International Free Agent Profile 2014: Randy Messenger

(Photo Credit: James Venes)

The former journeyman reliever went to Japan in 2010 to rebuild his career, and multiple MLB teams might be interested in signing him.

Born in Reno, Nevada, Randy Messenger was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the 11th round of the 1999 Amateur Draft, the 326th overall draftee. The right-hander never exactly exhibited particularly good numbers as he climbed the Marlins' farm system. That changed slightly in 2004, when he began his second year with the Double-A Carolina Mudcats of the Southern League. The 22-year-old transitioned from starting to relieving, and the transition yielded tangible results. In 69.2 innings, he posted a 2.58 ERA and 9.2 K/9, both the best of his minor league career. The success bled into 2005, and the rookie got his first call-up to the major leagues.

Unfortunately, his success hit a brick wall upon his promotion. The 23-year-old threw 37 innings for the Marlins in 2005, and most of them were ugly. He ended the season with a 5.35 ERA, a pedestrian 7.1 K/9 rate, and an unsightly 7.3 BB/9 rate. Messenger might have benefited from further seasoning and preparation in Triple-A, but the Marlins were desperate for bullpen arms, and as a result, Randy was there to stay.

He was marginally better in 2006. In 60.1 innings, his ERA was about the same (5.67), but his peripherals were much better (6.7 K/9, 3.6 BB/9). In 2007, the middle reliever got off to a very hot start. Through the first two months of the season, Messenger had a solid 2.66 ERA in 23.2 innings pitched. This led him being traded to the San Francisco Giants for Armando Benitez and cash considerations. His time with the Giants was considerably less successful, as he posted a 5.09 ERA.

Then 26, Messenger began the season with the Fresno Grizzlies of the PCL, the Giants' Triple-A affiliate. Through 63.2 innings, he posted an ERA near four, and as a result, San Francisco released him. The Seattle Mariners then signed him, and he responded by posting some good numbers in Tacoma for their Triple-A affiliate, the Raniers. In 22.2 innings with them, he posted a 2.38 ERA.

He earned a promotion back to the big leagues late in the year, and while he wasn't particularly good, he wasn't particularly bad, either. The Mariners released the reliever, not wanting to give him an arbitration raise, but were sufficiently interested in him that they extended him a minor league contract, which he accepted. Messenger was once again effective for Seattle's farm team, but he failed to impress once again in his late season cup of coffee. In short, he seemed the quintessential Quad-A player, mostly able to handle Quad-A-level players, but unable to find a sure hold in MLB. So he signed a contract with an NPB team. The Hanshin Tigers were interested, and Messenger left for Japan resuscitate his baseball career.

His first year with the Tigers didn't go particularly well. Messenger acted as a swingman that season, starting 14 games and making 12 relief appearances. His peripherals remained underwhelming, he gave up a lot of hits, and he was home run prone. In 80.1 innings, he posted an unsightly 4.93 ERA.

Returning home after the season ended, he expressed a desire to return to Hanshin. Hanshin took the gamble and inked him to another one-year deal. For the 2011 season, that gamble paid off. Working exclusively as a starter, Messenger had his best season to date in any professional baseball setting. In 150 innings, he went 12-7 with a 2.88 ERA, striking out 7.3 batters per nine innings and walking 2.7 batters per nine innings while dramatically lowering the amount of hits and home runs he allowed. He returned to Hanshin in 2012 and had an even better season. In 196.2 innings, he went 10-11 with a 2.52 ERA, striking out 7.6 batters per nine and walking an even 3 batters per nine. His 2013 wasn't as good as his previous two, but it was still good in its own right.

His MLB stats are as follows:

Year Age ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 H/9 HR/9
2009 27 4.35 5.90 10.1 4.4 2.2 11.3 2.6

His MiLB stats are as follows:

Year Age ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 H/9 HR/9
2009 27 2.86 3.55 56.2 6.4 2.2 10.3 0.6

His NPB stats are as follows:

Year Age ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 H/9 HR/9
2010 28 4.93 4.78 80.1 5.4 3.5 9.9 1.1
2011 29 2.88 2.99 150 7.3 2.7 7.7 0.4
2012 30 2.53 2.97 196.2 7.6 3 7.6 0.3
2013 31 2.89 3.05 196.1 8.4 2.6 8 0.6

Messenger is a run-of-the-mill, conventional pitcher. He primarily relies on his fastball and complements it with a slider, curveball, and splitter. His fastball sits at about 90 mph, with his off-speed stuff sitting about 10-15 mph slower. This is more or less the same repertoire he used in the U.S. The biggest difference is that in the U.S., he did not utilize the splitter and instead used a changeup.

According to Sports Hochi News, multiple MLB teams are interested in Messenger, and he is also interested in returning to MLB. More specifically, scouts from the Angels, Brewers, and Seattle Mariners have all been spotted at games, and the Blue Jays and Royals have privately expressed interest. The Hanshin Tigers would like to hang on to the pitcher and are said to be preparing a multi-year deal for him, but they are unlikely to be able to match MLB offers, should any come.

Does He Make Sense For The Mets?

MLB teams are showing interest in Messenger, and while the Mets haven't been named necessarily, they very well might be as well. Should they? Assuming he is used as a starter, Messenger could be slotted into the back end of the rotation quite nicely, and with his experiencing working out of the bullpen, could be moved into a swingman type role late in the season if minor league prospects pitch their way onto the team.

Ultimately, I have trouble believing that the Randy Messenger of 2011 to the present is the real Randy Messenger. Even though they were, in effect, two different pitchers—the Randy Messenger that pitched out of the bullpen for the Marlins, Giants, and Mariners and the Randy Messenger that is starting games for the Hanshin Tigers—it's hard not to think of the ineffectiveness that he showcased in MLB.

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