The free agent season is upon us, and Mets fans are focused on offense. It makes perfect sense; the Mets don’t have one. But the Mets also have to acquire at least one starting pitcher as well as getting bats.
Everyone seems to be talking about Bronson Arroyo, but that will not happen. He wants at least two years at around $12 million per season, and the Mets can not and should not make that kind of commitment to a pitcher who will turn 37 years old in Spring Training, especially with all of the young pitching the team has.
Instead, let’s look at three free agent pitchers who could be had on one-year deals for far less money:
The first player on the list is Phil Hughes. He had a brutal 2013 in The Bronx — 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA. But Hughes is only 27 and if he can get back to the previous form that saw him go 18-8 in 2010, the Mets could have themselves a bargain. Hughes will probably sign for one year so he can rebuild his value and score big in free agency after next season.
Edinson Volquez is intriguing. Volquez was 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA in his rookie year in 2008 and it has been downhill ever since. He suffered through various injuries as well as a PED suspension in 2010. But Volquez is healthy and is only 30; there could still be plenty of upside here.
Clayton Richard was such a highly regarded prospect that he was a key part of the trade that sent Jake Peavy to the White Sox in 2009. He had a couple of decent seasons with the Padres but was overall a disappointment. But just like Volquez, Richard is 30 and might still have some potential left.
These three players stand in contrast to the Mets usual practice of signing injury-riddled, over-the-hill pitchers who have nothing left like Chris Young and Shawn Marcum. These guys certainly have had their issues, but they are all still young enough to turn things around.
They will also come relatively cheaply — Volquez and Richard could probably be had for a couple of million dollars at most. Hughes will be more expensive, maybe around $6 million.
If the Mets still want to go the somewhat broken down veteran route, they could always re-sign Daisuke Matsuzaka or Aaron Harang, who both pitched adequately for the Mets in September.
Either way, don’t expect the Mets to spend big on a starter this off-season.