.25 ERA following today's game suggests. He's allowed 15 free passes in just 27.2 innings of work, while striking out 17.

Much has been made of the Mets' starting pitching woes. After receiving next to nothing from the combination of Oliver Perez and John Maine, they've turned to Hisanori Takahashi and R.A. Dickey, both of whom have excelled to this point in their respective rotation roles. However, it's likely a tall order to expect those trends to continue.

Mejia certainly has the makings of a successful major league starter. Baseball America ranked him as the Mets' top prospect coming into the 2010 season, and ranked him as the #56 prospect in all of baseball. So far this season, he's averaged 95.1mph on his fastball, and has a 66.7% ground-ball rate.

Those numbers mesh with this report from Baseball America's Ben Badler last November, stating that Mejia routinely sat in the mid-90's with a fastball that he could both cut and sink. That same pitch helped him induce grounders on 71% of his outs on balls in play during the 2009 minor league season.

We've heard the Mets mentioned in connection with available starters such as Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee, but stretching out Mejia gives them added depth in the event that their current starters falter, or Omar Minaya is unable to facilitate a trade.